Countering Terrorism and the Iraqi-American Dialogue

Political analysis

Hisham Al Hashimi

Security expert

Observers in the Iraqi-American relations, for the last 17 years, can’t but see that Iraq has always posed the problem of the missed opportunities. Perhaps it’s due to the control of the Shiites political parties affiliated with Iran on the sovereignty of the strategic dialogue between the Iraqi and the American negotiators. The deep crisis in the internal affairs and the major global transformations due to Covid-19 and the drop of oil prices should definitely push Iraq towards reconsidering the status of its relations with the United States using the formula of “America and its allies are indispensable to Iraq, without the encroachment of Iran’s neighborhood”.
In countering terrorism, The U.S is betting on the coordination with Iraq’s military forces, considering the latter is a trusted ally that belongs to the International Coalition to defeat Daesh.
Iraq has a lot of human resources countering terrorism, especially when north, west and east of Iraq are witnessing increase in Daesh attacks which is concerning during the absence of International Coalition, all of the above puts Iraq’s forces amidst real action.
Washington seeks to protect its interests and its allies’ interests in Iraq, which is the main reason why the US responded to Iraq’s call for help in 2014 to fight Daesh and then forming the International Coalition on September 2014, involving countries from the region including Iraq.
The US State Ministry emphasized the importance of cooperation with Iraq in all fields, specially countering terrorism, the US considers Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Forces the strongest candidate to lead the rest of Arabian forces in defeating terrorism due to their professional leadership and their ability to preserve peace. Countering terrorism is considered a priority in the Iraqi American bilateral relations. After May 2018, the US started to have tension with Iran. Over the last two years, the US made more sanctions on Iran and its allies in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. However, after the attack in BIAP on January 3rd 2020, the relations started to be intense! Iraq’s parliament on the other hand voted on ending the presence of all foreign military forces on Iraqi soil. This led to the closure of secret and non-secret channels between Iraq and the US and making it dangerous for the Iraqi politician to reactivate those channels. This surely led the US to propose an American-Iraqi dialogue based on the SoFA agreement of 2008 to reconsider 30 vital mutual files between Iraq and the US.
Trump controlled the administration, while Abdul-Mahdi’s Government agreed and supported this proposal with putting special foundations and schedules using a channel for dialogue which starts with experts and ends with highest powers through the parliament according to Iraq’s Law of Treaties no. 35 of 2015.
Before initiating a strategic dialogue between Washington and Iraq, Trump’s administration reached a clear bilateral understanding, with Al-Kadhimi and Abdul-Mahdi before, according to the guidelines of former PM Dr. Abadi in 2016 about countering terrorism. The two countries could eventually face mass-demonstrations-made parties affiliated and in harmony with Iran’s policy in the region. It’s also very clear that those parties control the parliament’s majority which threatens to revoke this agreement which needs the consent of 220 MPs. This means that normal relations with Washington in countering terrorism would require staying in the military bases which could be complicated. In case of failure of dialogue with Iraq the US will go for one of these options:

First option: the uncategorized continuity of staying in the military bases without any regards to the Iraqi government, this would definitely cause the latter a lot of embarrassment especially if pro-Iran factions start to escalate the situation.

Second option: full withdrawal of American Forces with imposing economic sanctions that would harm Iraq. For example, refusing to extend Iraq’s exemption of importing Iranian gas, blocking Iraq's access to the US dollar and stopping the support to Iraq to receive financial fiduciary from the IMF or the WB. Those sanctions will also include dissolving the IC which puts Iraq in hardship while fighting Daesh. Iraq could lose the technical support for its main firing systems, like the F-16s. The US is not going to lead efforts to ensure sufficient funding for the UN and UNAMI. Also, it’s possible that the western political existence will diminish and Iraq will be put in diplomatic isolation.
Amid the terrorism growth in Iraq and Syria, the American and IC’s keenness should continue to support Iraq in the areas of economy, security, investment and diplomatic support. Especially when Iraq’s intelligence is on the verge of receiving intel about Daesh intensions to launch a new campaign in east and west of Iraq, intel also shows resuming communications between several terrorist groups in Syria and Daesh in Iraq. In order to stop these remnants from reforming their lines again, the IC should stay to counter terrorism according to roles agreed upon by both parties. Also, to put a schedule for the withdrawal of all military human resources from Iraqi territories.
There are different ways to stop the growth of terrorists’ power in Iraq and Syria that require adopting new cultural and social programs as well for effective solutions to fight poverty and corruption in the Iraqi facilities. In the other hand, Iraq’s weak control of sovereignty on military and security forces is considered a major obstacle in enabling stability in the region. Despite the fact that previous governments always seek to diminish the power of armed groups and militias that act according to beliefs rather than the Iraqi law, however, the weakness of the government potentials and capacity and lack of funding, all contributed to the failure of achieving disarmament of outlaws. Amid the existence of new conflicts and unconventional violence, the situation requires special security and judiciary measures and therefore, the need for international support is inevitable to restore stability in Iraq.

Moreover, the developments in the middle and southern governorates, the deterioration of trust between the people and the government, the national failure of addressing defects in social justice as a result of corrupted systems and shallow government reforms which clearly don’t represent a national participation from all components. This could lead to violence or insurgence by some groups which can cause systems destruction and change of rules. The rush of these groups away from legal control and the force use of violence with them threat the very existence of the state. Fighting this threat would require an economy supported by the US and its allies in these governorates to reduce unemployment rates and create new educational and cultural programs.