Friday, 26 March 2021 1:10 PM[/size]
Farhad Alaeddin: Chairman of the Iraqi Advisory Council.
After the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ali Khamenei, confirmed on March 11, 2021 that “America must get out of Iraq,” it was reported that a series of intensive meetings were held in Baghdad, Tehran and Beirut, with the participation of representatives of the armed factions, which ended with the announcement of a cessation of “targeting American forces and interests in Iraq in exchange for The official demand for the exit of US forces from Iraq, specifically by the official Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi.
To that, a source close to the government revealed that the Al-Fateh Alliance, headed by the leader of the coalition, Hadi Al-Amiri, is pressing hard on Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi to adopt and set a schedule for the withdrawal of the coalition forces. While the five Shiite forces held a meeting in the presence of Al-Kazemi on March 18, 2021, when Al-Amiri asked to discuss the issue of the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, and to fix a timetable for their departure. For his part, a source close to the meeting noted that the meeting of the Shiite parties agreed to authorize the government to take such a decision based on the requirements of the public interest and to reveal the extent of Iraq’s need for the coalition forces in the war against ISIS.
The Sunni and Kurdish forces agree on their part on the necessity of the presence of the coalition forces, considering that the war against ISIS is still ongoing, as evidenced by the fact that the remnants of the organization are still active in many regions of Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din and the Ramadi desert, as well as the fear of these forces about the domination of armed factions in the Iraqi military and political arena. . It agrees with the Shiite trend towards authorizing the government to study the file well and negotiate about it with the coalition forces, and thus make its decision to keep these forces or not.
As a result of pressure from the Shiite forces loyal to Iran, and with the aim of revitalizing the relationship between Baghdad and Washington, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein recently sent a letter to his American counterpart requesting the continuation of the strategic dialogue, and the activation of the memorandums of understanding that were prevented during the visit of Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi to Washington on August 2020. Whereas scheduling the withdrawal of US forces from Iraqi lands was at the forefront of the demands of the issues raised at the time, but the final statement of the talks did not refer to any timetable for the withdrawal of forces.
On March 23, 2021, the US ambassador, Matthew Toller, made a statement that “a new round of strategic dialogue will take place next April” to confirm the Al-Kazemi government's approach to tackle this file.
It is worth noting that the American side does not share the opinion of the Shiite forces to withdraw, and does not believe that Iraq will fill the security vacuum in the event of the withdrawal of its forces. David Schenker, the former Assistant Secretary of State for Middle Eastern Affairs, wrote an article entitled “Our presence in Iraq remains a vital interest for the national security of the United States. And he published it on March 11, 2021, saying:
“In the absence of American capabilities - especially armed intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance or aircraft, without them the mission will fail. At the same time, the American withdrawal would reduce Iraqi military capabilities, undermine confidence in the country, and exacerbate an already severe economic crisis.
A US government source close to the strategic dialogue talks said, "The discussions will focus on the campaign to ensure the complete defeat of ISIS and how the remaining American forces can provide advice and assistance and enable Iraqi forces to conduct military operations to ensure that ISIS does not threaten the Iraqi people again, and this is our common interest."
White House Press Secretary Jane Psaki said in a press statement on March 23, 2021 that the meetings "will make it clearer that the coalition forces are in Iraq solely for the purpose of training and advising Iraqi forces to ensure that ISIS is not able to reconstitute it." Michael Knights, an Iraq expert and researcher at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies, said: “The demands for troop withdrawal are for the forces that originally withdrew last year, and the remaining forces are defensive, like missile defenses, and embassy guards who have to stay as long as there are Americans in Iraq. . It is clear that the non-combat American advisors will remain as long as the Iraqi government needs them to provide advice to Iraq through the US embassy.
Despite the American side's belief in the importance of the presence of its forces in Iraq, the new US administration, which started its work on January 20, 2021, does not give Iraq any priority and focused most of its attention on its internal problems, especially dealing with the economic crisis and the repercussions of the Corona pandemic, and it has become the Middle East in general and Iraq in particular. At the bottom of her list of political priorities. The interest of this administration was limited to a phone call between US President Joseph Biden and Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi, and a call between the US Secretary of State and his Iraqi counterpart, and no high-ranking official in the new administration has initiated a visit to Iraq so far. Observers believe that the US policy in Iraq is shrouded in mystery at the very least, and some of them go to the conclusion that the new administration does not have a special and studied vision of Iraq and may continue the old policies and deal with Iraq through the Iranian viewpoint.
The upcoming round of the strategic dialogue is of particular importance as it is the first formal meeting between officials in the Iraqi government and the new administration in Washington, where the Iraqi side will discover the extent of this administration’s readiness to assist Iraq and implement the memoranda of understanding signed between the two parties, in addition to supporting Iraq to face multiple crises, including The economic crisis and the Corona pandemic. The question here is how the Iraqi government will use the next round of dialogue to present its vision about the presence of the coalition forces and how to benefit from them to fight ISIS, and cooperate with NATO forces to train Iraqi forces and work to combat corruption within the military institutions, noting that the Minister of Defense and some military leaders recently confirmed to government leaders that they are ready The Iraqi army was worse equipped than it was in 2014, and even before the ISIS attack, according to a source close to the Ministry of Defense who did not wish to reveal his name.
It should be noted that the American side completely refuses to withdraw additional forces from the Iraqi arena because they believe that the current number is the minimum for the successful performance of their tasks and that any request to reduce the forces will be met with a corresponding answer: either the total withdrawal or the situation remains as it is, and for this reason the American government source believes That Washington sees "any discussion of artificial timetables that does not serve the interest of either country."
Observers believe that the government team can rely on Al-Kazemi's proximity to the American side, which was confirmed by Michael Knights by saying, "Biden's team strongly supports the administration of Mustafa Al-Kazemi, who believes that he is the best prime minister most likely to be obtained by Iraq under today's circumstances." David Schenker says in his aforementioned article, "In my opinion, Al-Kazemi is perhaps the best Iraqi prime minister since the 1958 coup that finally brought the Baathists to power." Al-Kazemi, who is courageous and nationalist, has shown his willingness to take difficult decisions in favor of Iraq. Observers believe that the Iraqi team can negotiate these views to gain more aid and support from the American side.
We have to wait for the results of this round of strategic dialogue and how the parties calling for the exit of the US forces will deal with these results, but Iraq needs a period of calm before it is ravaged by the election fever and the blazing summer, and it helps to stabilize calm, and reduce the pace of escalation between America and Iran until it takes place. The Iranian presidential elections are in addition to what the behind-the-scenes negotiations will end up with regarding a return to the nuclear agreement with Iran. Between this and that, Iraq will be able to silently work on addressing the economic crisis, fighting ISIS remnants, and holding early elections if the political forces abided by the deadlines and if the armed factions abided by the truce as announced.
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