The Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visits Washington on 14th April, 2015. The visit comes, which is the first official visit to the United States, under difficult conditions experienced by Iraq and the entire region is in serious security, political and economic challenges that may leave their scars on the future of the country and the region as a whole. It is not possible in any way to determine the nature of the relationship between Iraq and the United States at the present time. Although the relationship dates back to almost a century, it has not developed into one that can be described as a healthy and stable one, that’s been subjected to various internal, regional and global variables. After more than a decade of US-led invasion of Iraq and the establishment of a new political reality, with the approach of the of the third anniversary of the withdrawal of US troops from the country and with a “strategic framework” agreement in place between the two countries (which hasn’t yet reached the level of an agreement or treaty), the relationship is still in a state of tidal complexity that gives the impression that there some sort of an alliance between them, while another impression is gathered because of the distance in understanding and harmony between the two at other times.
Perhaps due to the nature of the geopolitical situation in Iraq and its own dynamics in addition to the lack of visibility with successive US administrations against the country, the relationship between the two countries is experiencing this type of an elastic relationship.
Some Iraqi political leaders feel the importance of a strong and special relationship between their country and the United States. Iraq in its “new” current democratic owes its system at least to the coalition led by the United States in 2003.
Due to the nature of the political and security situation in Iraq, it imposes the vital presence of a strong relationship with a strong and effective international partner to help it face a lot of challenges that threaten its entity.
The security complexities experienced by Iraq since 2004 to the extent of the expansion and complete control of the organisation the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIS) on large areas of it since June 2014, the weakness of the Iraqi military capabilities to face the organisation, and the fragility of the political structure in Iraq, and the human suffering caused by such a crisis, combined with the diminishing revenues of the Iraqi government due to lower world oil prices and the continuing civil war in Syria; turning the region into an arena of struggle for influence between the major regional powers obliges Iraq into an inevitable situation to develop and maintain a strong relationship with the United States.
On the other hand, the United States is aware of other strategic importance of Iraq in the region and the world. Without going into census of the strategic aspects that are available to Iraq and that directly affect the world and intervenes at the heart of the interests of the United States, the challenges faced by Iraq, whether on the political, security, economic and social levels have an impact directly and indirectly on the region. Therefore, the region and the world would be in a less stable and secure position if Iraq is becoming less stable, secure, and this is evidenced by the current situation in the region.
Prime Minister Abadi visits the United States loaded with challenges and problems optimistic that the US will help in aiding and solving them. Perhaps for both sides the political and security topics are the most important to be discussed at the meeting with US President Obama. But given the complexity of the US-Iraqi relationship and the overlapping problems in Iraq and other regions, the talks in Washington will not be easy. Thus, this visit should be one of his priorities and before considering any frameworks for cooperation, it must be essential to develop a framework or a new and clear definition to the nature of the relationship between Iraq and the United States, the form in which it can be considered the standard of a state’s relationship with another state, and not one by a government’s relationship with another government and in the long run.
In addition, what is required from both countries to make more effort to dissolve many doubts and fears toward one another and some of which have substantial grounds and others unreal. In these circumstances through which Iraq and the region are going through, it is up to Iraq to impose some questions to the United States in a way that removes the ambiguity and confusion about the real position of the United States towards Iraq that includes the United States recognition of Iraq as a unified country, not only in the short term, but also in the long run. The importance of the current Iraqi situation and its political system to the United States, which includes the nature of its relations with Iraq as strategically a regional ally to it cannot be overseen.
Another point is considering how serious is the United States in supporting Iraq in the face of challenges that threaten the security, stability and sovereignty without altering the positions of the regional balances map that now take the forms of sectarian and ethnic shapes.
In addition, Iraq has to answer some questions regarding its relationship with the United States. Does Iraq really want an alliance and partnership with the United States? What are the levels of this alliance? How popular could this relationship become? How realistically does Iraq consider the United States? As an ally, as a friend, or perhaps as a foe? How will Iraq look to the level of its partnership with the United States in a way that will achieve its national interests and preserve the privacy and ranges of commitment in a relationship? In addition, dozens of questions that go into the heart of the relationship and levels of cooperation and coordination between the two countries.
This requires starting the process seriously assessing the relationship through the establishment of a strategic dialogue between the two countries that places all the questions and successes and failures over the past years, and positions understandings and disagreements on the table to reach a true strategic partnership formula in order to establish a healthy relationship between the two countries.
Through a dialogue, a draft of the fundamentals and foundations that should underlie the relationship between the two countries clarified a relationship away from the political clamour inside and outside Iraq and the United States.
In this sense, the existence of a healthy relationship and a long-term strategy between the two countries requires the development of some of the foundations of Iraqi expectations, and which should be agreed upon are:
- Iraq’s privacy in the political and social fabric and geographical location does not allow it to be part of a regional alliance political or security moves against this or that state. With the importance of its presence in any system or security arrangement in the region.
- For Iraq to remain a country a unified federal democratic state must be a fundamental issue recognised in its relationship with other countries, especially in the area of re-drawing borders on the ruins of a regional system that seems to be falling apart rapidly.
- The security and stability in Iraq represents an indication of the security and stability of the region and the world. Thus, the stability in Iraq is an Iraqi and American and regional interest.
- Draw all the ways in place by the United States with its regional allies in the region not to turn Iraq into an arena for regional-regional proxy conflict.
- Lay the foundations for cooperation between the two countries benefiting from the failures of the past few years, especially in the areas of state-building devices and development of democratic institutions and away from the variables and complexities of the political situation in Iraq and in accordance with the common interests.
- Cooperation with the United States in solving some of the levels of internal and regional complexities in accordance with the foundations by understanding the reality in Iraq.
- Mutual understanding in the importance of deterring the spread of religious extremism, violence and terrorism in the region.
- These underpinning points apply to all other countries that Iraq wants to have a strategic relationship with.
- Coordination with the United States in the policies and issues of common interest globally and regionally.
If the Iraqis succeed in formulating a clear understanding and clear framework for their relationship with the United States away from the clatter of the volatile world of politics, and if the Americans succeed in formulating an understanding to the reality of Iraq unaffected by near and distant past experiences, and without short sighting or effects of different lobbies in their dealings with the events we are seeing in a strategic and mutually beneficial and to the region, then Iraq will gain a strategic weight of a significant impact on events in the region and the world and any failure may face challenges will mean big losses against the interests of the United States and the countries of the region.
The Iraqi officials’ visits to the United States won’t be of great benefit if not an establishment to a new approach of the US-Iraqi relations is practised that is built on transparent foundations, realistic and based on common interests.
The success in the development of a apparent nature of the relationship with the United States should be a priority to the two countries in dealing with each other; which is essential in achieving the common interests of such a relationship.