Tracking US Goals in Iraq within the Framework of Strengthening NATO-Iraq Cooperation

Strategic Council Online - Interview: An analyst of Iraq affairs, saying that many groups and political parties and decision-makers in Iraq’s foreign policy believe that military cooperation with NATO should be expanded, noted: Joint military cooperation of Western countries, such as France, Britain and the US with some regional players such as Egypt, Jordan and Iraq and some countries of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council are increasing and joint naval and air exercises in the Red Sea and other places have become more prominent. NATO follows a model in which expansion of its presence in the West Asian region is one of its components, which will entail its own risks.

In an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, Dr. Farhad Vafaei Fard, referred to the meeting of the Chief of the General Staff of the Iraqi Armed Forces with the commander of the NATO forces in Italy, and stated: In recent weeks, important meetings have been held in this direction; among others, we witnessed the meetings of the commander of the NATO joint forces with the president, the prime minister and also the national security adviser of Iraq. The commander of NATO forces in Iraq also had a meeting with the deputy head of Joint Operations Command for Iraq. Various topics, such as the war against terrorism, were discussed in the meetings, and Mr. Al-Sudani, the Prime Minister of Iraq, emphasized in the meeting with the commander of NATO joint forces that for the war against ISIS continued cooperation with NATO is needed.

He referred to continuation of cooperation in the field of training and advising Iraqi forces, equipping the Iraqi army and forces with the necessary weaponry and fighting terrorism as other issues of concern to NATO and the Iraqi authorities, and while explaining the approach followed in those meetings in Iraq and NATO he continued: In the past two years, we have seen that Iraq is continuously equipping its army and has purchased a range of weapons and equipment from different countries. In particular, it seeks to develop its air fleet.

The expert on Iraq affairs said: Iraq has Russian F-16 and Sukhoi fighter jets, and recently the purchase of French fighter jets was also followed during Mr. Al-Sudani’s trip to France. In addition, there have been negotiations regarding the purchase of Korean fighters, and it seems that it will be finalized soon.

Vafaei Fard, saying that due to oil revenues and the increase in oil prices, Iraq’s general approach is to create a powerful army, added: It seems that Iraq is looking for a balance of power with Iran and Turkey, and the expansion of relations with NATO can be analyzed from this point of view. In any case, the Iraqis are in a weak position compared to their eastern and northern neighbors in some areas, and for some reasons, Iraqi soil has been attacked by them. Iran warns about the presence of terrorists in Iraq and Turkey also has concerns about the movement of PKK.

He continued: With the reduction of the US military presence, both in terms of the number of troops and bases and in terms of changing the mission from military to support, information and training, they want to expand the scope of that presence to NATO forces. Anyway, NATO consists of several countries and apparently the sensitivity towards the presence of NATO forces is less than the presence of the US forces.

The analyst of Iraq affairs went on to explain NATO’s approach and targets for its presence in Iraq and said: At the same time with the war in Ukraine, we are witnessing the expansion of NATO in different parts of the world. The Ukraine war brought NATO together and increased the allocated funds. Allocation of weapons and military equipment grew and a kind of recovery was formed in that organization. The military activities and cooperation of Western countries with some East Asian countries are also expanding and it seems that the same model is being implemented in West Asia as well.

Vafaei Fard explained: The joint military cooperation of Western countries, such as France, Britain, and the United States, with some regional players such as Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq, and some countries of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council, is increasing, and the joint naval and air exercises that are being held in the Red Sea and other places have become bolder. NATO follows a model in which the expansion of its presence in the West Asian region is one of its components.

He pointed to the emphasis of some Iraqi political groups on the need for the new government to pay attention to the complete withdrawal of the US military forces from the country and said: In recent years, no significant challenge has arisen between NATO forces and military groups affiliated with Iraqi political parties, and the disagreement about them is not that much bold and serious. The friction between the US forces and the resistance groups was very high and this confrontation with the NATO forces, which are multinational, did not exist.

While the expert on Iraq affairs stated that many groups and political parties and Iraqi foreign policy decision-makers believe that military cooperation with NATO should be expanded, he pointed to the position of the US in this military pact and continued: The Americans are also trying to pursue part of their military, intelligence and operational targets in the form of NATO in Iraq, but in some cases, at least in the titles, there are differences that will reduce the tension between the groups opposed to the US forces.

According to Vafaei Fard, it seems that in the future, extensive military cooperation will be formed between NATO forces and Iraq, and the process of Iraqi military purchases from Western countries and NATO members will expand.

Referring to the US criticism and sensitivity towards Iraq’s cooperation with China and its consequences, he added: Beijing does not have much of a military and security approach to the West Asian region, and in the current situation, for various reasons, it pursues economic priorities in that region. The countries of the region are also looking for economic cooperation with China from this point of view. On the other hand, almost all of Iraq’s military and weaponry purchases have been made from Western countries, although there were whispers of purchases from Russia, and Mr. Maliki also took steps, but in the period after the war started in Ukraine, those talks have also decreased. Therefore, in parallel with the development of military and economic cooperation with Western countries, Iraq will expand its economic relations with China.

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