Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kazemi headed a politico-economic delegation to the United States (August 19th), to complete strategic talks between Washington and Baghdad. Al-Kazemi met with US President Donald Trump at the White House, and on the last day of his visit to Washington, he met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Al-Kazemi’s recent visit to the United States attracted media attention as it was his first to Washington, D.C. He made the trip at a time when inside Iraq, the focus was on whether a framework for the withdrawal of US troops would be discussed or not? Because some Iraqi groups had asked Al-Kazemi to take up this issue as a priority. Such trips, both regional and extra-regional, also serve as a political experience for the Iraqi Prime Minister, who is working to streamline his government’s foreign policy.
Of course, Mustafa al-Kazemi’s first foreign trip after becoming prime minister was to Iran, which had both a political and an economic dimension; But in the case of the United States, these issues are multifaceted; Aside from the political debate over US-Iraqi relations and what the future of that relationship will look like given the issues discussed between the two sides in recent months, including the new security agreement, is one of the key issues in outlining the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Of course, during this trip, as announced by US President Donald Trump, the Americans plan to withdraw most of their forces from Iraq within a period of three years. In the past few days, US forces have evacuated a base near Baghdad, known as Al-Taji, and handed it over to the Iraqi government and relocated to other areas.
In fact, the prospect of US withdrawal from Iraq depends on two mechanisms: The first is the Iraqi parliament’s decision on withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, but it is still undecided. Another issue is the security agreement between Baghdad and Washington, which is part of the same agreement that was signed between the two countries in 2009 and today has been redefined from the same agreement; so the Americans both want to withdraw some of their forces from Iraq and they do not want to pull out completely. In other words, the White House seeks to provide new forms of military presence for its forces in Iraq, and the United States is expected to pursue the issue of its retreat from Iraq in the long run.
Part of the perspective for future US-Iraqi relations also lies in how to organize economic relations, investments in Iraq, and the energy issue. We have seen that the United States has been active in this field for the last 15 or 16 years, and American companies are active in Iraq. In the long run, they have set their own plans for Iraq, and in the same vein, Iraqis seek to give a more defined form of economic relations with the United States.
The third issue that matters to Washington is the role of the United States in the region, as the Americans have no intention to leave Iraq. From a political point of view, they also seek to reduce the role and influence of some of Iraq’s neighboring countries, especially the Islamic Republic of Iran. The US political view of Iraq is to increase its influence in the political and cultural spheres and to reduce the role of regional actors. Trump says one of the reasons for the US military presence in Iraq is the threat of its eastern neighbor. However, the United States has not been able to conduct its policy well in this context, which is partly due to the type of Tehran-Baghdad relations from historical, religious and cultural perspectives. At the same time, Iraq cannot ignore Iran, a neighbor with the longest border between the two countries; therefore, it is not possible to separate Iran and Iraq from each other, and this is Iran’s advantage in connection with Iraq.
Finally, regarding the future of US-Iraqi relations, it seems that Mustafa al-Kazemi has a glimpse to relations with the United States and wants redefinition of these ties. There has been a lot of discussion in the media, quoting the Iraqi prime minister, including his interview with the Washington Post. Al-Kazemi noted in the interview that the relationship between the United States and Iraq is a stable one, and linked the US presence in his country to the fight against ISIS.
Al-Kazemi’s stances reflect his outlooks and political vision about the United States. Some believe that the Americans hope that with Al-Kazemi as Iraq’s prime minister, relations with the US are set to expand and the scope of criticism of the United States inside Iraq will decrease; But we should not overlook the subsequent developments in Iraq; because next year elections will be held and Al-Kazemi himself, as a statesman, has plans for his political future, and is probably thinking of creating a political faction or party.
How to get out of internal crises such as social crises and economic problems can also be the key to the success of Al-Kazemi and his government. In addition, US elections will be held in November this year, and the re-election of Trump as President is in a state of ambiguity, so the post-election political developments in the United States could also affect the Washington-Baghdad relations.