US strategy to enhance its “soft influence” in Iraq

Strategic Council Online—Editorial: In recent years, Americans have devised and enforced numerous programs and measures to expand and deepen their “software influence” in Iraq. That the US government, in the new round of “security talks” with Baghdad last summer, raised cultural and educational issues and topics related to the youth and families, and describe them as one of the key security talks with Iraq, suggests that the US administration is expanding its “soft and cultural influence” in Iraq in parallel with reducing or managing its military and hardware presence. Hamid Khoshayand—International affairs analyst

Why the US is expanding its soft power in Iraq?

With the US military strategies in the post-occupation of Iraq arriving at deadend, the US government has been put in the past several years on the track of enhancing its soft power in Iraq with the support of its strategic allies with the objective of securing its interests and promoting the so-called American values and identity. Of course, the expansion of the soft power in Iraq was earlier on the agenda of the US government but not with such depth and severity of the recent years. As the former US government and Donald Trump had announced several times, despite expending seven trillion dollars in Iraq and region, White House officials, even in the highest levels, are forced to land in Iraq in clandestine and dark aircrafts! These issues and of course ineffective and costly military strategies of the US have encouraged the White House to pay more attention than before to the dimensions of their soft power in Iraq. Given the significance of the issue, the history of the US soft power in Iraq and important cases of the expansion and deepening of US cultural infrastructure in Iraq will be outlined in this writing.

History of the US “soft influence” in Iraq

A quick review of the political documents and field studies well suggest that the US government, in the past 20 years and even before the deposal of Saddam, and precisely as of 1998 and after the Shabaniyah Intifada (which represented a smaller model of Islamic Revolution in Iraq to be suppressed by Saddam), has reached the conclusion that a regime stronger than Saddam should be replaced in Iraq to help stop the spread of Islamic Revolution. The Americans estimated that the Iraqi public opinion is not supporting Saddam Hussein and this was realized and Saddam’s regime was toppled with the least public resistance in 2003 when it was occupied. After the overthrow of Saddam, the US government, concurrent with military strategies, implemented two stages of “state building” (2003-2008) and “nation building” (since 2008) to expand its influence in Iraq and occupy its economic resources. They devised so many scenarios to realize this objective. However, what is significant here and should be heeded seriously is the soft influence of the US deeply on the people and elites of Iraq.

Establishment of non-governmental organizations in Iraq             

The establishment of non-governmental organizations in Iraq was one of the primary strategies of the United States to expand its influence in Iraq. Concerning the establishment of non-governmental organizations in Iraq, two American institutes namely NED and USED that are apparently considered as non-state institutes in the US but are under the control of the US National Security Supreme Council, have made a lot of activities in Iraq. For example, the NED had emphasized in its financial report of 2015 that it has helped establish 1950 NGOs in Iraq and that these NGOs have received about 190 million dollars from the NED. In this respect, the NED said in its 2014 report that it has contributed more than five million dollars to Iraq’s NGOs.

One of such NGOs has been established in Basra under the leadership of a faithful Shia lady called Fatimah al-Bahadori. This NGO is related to the US and has received numerous contributions from the American institutes. The activities and infiltration of this NGO in Iraq is so much increasing that Iraqi youth even religious ones and some Iraqi officials pose proudly for a photo with her after prior appointment! This lady, who also participates in international for a, enjoys high influence in Iraq. This Iraqi institute has been a successful model of NGO in line with the US interests with the support of the US institutes. For example, during the 2019 unrest in Iraq, a video became viral and showed a lady, with no cover on her head, is beating herself in the head, crying “they killed my kid”! In the meantime, another lady, in hijab, approaches, sympathizes with her and says “don’t cry we need to resist”. It is interesting that a thorough examination revealed that the lady who claimed her kid had been killed has never married and has been single and has been in fact the finance director of an NGO run by madam al-Bahadori in Basra. And that lady with hijab was an agent and riot leader in Diwaniyah who was in charge of staging riots and calling for protests!

Promotion of homosexuality in religious cities of Iraq

One of the other soft measures of the US government to expand its soft influence in Iraq has been the promotion and spread of homosexuality in Iraqi cities especially religious towns. A Dutch institute, Divous, is undertaking activities in Iraq in line with the soft war and identity-removing scenarios of the US government to promote homosexuality and encourage religious people to ignore and disregard their beliefs. This institute has established branches in the most Shia-majority cities of Iraq such as Najaf, Karbala and Dhiqar to promote “equality of the rights of men and women”. Such activities have been harmful. In a report, this institute claimed that it has set up about 15 safe houses for homosexual people in Najaf and Karbala. This well demonstrates that American and Western scenarios to network NGOs are deeply rooted and fundamentally implemented.

Initiatives concerning elite-building

The IED institute, which has been established by the CIA in Iraq, has undertaken a lot of initiatives since 2002 to infiltrate among Iraqi elites as well as university students and scholars. Since 2002, this institute has offered more than 12,000 scholarships, which is worth 11 million dollars, to Iraqi students to study at American universities. This is a big number.  Free weekly flights to the US for the visit of Iraqi youth and talents to American universities were other programs implemented by the IED institute which has trained about 105,000 senior and junior Iraqi managers and directors during 2007 and 2010. Infiltration in Iraq’s budget and planning organization with the goal of decentralization and prevention of the formation of a powerful and strong government have been among the hidden agendas of this institute.

Moreover, another American institute called “”Iolet” has been active in attracting Iraqi elites as it has taken the responsibility of holding training courses for the future employees of the Iraqi government. This American group has also devised and implemented special programs for the children of senior Iraqi officials both in Iraq and the US.

Establishment of scientific, educational and research centers and institutes has been another program of the US to expand its soft influence across Iraq. The American University of Baghdad, known as the American, was opened on 04 March 2021. It is the latest example of the US influence building project in Iraq. Michal Molnix, the rector of the American University of Baghdad, is an American who once said this is a big university and I feel to be a mayor of city than a rector while here. Political sciences and management are the first two courses established there. Earlier, the United States had established universities in Soleimaniyah, Irbil, Salahuddin and Dahook. However, the American University of Baghdad is the first one which offers specialized courses in management and human sciences at the capital of Iraq in order to expand its influence in the higher education system of that country.

Conclusion

What is clear is that the American government is actively engaged in expanding its soft influence in Iraq. Separating Iraq from Iran and liberalizing Iraq with American values are among the most fundamental goals of the United States. To realize such objectives, the US government has put on agenda many important measures these years. In this respect, changing the lifestyle of the people from tribal to civil, managing the elites and Iraqi youth and breeding the next generation leaders and officials within the framework of scholarships are the main three strategies of the White House in Iraq.

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