Alwaght- Iraq’s Green Zone now has a new prime minister as on Wednesday the parliament granted confidence to 15 ministers of the 22-member cabinet presented by New Prime Minister Mostafa al-Kadhimi, signaling that the country has moved out of the months-long crisis over who should hold the post.
Meanwhile, the media since the beginning of the new PM’s work have focused on the manner al-Kadhimi will handle the home crises.
But the reality is that it is the foreign policy that is more twisty and difficult and remains to see how the new PM should deal with it.
The rise of ISIS in 2014 in the country and taking control of many cities after taking the control of Mosul in Nineveh province did not inflict just human and material damages on the Iraqis and the government but also to a large extent prepared the ground for entry to the country’s home equations a spectrum of foreign actors.
In the post-ISIS period, Iraq continued to grapple with important foreign policy issues that remain unsettled to date. These issues will be the point of obsession and focus under the new PM. Definitely, these issues will shape the basis for judging the government of al-Kadhimi by the political parties in the next months. The new government has four major foreign policy issues to handle. Here are they:
Way of dealing with American-Iranian confrontation in Iraq
Certainly, the most important case of the Iraqi foreign policy is the Iranian-American encounter in Iraq. In the past few months and mainly after the assassination of Iran’s Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani, by direct order from the US President Donald Trump, along with his friend Abu Majid al-Muhandis, deputy head of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, at the Baghdad airport, the tensions between Washington and Tehran on the Iraqi soil have been running high. The illegal action of the US which also violated the Iraqi national sovereignty drew a hard response marked by Iranian ballistic missile attacks on the US bases of Ein Al-Assad in Al Anbar and Harir in Erbil.
Now al-Kadhimi has to decide how to approach this confrontation on his country’s soil. Albeit, it should be taken into account that this issue has been up for decision for all of the Iraqi governments that formed after toppling of Saddam Hussein. It is never new and peculiar to al-Kahdimi’s government.
Given the new PM’s knowledge of the country’s security matters, odds are that he will choose a positive balance. But such a policy, despite being realistic, runs counter to the popular demands and will. The majority of the Iraqis now are opposed to the US in their country. But when it comes to Iran, it can be daringly claimed that the Iraqi people approach Iran positively.
US withdrawal from Iraq
The second important issue of al-Kadhimi’s foreign policy is the US pullout from the country, a demand growing among the Iraqis. When the Iraqi parliament on January 5 passed a bill to expel foreign forces from the county, the demands by the public and the political parties asking the government to force the US out of the country rose dramatically. The important mission of al-Kadhimi in the foreign policy is negotiating with the US to make it approve of an exit mechanism. But recently, the US President Donald Trump has developed a strong will to keep the American troops in the Arab country. This means that the PM has enormous difficulty fulfilling this strenuous mission.
Baghdad relations with the Arab world
Moreover, the new PM has to decide the form of the relations of Baghdad with the Arab world, especially Saudi Arabia. In the past few years, the Saudi rulers struggled using every way and instrument at their disposal to bring Iraq close to the Arab kingdom and distance it from Iran, their rival with deep influence in Iraq. The Saudis continue their push for the goal even right now. They try to highlight Iraq’s Arab identity in the face of its religious identity and thus bring Baghdad to the Saudi-led Arab bloc against Iran.
But the Arab League is no longer a real bloc with united members. Some of its members have separated their ways from the whole bloc and its Saudi-swayed decisions. They go a different way in their foreign policy, apparently in defiance of Riyadh dominance. Now, al-Kadhimi should decide if he in his return to the Arab world will join the independent camp or follow the Saudi policies.
Relations with China and Russia
Another foreign policy issue for the new head of state is regulation and management of ties with such big powers as China and Russia. For al-Kadhimi, maintaining a positive and high-level relationship with China as the major buyer of the Iraqi oil and a destination of the biggest amount of the Iraqi oil exports is crucial. At the same time, he will need to engage with Russia to improve the country’s security and defense infrastructure and capabilities.