The arrival of Mustafa al-Kadhimi to the premiership last May awoke a painful and strong Iraqi question: Where is the Iraqi state? When will it regain its decision-making ability? When will it restore its right to draw its foreign policy without returning to near and far capitals? When can the Iraqi security institutions guarantee the state’s control over all of its territories without being burdened with militias and infiltrations? When can the Iraqi elections actually decide the sizes of political forces and the formation of governments without mediators and tutelage?
When can the Iraqi judiciary arrest a corrupt person who squandered public funds and prevent him from resorting to his clan for protection? When can the security services guarantee the safety of the demonstrators without allowing some authorities to kidnap, assassinate and torture them?
The previous questions are real. The timid speech that we used to hear in the past is now declared openly. Observers, who have been reading statements by Kadhimi, President Barham Salih and Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein in recent weeks, can see the rise of an Iraqi demand that is enjoying nationwide support, to rebuild or at least restore the Iraqi state.
The three men are not adventurers. They are aware of the cruelty of the past, they understand the brunt of the present and they fear for the future.
Kadhimi was not Tehran’s candidate, but the Iranian capital agreed to his arrival, as the experience of Adel Abdul Mahdi did neither serve Iraq nor Iran. Kadhimi was not Iran’s candidate, but he knows he must take into account its interests if he wants to stay in office. However, taking into account interests from an Iraqi position is one thing and turning into a pawn of the Iranian scheme is another. He doesn’t seem to be a pawn.
Barham Salih, for his part, came to the presidency with Iranian support, but he came from a rich experience in Erbil and Baghdad and knowledge of the region and the world. He is confident that an Iranian Iraq is not a solution for its children or its neighbors.
The foreign minister, who is well-experienced in Erbil’s relations with each of Baghdad, Ankara, Tehran and Damascus, already knows that there is no solution other than an “Iraqi Iraq.”
The Iraqi trio seeks to reassure Iran. It does not want to be involved in an American plan against it. On the other hand, it does not want to be part of its program to target the US on Iraqi soil.
The Iraqi trio is trying to explore opportunities to shut the Iraqi arena in the face of Iranian and American boxers, especially as the killing of Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad raised the frequency of strikes and targets.
It is clear that Kadhimi’s plan is not easy to achieve. Iran is insisting on the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq to have the last say in the country. The Iraqi premier, for his part, does not oppose a drop in the US presence if it aims at strengthening the Iraqi state itself, and guarantees the continuation of support for the coalition in the war against ISIS.
Still, Iran is not in the process of presenting gifts to Kadhimi. Some of its proxies are working to undermine what remains of the authority’s dignity before trying to weaken the US military presence. This is why Iraqi politicians speak openly and bitterly about an Iraqi decision to keep the Iraqi arena open, pending the identity of the new master of the White House. The coming weeks will not be easy for Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
It is clear that Iran, exhausted by US sanctions during the era of Donald Trump, is still resorting to its old statements. It insists on consolidating its influence in the maps that it has infiltrated and strengthening the positions of the forces that revolve in its orbit. When we talk about infiltrated maps, we mean Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.
The Iraqi Mustafa is still trying. But the Lebanese Mustafa gathered his papers and abandoned the task. Prime Minister-designate Mustafa Adib was unable to form a cabinet lineup to present to President Michel Aoun. His arrival to the premiership fell within the French initiative launched by President Emmanuel Macron in response to the devastating assassination attempt against Lebanon in the form of the Beirut port explosion.
It is not a secret that Qassem Soleimani had established in Lebanon the rules that he also founded in Iraq. This namely means a government could not be formed except with Tehran’s approval, and that the state army was placed under the control of a parallel army that is fully loyal to Iran, while constantly working to undermine any other influence in the country, whether regional or international.
Macron’s pragmatic approach to the political system in Lebanon did not succeed in removing the obstacles. The scenes of devastation, bankruptcy and despair did not affect the rules of the game. Mustafa Adib was not allowed to form an independent government that would have constituted a kind of a breakthrough in the rules imposed after the assassination of Rafik Hariri, specifically after the Doha Agreement.
Adib did not succeed and Michel Aoun failed to facilitate the task of the man, who could have saved the remainder of his era and prevented a sharp fall into “hell”. Aoun failed to be the bridge between the components and the translator of their different dialects. At times he speaks like an analyst and at others he talks like an opposition member. He is certainly unable to speak as a president who possesses real powers.
In Lebanon, too, people say that after Adib’s departure, Iran insists on keeping the Lebanese arena open, pending the identity of the new master of the White House.
Recovering a map is an overwhelming task. It requires an inclusive national will. It requires betting on a state built on the constitution, not the power of militias. It needs someone who believes in coexistence, not in intimidation. The Lebanese Mustafa left early, and may God help the Iraqi Mustafa, pending the white smoke to emanate from the White House.