The future of Iraq: security, stability and a regional role
Prepared by: Musa Asherchour
A report prepared by a team of experts, supervised by Turkish Ahmed Berat Junker, requested by the Parliamentary Assembly of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and its draft was published in French on the official website of this institution on June 4, 2021, on the future of Iraq, stated that “over the past two decades Iraq has witnessed civil war, occupation, the rise of extremism, as well as a deep crisis of confidence in the state and its institutions.Some observers consider that Iraq is an artificial construct, a mixture of ethnically and religiously incompatible population groups, so that it is impossible to unify them under the same banner.However, the country's long history and strong polarization factor that the Iraqi identity has enjoyed since time immemorial refutes this claim.
The introduction to the report states: “Iraq is a very complex country, with a history that spans thousands of years, evidence of which is still present everywhere. Mesopotamia is considered a cradle of civilizations, and is distinguished by its wonderful artistic and architectural heritage and monuments that still dominate the landscapes destroyed by war. Which represents one of the most important treasures of all mankind. For centuries, this land was home to the followers of the three Abrahamic religions, and its inhabitants flourished and coexisted in peace and mutual respect."
From this standpoint, the author of the report also believes that "the territorial integrity and security of Iraq are necessary for the lasting stability of all countries in the region. What is happening in Iraq has direct effects on the southeastern wing of the alliance and on the cohesion and integration of NATO, which is currently expanding its mission in Iraq."
Iraq between the national interest and the interests of international and regional powers: -
The report adds, "Since 2019, the security situation in Iraq has improved, but the country faces significant internal threats and external interference." He believes that the internal divisions "are embodied in the competing militias supported by non-Iraqi parties, all seeking to achieve their own ambitions on Iraqi soil." On top of these regional parties that have interests in Iraq and play a major role in it, we find Iran, the Gulf states and Turkey, in addition to, of course, the United States of America and NATO member states, and to a lesser extent, NATO itself. The report also considers that regional rivalries and the growing competition between allies on the one hand and Russia and China on the other, also affect, to some extent, the security of the country.
The group of experts discussed at length the position of the United States, which is undisputed as the most powerful external player in the region and in Iraq in particular. On this subject, he stated: "American strategists increasingly fear that the Middle East will occupy the United States and focus its attention and resources at the expense of fundamental challenges emerging in other parts of the world." This is happening at a time when the US administration has decided to reduce the size of its military forces present in Iraq since the occupation, although it has not completely stopped organizing operations against terrorist groups there. There is also Turkey, a permanent member of NATO, which has vital interests in the region and relentlessly fights the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which calls for the independence of Turkish Kurdistan. Besides Turkey, NATO itself is taking part in a major training mission that has been recently strengthened.
Regarding the role of the Arab Gulf states and their relations with Iraq, the report says that they have become more complex in recent years, and reached their lowest levels during the Arab Spring uprisings that erupted in 2011, "because of the support of the Iraqi political and religious elites for the Shiite demonstrators in those countries," according to the report. . The writer noted the initiatives taken by Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi to improve relations with the Gulf countries and attract new investments from this rich region. For their part, the Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are striving to strengthen relations with Iraq "in the hope of preventing its complete joining of the Iranian camp." NATO is preoccupied with the problem of Iran: -
In its analysis of Iran's role, the report focuses on Tehran's efforts to "ensure that Iraq does not re-emerge as a military, political or ideological threat," referring to the eighties during the reign of Saddam Hussein, when tension between the two neighboring countries led to the outbreak of a devastating eight-year war. At the same time, the Islamic Republic of Iran is keen not to plunge Iraq into a civil war, nor to establish a different democratic or religious model that could appeal to the Iranians who are disaffected with the existing regime, and may encourage them to turn against the Guardianship of the Jurist as an ideological reference for a ruling regime that derives its legitimacy from it since Forty years. Therefore, Tehran seeks to preserve Iraq's territorial integrity, while encouraging a friendly Shiite-dominated government."
The report examined the effects of the rapid deterioration of the economic situation in Iraq since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic on the stability of the country. Here, the writer indicates that "what further complicated the situation is the dependence of the Iraqi economy on energy exports and a bloated public sector, in addition to shrinking revenues due to low oil prices, while insecurity, rampant corruption, and weak state capacity all hinder the ability of the private sector to create job opportunities." New." In this regard, the document shows that the poor social conditions of broad groups of Iraqis led to the outbreak of serious political uprisings in the country in the fall of 2019. The report concluded that "the elite's refusal to change, the government's failure to respond, and the suppression of protests, all of this led to a sharp decline in Iraqis' confidence in their political system." .”
Among the recommendations included in the report of the group of experts specialized in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean affairs on the security situation in Iraq is that the security sector in this country suffers from serious shortcomings, and therefore it should be strengthened in a "comprehensive manner." It is recorded that many defense forces are currently operating under the auspices of the Iraqi state, including the Iraqi army, the Anti-Terrorism Agency, the Popular Mobilization Units, and the Kurdish security forces, and that many agencies operate, in theory, in the name of the state or on its orders, but with regard to the Anti-Terrorism Agency and the Popular Mobilization Units, they are Actually follow the prime minister directly. In this regard, the report stresses the disparity in the size and capabilities of these agencies, as "some of them are relatively professional, while others suffer from problems of corruption, nepotism, and weak motivation." Reasons for optimism: -
The report dealt with the issue of national security in Iraq in numbers. It is noteworthy that the Iraqi army, which has a number of forces of 300 thousand soldiers, is the largest security force in this country. However, while this force has the largest budget ($17.3 billion in 2019), it is undoubtedly the least effective of the Iraqi Security Forces due to its "lack of professionalism and bad relations with the Baghdad government, as well as due to the politicization to which it is exposed." In the words of the group of experts who prepared the report. This situation resulted in raising tensions in the Sunni and Kurdish areas of the country. The officer corps in the regular army is also criticized for their "multitude of loyalties and political and religious affiliations," in addition to the spread of nepotism and corruption among them, according to the report.
The author of the report goes on to analyze the security situation and the state of stability in Iraq and the region, explaining that “we have to understand the Iraqi situation from a regional angle, of course, but also from a global point of view.” Because each time, the importance of the policies applied with regard to Iraq is assessed according to the possibilities it provides. Either to enhance regional stability or to undermine it.
Regarding the reasons for optimism about a positive development in the near future in Iraq and the region, the document stated: “Among the positive developments that have emerged in the region in recent years, we mention: the almost complete elimination of the state organization (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria, the efforts led by Kuwait to coordinate between Qatar and the Middle East Quartet (the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations), the need expressed by the Gulf states to develop a new approach to the conflict in Yemen, and finally, the resumption of talks between the United States and Iran on how to reconsider all issues related to the Vienna Agreement on the Iranian nuclear file ..."
In a related context, the Group of Experts believes that resuming the diplomatic process with Iran "may be beneficial for Iraq, despite the risks associated with such an initiative," explaining that returning to a more rational dialogue with Tehran "could help revive the Vienna Agreement and include additional protocols to provide guarantees." needed, and reduce tensions in a region still threatened by internal conflicts and cross-border conflicts. The plan's chances of success depend, according to experts, on Iran's willingness to "stop its adventures outside its borders." Or, more accurately, stop its interventions in Iraq.
In the same context, the Group of Experts of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly recommends that the countries of the international coalition encourage and support the Iraqi government in its efforts to eliminate all terrorist organizations in Iraq. "In this delicate and critical period that the region is going through, it is imperative for NATO to adhere to its commitment in this country and continue to support the Iraqi government. By doing so, it will contribute to strengthening the government's ability to carry out military operations, increase Iraqis' confidence in their state, and ensure stability and the implementation of reforms." It will also allow Baghdad to fill the gaps that destabilize the country and the region as a whole.”
The report concludes with its recommendations: "We must combat Iran's propensity to interfere in the internal affairs of its neighbour, a practice that has forced a significant part of the region to walk a tightrope. The commitment of NATO member states to support Iraqi security reform and Baghdad operations against all those who seek to undermine the country's sovereignty It carries an important diplomatic message.Therefore, the main actors in the international arena will continue to regard the independence and development of Iraq as essential.This means that they will not only support the development of a comprehensive deterrence strategy against countries that may seek to attack the sovereignty of the Iraqi state, but also mean that they will help Baghdad to Follow up on reform and reconstruction efforts.
“The Future of Iraq: Security, Stability and a Regional Role” (in French), Specialized Panel on the Mediterranean and the Middle East, under the supervision of Ahmet Berat Junker (NATO Parliamentary Assembly), June 4, 2021.
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