Iraq’s Vice President Nouri al-Maliki is on his way to Moscow for meetings with Russian officials including President Putin. Recently, Iraq confirmed the purchase of a large quantify of T-90 tanks from Russia and Iraq’s Vice President recent confirmed that he seeks to purchase further weapons for his country from Russian suppliers.
Now, in an interview with RIA Novosti, al-Maliki has slammed the United States, warning Washington not to establish any further preeminent of semi-permanent military bases in his country. Al-Maliki also seemed to distance himself from support of existing bases while vehemently rejecting US claims that American forces were responsible for the alleged defeat of ISIS in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
Iraq’s Vice President stated,
“Iraqi society is against foreign bases on our territory… I told the Americans, ‘It’s not in your interests to return to Iraq in order to establish military bases again”.
He continued, criticising the US for taking credit for Iraq’s recent achievements against ISIS,
“They (the United States) say – and I regret this and reject this – that the victory is their achievement because they led this war, but really this is a victory of the Iraqi army. Yes, they supported us with their aviation, but the main credit belongs to the Iraqi soldiers, the people’s militia, Iraq’s air force…
The US doesn’t have the right to say that people’s militia, which is comprised of the sons of Iraq, of whom 20,000 have been killed and wounded, are terrorists. If it weren’t for the people’s militia, there wouldn’t be any Sunnis or Shiites left”.
He also subtly implied that the US was complicit in the creation of ISIS, saying that the group, “resembles the Taliban which was created by the US administration to counter the USSR in Afghanistan. The same way, IS was created to counter the Iraqi stance, which did not agree to blockade Syria, was against no-fly zones in Syria and against American military bases”.
During his interview, al-Maliki affirmed his support of Syria’s war against terrorism and praised Russia’s role for saving Syria. Al-Maliki also affirmed his opposition to a Kurdish state in Iraq.
He then blasted Turkey for its unlawful interventions in Iraq, saying,
“…I told Erdogan that the Turkish ambassador behaves as if he were a messenger of the Ottoman Empire. …they sent a new ambassador – he behaves the same way. They behave as if Iraq was still under the control of the Ottoman Empire, as if it were the backyard of Turkey”.
In spite of his criticisms of America’s ambitions for more bases in Iraq, he called Donald Trump a more serious leader when it comes to fighting terrorism vis-a-vis Barack Obama.
He said of Trump,
“The administration of Trump is more serious about the persecution of terrorists and terrorist groups. In this aspect, the new administration differs from the previous one – it has a tough position against terrorism.
I do not have a clear picture of the strategy of the Trump administration in the Middle East. They said that it has not been formalised yet”.
Iraq currently finds itself in a precarious position. The US has already established large bases in Iraq and many assume it seeks to only expand its military presence in Iraq. In spite of this, the United States did nothing to prevent the growth of ISIS which initially formed in Iraq. On the contrary, the sectarian divides which the 2003 US-UK invasion of Iraq lit a fuse under, did a great deal to create the conditions which led to the creation of al-Qaeda in Iraq which later morphed into ISIS.
One of the many tragic byproducts of the American and British war of aggression on Iraq has been the development of a deeply sectarian leadership in Baghdad. Between 1968 and 2003, the Arab Socialist Ba’ath party of Iraq governed a secular state where Sunni and Shi’a, Orthodox and Catholic held important positions in government and each could and indeed did achieve increasingly good lives.
Even the latent sectarian tensions of Iraq which came to the surface during and just after the Iran-Iraq war, did not result in nationwide sectarian bloodbaths, nor did it change the position of people in the government and civil service which remained multi-faceted in respect of religious denominations up until the first bombs of Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair’s ‘shock and awe’ began falling on a country that never harmed anyone in the United States.
Today’s Iraqi government is a Shi’a government in spite of what the Iraqi Constitution says. This is not to slander many of the decent individuals in that government, it is simply a poor reflection on how once the sectarian devil is let out, it is impossible to fully kill, certainly not straight away.
The fresh animosity between Sunni Iraqis and Shi’a Iraqis has cut deeply into the fabric of Iraqi society. The torture that the Iraqi army has executed in Mosul against many innocent civilians is a legacy of a torturous American occupation for which no Iraqi can be blamed, but for which millions of Iraqis have paid and continue to pay a price.
It remains unclear whether Iraq will be able to fully recover from the horrors created between 2003 and the present day. What is clear though is that the Shi’a dominated government of Iraq which Nouri al-Maliki is emblematic of, is increasingly pro-Iranian and anti-American, even though America’s presence in Iraq shows no signs of abating.
Al-Maliki spent the 1980s and 1990s living in both Syria and Iran. During that time, he developed close relations with both Ba’athist Syria and Islamic Revolutionary Iran, two countries which were opponents of Ba’athist Iraq.
While the United States claims its presence in Iraq is merely a function of a commitment to fighting terrorism, the real reason is to attempt to derail an alliance between Iraq and its neighbours to the east and west, Iran and Syria respectively.
The United States has long term geo-strategic goals for Iraq and will almost certainly not vacate the country of its own accord.
Iraq’s increasingly good relations with Moscow are almost certainly a symptom of Baghdad trying to court a super-power that is more than comfortable with a Baghdad–Tehran–Damascus alliance.
Of course, if the United States was afraid of such an alliance, the best thing they could have done was toleave Saddam Hussein in power. Saddam Hussein vigorously opposed Iran and had permanently frosty relations with Syria. Instead, the US illegally overthrew Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi branch of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath party. Later, the US presided over the extra-legal execution of Saddam Hussein. In this sense, if an alliance between Iran, Iraq and Syria develops, the United States will only have itself to blame.
In this sense, America’s Iraq policy has come full circle. The US supported Ba’athist Iraq in the 1980s, opposed it in the 1990s, toppled it in the 2000s which led to the formation of a pro-Iranian and pro-Syrian government in Baghdad. Now America seems desirous to have a leader in Baghdad with the same foreign policy as the former Iraqi President it helped to depose and execute.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.