Mustafa al-Kazemi .(Twitter)

Al-Kazemi, Iran and the Future of Iraq

Al-Rai, Kuwait, April 27

It is no longer a secret that Mustafa al-Kazemi, the appointed Iraqi prime minister, is facing difficulty in forming a government. There are parties that want to ignore the fact that the fragile Iraqi political system is on the brink of collapse. They refuse to take note of the fact that years of systematic looting at the hands of both Iraqi autocrats and foreign occupiers have dried up the land of its resources. There is no need to reiterate how important Iraq is in shaping the future of the region due to both the wealth it possesses and its strategic location. The 2003 American invasion of Iraq, alongside the slow Iranian takeover of the country since the withdrawal of US forces, are two cases in point demonstrating how the situation in Iraq can destabilize the entire regional and international system. The difficulty in establishing a new Iraqi political structure, with solid institutions, is a real concern. Kazemi must deal not only with internal Iraqi politics, but also with Iran, which has invested extensively in Iraq in the past few years in an attempt to wield power over the government in Baghdad. All parties involved in the negotiations, especially the Shi’ites, will have to make a qualitative shift and think about the future of their country and whether it is possible to separate its interests from those of the regime in Iran. According to administration officials in Washington, the White House is considering negotiating with the Iraqi government a final agreement pertaining to the future of the American presence in the country. The US administration wants to understand what the future of the Iraqi army holds: Will it remain a real military force similar to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran, or will it become a redundant force with allegiances to certain power groups? Kazemi seems to believe that Iraq can move past its sectarian divisions. This begs the question of whether he is a dreamer or a realist. Eventually, the future of the Iranian regime is tied to that of Iraq. From this standpoint, it will be difficult to find any margin between the Iraqi government and Tehran even though Iraq no longer has anything tangible to offer the mullah regime. Iraq is a bankrupt country in which nothing can be looted. This is true more than ever before, with the plunge in global oil prices. In the event that Kazemi succeeds in forming a government (an accomplishment whose likelihood diminishes with each passing day), Iraq will get only one last chance. The new government will get one last opportunity to shape Iraq’s fate in a region that is dramatically changing. There is no doubt that America will be able to invest again in Iraq. But the nature of its investment and its new relationship with Baghdad will depend on two factors. The first is the future of the Iranian regime, which is unlikely to withstand the collapse in oil prices and the US sanctions. The other factor is Iraq itself, and its ability to distinguish itself as a sovereign country that is not beholden to Iran. Kazemi’s ability to form a government remains crucial for Iraq, but every passing day reveals an unwavering Iranian determination to maintain its expansionist project in Iraq as a card against America. However, the Iranian regime fails to understand that Iraq is no longer a winning card. Indeed, it has become more of a burden than anything else. The history of Iraq in the past 17 years, since the 2003 US invasion, has been a series of frustrations and heartbreaks for the Iraqi people. Can Kazemi finally bring about the change his people want and need? – Kheir Allah Kheir Allah (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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