Iraq never before witnessed fragmentation of this magnitude, embodied by an unprecedented division between the various political blocs in a parliamentary system dependent on the consensus of the ruling parliamentary blocs.

The US administration, aware of the lack of Iraqi unity, is playing an important role in pouring oil on the fire. The Iraqi economy depends on sales of crude oil for 67 percent of its budget. Its value is now so low that it threatens the Iraqi economy, and it has become a contributory factor in endangering the integrity of the territory. The deterioration of the standard of living, an unstable infrastructure, the emerging virus COVID-19 with its global economic repercussions- plus the division of parties that want their share in the government of Iraq: all these are effective contributors to the current instability of Iraq.

Interestingly, the US has allocated a financial reward for those who "provide information about the activity of the Hezbollah officials in charge of the Iraq file, Sheikh Muhammad Kawtharani and his allies, and information about his modus operandi." This is obviously due to his influence in uniting the Iraqi Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political groups and facilitating the formation of the government. It is clear that the unity of the various Iraqi forces goes against the US interest at this particular moment.

The US administration has multiple projects, including keeping its forces in Iraq. Washington is not willing to comply with the decision of the Iraqi parliament, officially binding, to remove the US forces from Iraq. The US was clearly happy to see the Iraqis lacking consensus and having difficulty in selecting a future prime minister and a new cabinet.

This has been evident on multiple previous occasions, including during the reign of ex-Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, when America refused to hand over the weapons that Iraq had paid for in 2014 (when ISIS attacked and controlled a third of the country). Moreover, when Mr Adel Abdul-Mahdi took power in 2018, Washington attacked the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU), the federal police and the Iraqi army at al-Qaim on the Syrian-Iraqi borders while monitoring the "Islamic State" (ISIS) movement between borders. In addition the US - that controls the airspace over Iraq - allowed Israel to strike weapon stores belonging to the Iraqi security forces and use armed drones against the Iraqi security system on the Iraqi border. Indeed, the US Ambassador to Iraq confirmed to Mr Abdel Mahdi Israel's direct responsibility in these attacks, which were in clear defiance of Iraqi sovereignty and the terms of the partnership with the US forces based in Iraq.

The US went even further, pushing the region to the edge of war by assassinating the Deputy Leader of the PMU, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and his Iraqi guest, Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani, at Baghdad Airport.
Following the failure of the election of Adnan al-Zurfi (a close ally of Washington and hostile to Iran) to become Prime Minister, , the US has reacted. Politically, the US is never far from exerting pressure - as it has done in previous years during the selection of Prime Ministership candidates - over its political allies among the Kurds and the Sunni to challenge the new Prime Ministerial candidate. The choice of Mustafa al-Kazemi, the former director of Iraqi intelligence who was appointed by the former pro-American Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at the time, seems to meet not quite the approval of Washington.

Al-Kazemi managed to obtain the endorsement of most of the Shiite parties not no objection to the names of the ministers he chose. Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr however insisted on his right to object to the names of the Shiite ministers. As for Washington's allies, Sunnis and Kurds, they rejected Al-Kazemi's request to select his own cabinet and insisted on their quotas and the selection of their ministers themselves. Al-Kazemi told his close aides that he considers the move as a US message obstructing his effort to form a government. The US clearly wanted guarantees before it would lift the sword of instability from the neck of Iraq.

Washington blatantly dictated its demands to the Iraqi officials: to rescind all signed agreements with China, disband the PMF by fragmenting its brigades, and integrate these into the existing security apparatus (Ministry of Defence and Interior Ministry). The US wanted its harsh sanctions to be applied on Iran and that Mesopotamia should shut its gates on the "Islamic Republic" to force Tehran to fall into the arms of the US and thereby acknowledge its dominance. Finally, Washington wanted the Iraqi parliament to overturn its previous decision to withdraw US forces from the country, as we have said, a decision taken largely because of the assassination of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis Major General Qassim Soleimani, at Baghdad Airport.

America relies on the Sunni-Sunni and Shiite-Shiite differences because the chasm has become deep between Iraqi political parties. According to a decision maker at the Prime Minister's office, last week, after the election of Mr Kazemi, the US attempted to dictate to Mr Adel Abdul-Mahdi- who categorically refused - that he could remain in power if he fulfilled Washington's demands (the presence of its forces in Iraq, cancellation of all contracts with China, dismantling the PMF, and joining the sanctions to punish Iran).

Some Shiite parties say that they listen to the advice of the religious authority in Najaf, Sayyed Ali Sistani, that brought down Adel Abdul-Mahdi. Sayyed Sistani's demand for Mr Abdel Mahdi to resign came following the protestors' demands of reforms and ending the corruption. The Marjaiya failed to follow up, after bringing down Abdel Mahdi, even if fully aware that the Prime Minister has inherited the corrupted system from the last 15 years of political parties' dominance and greed.

Whereas the Sunni and Kurdish parties say they want a stake in the new cabinet and that the Marjaiya in Najaf has no authority upon them. The Sunnis are split between the Speaker of Parliament, Muhammad al-Halbousi who wants to appoint, himself, the 6 Sunni ministers (11 for the Shiites, 4 for the Kurds and 2 for the minorities) and thereby leave no space for his ally Khamis Khanjar al-Issawi, head of the "Arab Axis" party. The Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani also requested that Fouad Hussein be kept as finance minister, even though it had been agreed that no minister from the previous government would be appointed to the current government. So, the difficulties facing the new candidate Mustafa al-Kazemi are not to be underestimated.

No country could fail to be shaken by the kind of profound struggle between all its political groups that currently prevails in Iraq. The US does not need to make any great effort to sow discord between the parties because they are currently intrinsically fragmented. The removal of Major General Qassim Suleimani from the Iraqi scene- whose personal objective had been to bring the various political parties together - was a major event, but not a game-changer. It did not profoundly modify the Iraqi political scene because he had already failed, two months before his assassination by the US, to persuade the parties to agree on a single Prime Ministerial candidate, following the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. Iraqi politicians put their differences above all else in order to protect their political influences, unmoved by the patriotic duty for unity in the light of the serious challenges facing their country.

Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi was not mistaken when he once told me: "We do not know how to rule. We are good at opposing the ruler." No ruler in Iraq will be able to get the country out of its current severe financial crisis, the political acrimony, and COVID-19 health crisis, because the financial means are lacking. The pressure from the street, where protestors were demanding improved living conditions, will return stronger than ever. The low price of crude oil is undermining Iraq's yearly income. The state's budget deficit is skyrocketing; its external debts are persistent and its need for help from the World Bank, which is under US control, is greater than ever. America will not provide financial assistance until its demands are fulfilled and Iranian influence is removed from Iraq.

America rejects Iraq's balancing policy. Iraq considers its relationship with the US only as important as its relationship with neighbouring Iran. Washington wants Iraq for itself, adopting one principle: "after me, the great flood" (après moi le deluge) an expression said to be often used by Louis XV of France to indicate that he is the centre of attention, no other consideration matter but his own self-obsession and that any other considerations are irrelevant.
protest iraq
The US is supporting Iraqi Kurdistan by expanding its "Harir" military base and establishing another large military base on the border with Iran. The message to Baghdad seems blunt: US forces will remain in the face of resistance from those parts of Iraq more subject to Baghdad's authority. In Kurdistan, the central government authority is not as effective as in other parts of the country. The US supports the Kurdish Peshmerga and arms them through its allies, the United Arab Emirates, who are providing the Kurdish armed men with weaponry: four cargos full of weapons landed recently in Erbil.

It is not excluded, if Trump remains in power, that his administration will help the Kurdistan region detach itself from Iraq, as it may also support a Kurdish secession attempt in north-eastern Syria. In the part of Syria, the US is occupying with Kurdish help, US forces are stealing Syrian crude oil- even if its price is no longer sufficient to pay the expenses of the troops deployed around it- indicating that there is another reason for their presence, related to the US ally, Israel.

Iraqi protestors refer to the United States as the "Joker," a powerful force exerting influence on events in Iraq, often covertly. This influence was evident in last year's demonstrations, but most conspicuously in the Kurdistan independence movement. Kurdish officials already rejected the binding constitutional decision of the Iraqi parliament - in a clear rebellion against the authority of Baghdad -which demanded the US withdrawal from Iraq.
Iraqi decision-makers in Baghdad believe that US President Donald Trump acts only in accordance with his own country's interests. He thanked Adel Abdul-Mahdi for his protection of the US embassy because it was attacked in Baghdad. The US President sent a positive message to Iran through Abdul-Mahdi and then, a few days later, killed the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. The US administration is also working for Israel's interests in Iraq - and not according to the "declared" interest of the US in building a strong and friendly Iraq-US relationship.

Trump did not listen to his protests when Abdul-Mahdi called him personally and told him that US actions in attacking security forces were angering the Iraqis and that any unilateral action would have catastrophic consequences for everyone. Rather, Trump listened to his aides who consider the Middle East leaders as subordinates, not allies. This US condescension serves the interests of Iran, which knows how to benefit from American mistakes, said the sources.

There is no doubt that Iraq is facing a crisis, with severe domestic bickering adding to the difficult economic and sanitary situation affecting all countries. But the greatest danger to the country comes from the Trump administration, which can only imagine subduing states by force. The US will certainly end up "reaping the whirlwind" rather than gaining a robust alliance with Iraq.
Proofread by: Maurice Brasher and C.G.B

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