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Crisis between Baghdad & Washington
Holding the stick from the middle
This report stated that the Syrian crisis has created many questions regarding the Iraqi role in the region and its position on the Syrian regime.

The report showed that the Syrian crisis has put Baghdad in an unenviable position. A few years back, the Syrian regime was a major enemy to Baghdad for facilitating the infiltration of some of Al-Qaeda leaders into Iraq to conduct terrorist operations.

Today, Baghdad is one of the most solid opponents to changing the regime in Damascus and is working to stop the infiltration of fighters from Iraq through the Syrian borders. According to the report this reflects the influence of Iranís policies in the region and over the Iraqi official position and reflects the fears of the Iraqi government regarding any changes that may take place in Syria.

The report adds that the United States has spotted the unannounced position of the Iraqi government to aid Iran and the Syrian regime, and for which Washington has demanded that Baghdad should stop any Iranian planes heading to Syria to prevent any weapons shipments from Tehran to Damascus via Iraqi airspace. Baghdad has rejected these accusations saying that certain parties are trying to damage its relationships with the US government.

According to the report, Malikiís government is facing very difficult choices. Either it works to enhance its relationships with Iran on the account of its relationships with the US or it abandons the Tehran- Damascus axis for the benefit of the change in Syria. However, with the growing influence of Iran inside Iraq and the support presented to some of the armed groups, Malikiís government is reluctant to make a move that could threaten the stability of Baghdad and the central and southern provinces.

The Iranian influence became increasingly obvious during the past three years with Iran success to convince some of the Shia parties, originally opponent to Malikiís government, to support Maliki and put pressure on other political blocs and parties in order not to bring about any financial or administrative corruption files that may damage the reputation of Malikiís government among the Iraqi people. In addition, Iran is exerting a lot of pressure on Baghdad to support its policies and provide logistic cover for the Syrian regime. Iran is also using the Iraqi gateway, by enhancing its political and economical influence in Iraq, to break through the trade sanctions imposed by the West.

The report states that Baghdad realises very well the role of the US in consolidating Malikiís government influence mainly following the US withdrawal from Iraq, for that Baghdad is rejecting any accusations of an Iranian influence or any effects on Iraqís policies due to Iranian interests in the region.

According to the report, Washington has many cards that it can use to put pressure on Malikiís government in case the later refuses to cooperate in regard to the Syrian issue. Washington has participated greatly to bringing Iraqi oil production to high levels, played a major role in writing off Iraqi debts up to 80% and managed to bridge the gap between Baghdad and Kurdistan region regarding their disputes over oil.

Baghdad realises the dangers of separating the region from the Centre and the important role the US can play to help Iraq move away from Article seven. The US has threatened to stop its aid to Iraq estimated of about $1.7 billion for 2012.

In an attempt to clear away any US fears about an increasing influence for Iran in Iraq, Baghdad has signed a number of arms deals with the US and agreed to pay some entitlements to the oil companies working in Kurdistan province of Iraq following a total rejection to recognise the legality of the contracts signed between those companies and the regionís government.

According to the report, Baghdad was and is still keen to be seen as holding the stick from the middle with Tehran and Washington at both ends. This was obvious in the Iraqi initiative which was announced by the Malikiís government to solve the Syrian conflict.

The Iraqi government stressed on the necessity that the transitional period in Damascus should be done with the participation of the Syrian regime. This position shows an obvious vacillation in the Iraqi official position in dealing with the Syrian crisis and its division between the Iranian influence and the fear of deterioration in the relationship with Washington.

However, hoping to remain in the middle is proving to be increasingly difficult and complicated for the Iraqi government especially with the current outcomes and circumstances. The position of the Iraqi government puts it in an equally embarrassing situation in front of Iran and the US. The Iraqi Prime Minister can no longer ignore the escalation in the Syrian crisis especially after the Arab demands for a military action to end the violence.

Baghdad also fears international isolation that can be imposed on it in the wake of a deteriorating relationship with Washington especially after tightening the trade sanctions on Iran.

According to the report, if the relationship between Baghdad and Washington becomes any worse, then Malikiís government will have to head east towards China or Russia taking into consideration that Iraq needs big companies to carry out plans to reconstruct its destroyed infrastructure and to keep oil production at high levels. Malikiís government also wants to broaden its relationship outside the narrow regional circle in an attempt to avoid any negative outcomes from a deterioration in relationships with the US or Turkey.

Malikiís government also fears a possible slowed down process in arming the Iraqi Army with the American fighters which have been agreed to purchase at a previous time. Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki future visit to Moscow comes within the intention to sign arming contracts to buy Russian fighters.

The report adds that any Iraqi-Russian- Iranian convergence will have obvious and negative impacts on the nature and the future relationships between Baghdad and Washington and can put Malikiís government through a difficult test that can destabilise its existence in the troubled Iraq.


For more information, please contact:

The International Centre for Development Studies
Public Relations Dept.
Tel.: +44 203 700 8940
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© Press Release 2013
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