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World Politics

What in store for the Iraqi-American bilateral relations with Biden in the White House?

Dzhanabi Yakub Sabikh

Postgraduate student, Department of Oriental Languages and Linguoculturology, Lobachevsky Nizhny Novgorod State University

603005, Russia, Nizhegorodskaya Oblast' oblast', g. Nizhnii Novgorod, ul. Ul'yanova, 37

Other publications by this author










Abstract: The goal of the research: attempt to find out the most important future options or possible or anticipated scenarios for Iraqi-American relations. Study methodology: the study was conducted on the basis of the descriptive and analytical method , as well as on the basis of the history curriculum that lists the historical background of the differences between Iraq and America. The research problem: Washington and Baghdad are linked by very complex and intertwining bilateral relations, seeing as Washington and Baghdad have been keen over the past years to cooperate along with achieving bilateral interests. At the same time the two countries faced a number of thorny issues that prevented this from being achieved, chiefly the rejection The US military withdrawal from Iraq, and the continuous development of Baghdad’s relations with Tehran, in addition to the continued targeting of US interests in Iraq. The limits of the study: there are the spatial limits of the research Iraq and The United States. The importance of the study: the study is based on the importance and position of Iraq within the Middle East. In addition, there is the fact that the United States is a superpower and thus the strategy and the stances it will take will have far-reaching implications for the future of Iraq. Study results: The Biden administration will seek to begin a new American approach to Iraq; perhaps in the same way as he sought during his tenure as Vice President in the Obama administration.


Iraq, Biden, conflict, US elections, Iraqi affairs, Iranian influence, US strategy, Shiite powers, Sunni powers, Kurd

Introduction :

The recent US elections 2021 were keenly watched in Baghdad [1] as Iraqi authorities began to track the proceedings' development step by step for three primary reasons, the first of which being the US-Iranian confrontation on Iraqi soil. The matter of the US military presence in Iraq is the second, and the "ISIS" group is the third; especially given the Iraqi people's belief that the ruler of the White House is the only one who can save them from their recent woes. As a result of what happened in Iraq after Saddam Hussein's government collapsed in 2003, when opposition parties with an Islamic religious leaning very similar to the Iranian Wilayat al-Faqih system seized control of the reins of power and sensitive positions in the Iraqi state. [2]

these aspects quickly developed qualities that reinforce and feed on each other. Despite the fact that the new system in Iraq has been in place for over two decades, the contents of the proper transition of the discourse of democracy are still absent owing to the continuous confrontation between the US and Iran.

The American-Iranian struggle in Iraq began on March 9, 2003, during the initial years of the occupation of Iraq .[3] However, until the departure of US President George W. Bush and the accession of Barack Obama, American influence remained in control, as the Obama administration in Iraq was distinguished by weakness and a gradual disengagement from Iraq until the pullout of US military personnel. Iranian influence was abundantly visible here, and Iran gained a foothold, with Iranian fingerprints on all governments founded since the retreat of American troops.

As a result, the presence of Iraq on this scenario has the most significant ramifications, turning it into a battleground between the two parties, especially given the ongoing internal conflicts. The pragmatic duality between all actors in the political scene is shown in the American policy steps towards Iraq in the context of the current conflict with the Iranian regime, and the multiplicity of its dimensions came in the form of profound strategic shifts, as evidenced by US President Donald Trump's decision to finish the game. The dualism that the Americans and Iranians practiced on Iraqi soil from April 2003 to May 2018, as well as the US decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement with one side in June 2018 and re-impose crippling financial and oil sanctions on the other.

Trump claimed that the agreement failed to address Iran's ballistic missile program and proxy war in the region, and that the terms of the agreement's expiration would allow Iran to pursue nuclear weapons in the future, as well as the practice of economic warfare and severe sanctions against Iran, which have had a significant impact on and weakened Iraq . As a result, it was placed on Iraq's political decision-maker, who is the country's lone Shiite political actor, to adapt to this double system and adopt a candid stance on the conflict if they wanted to keep America's security, political, and economic aid. Iran, on the other hand, has used all of its tools in Iraq to thwart any attempt to free the country from its grip, particularly since the results of the battle with "ISIS" and the results of the 2018 elections imposed a new reality, leading it to believe that its intrusion in Iraq has become an unavoidable reality. The most significant element in bringing Iraq into the equation of the US-Iranian war is its support for the Iraqi government's inability to meet its proclaimed requirements of being impartial between the two parties in the war. As a result, the objective indicators of the bilateral encroachment were linked to all parties' understanding that the paths of the situation in Iraq are not solely determined by the rules of the political game, but also by a parallel weapon organically linked to the Iranian actor that has been publicly branded; it is still too early to judge the outcomes of the American conflict based on such data. It is unrealistic to believe that this war will be settled anytime soon, which indicates that certain parts of the double system will stay inexorably present to the end, and that new rules will not allow any one side to run the system of Iraq alone.

Iraq is divided over Biden

It is hoped that the leaders of the quota system and sectarian parties, both Kurds and Shiites, will view the arrival of the Joe Biden into the White House in an optimistic and reassuring light. Given the political division in Baghdad over Biden, the Shiite forces, which have strong relations with Tehran, see Joe Biden's arrival as useful in calming the conflict with Iran. As the Shiite forces see it, if Iran and the United States move towards negotiations, it will be a step towards progress in Iraq. Especially since the problems in US-Iraqi relations are connected to US-Iranian relations, it’s understandable that an escalation between Tehran and Washington may lead to more instability for Iraq because the country is stuck between the two. Washington, however, views Iraq as supplemental to its policy towards Iran. As a result, many Iraqi officials consider Trump's election loss the beginning of a new era. There is also a conviction that the Iraqi-American relations, which had deteriorated during the Trump regime, will be strengthened again with the advent of Biden. These groups believe that the pressure on Iran will diminish during the Biden era and that the nuclear deal, which was suspended under Trump, will be returned to the negotiation table. In such a case, the belief that Iranian influence in Iraq would be reduced would be naïve. To the contrary, Iran will find more room for operations. [4]

As for the Kurdish position, the optimism among Iraqi Kurds regarding Biden stems from previous experiences with the Obama administration. In addition, the expected support for decentralization is greater in Iraq and therefore the issue of former President Donald Trump's harsh policy regarding Tehran does not concern the Kurds much. They are waiting for Biden to pursue a completely different policy from Trump vis-à-vis the relationship with Turkey. Currently, Ankara believes that the upcoming changes in international relations will provide Turkey with the opportunity to become a regional actor and extend its influence, directly and indirectly, in the region. This happened in Iraqi Kurdistan in light of the entrance of the Turkish army into the region, penetrating more than 30 km past the border. Turkish drones continue to monitor and kill militants and civilians alike .[5]

Since the emergence of the Islamist Justice and Development Party, the Kurdistan Regional Government's relations, along with the other Kurdish organizations in Syria and Turkey, with Turkey have deteriorated. While the Kurds found that the Trump administration had sided with Turkish interests at the expense of their own, they hope that the new US administration will not abandon them and not give in to Turkish pressure. As for the reactions of the Sunni forces, they were less homogenous regarding Biden's ascension to power, with some of them preferring Trump .[6]

Because former US President Donald Trump was able to deal harshly with Iran's Shiite parties and arms in Iraq, through canceling the benefits that the Obama administration had provided to Iran, whether related to trimming its tendrils extending outside its international borders or by assassinating Iranian General Qasem Soleimani: the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Furthermore, Trump greatly favored Jerusalem and by leaving the nuclear deal agreement, Trump placed one of his top priorities on ending the Persian national project, even going so far as to impose further sanctions on the Wali al-Faqih regime and its armed militias. [7]

Others Sunnis still welcomed Biden’s victory and called on him to implement his plan of dividing Iraq into three regions and end the pro-militia "occupation" of Sunni cities.[8]

Regionalization of Iraq

Conversely, there are growing fears among Arab Shiites that Biden’s arrival to power will pave the way for the implementation of what has been called the "Biden project to divide Iraq," which the president-to-be presented in a 2006 article for the New York Times, in which he talked about creating regions like the Kurdistan as a solution to Sectarian fighting at the time and further proposed decentralization for Iraq. Biden’s proposal came in the following form: “The idea, as in Bosnia, is to preserve a unified Iraq through decentralization, giving each ethnic religious group: the Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs, the space to run their own affairs, while the central government takes charge of managing collective interests.” Most of the Kurds and many Sunnis have welcomed the decentralization proposal in Iraq, despite its rejection by the Shiite majority.[9]

Biden’s crack team in Iraqi affairs

In contrast to the Trump administration, Biden and several members of his new team dealt closely with the intricate circumstances in Iraq in the years preceding and after the occupation of Iraq in. Among them are the new Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and his Middle East advisor Barbara Lev, as well as Brett Mc Gurk (he served from 2015 to 2018 as a special presidential envoy for the international coalition to combat "ISIS"), who will act as coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa region in the US National Security Council. Several members of Biden's team dealt closely with the Iraqi situation, before the invasion and soon after. The current US President (Biden) visited Iraq twenty-four times between 2008 and 2011 and met with most of the leaders of the political process. When he was Vice President of then US President Barrack Obama, at that time Biden was in charge of Iraqi operations and he supervised the process of withdrawing US forces From Iraq. [10]

Consequently, observers believe that he is considered one of the most prominent American politicians to know the details of Iraqi political affairs. Biden personally worked on Iraqi operations, and has looked deeply into them throughout his membership in the US Senate and during his membership of several committees in relation to them. He had worked on understanding the situation in Iraq, especially during the second half of the nineties. [11]

Biden had, as a senator in 2002, voted in favor of the decision to occupy Iraq during the George W. Bush era, while later he declared his opposition during a voting session in Congress in 2007 to the increase in the number of American forces, known then as “the Surge,” in Iraq.[12]

Biden took over a number of major tasks related to Iraq while he was Vice President for Barack Obama (from 2009 to 2017); the most important of which being the oversight of negotiations for the security agreement between Iraq and Washington, which ended with its approval, and the complete withdrawal of US forces from the country in 2011. It can be argued that from this point, among other points in time, was the beginning of the hasty US exit from Iraq and Biden was one of its main contributors, making room for Iran to fill the void left by the absence of American forces. This happened during the term of an Iraqi Prime Minister and ally of Iran (Nuri al-Maliki), whose policy was characterized by stark sectarianism, through with he practiced political exclusion that ended in widespread devastation that befell the country in 2014. [13]

after the invasion of "ISIS", and its control of about 40 percent of Iraqi territory. [14] In summation, Biden does not seem to want to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, Trump in dealing with Iraq. He will try to sign a new agreement with Iran, which may lead to a return to the nuclear agreement with conditions, which may be the same or similar to what Trump demanded, which may have passed had it not been for Iran's unyieldingness and its unwillingness to compromise; the Iranians had delayed its approval until a new president arrived. In the event that the US-Iranian agreement is reached on a conditional return to the agreement, this will be in return for concessions that Iran must pay, which would likely preclude the Iranians maintaining their influence in Iraq, especially since the country will be awaiting an upcoming election. A post-Trump America wants to restore its interests in Iraq, which have been greatly weakened by Iranian influence that had been rebuffing any American presence in Iraq, especially after the killing of the commander of the Quds Force in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, General Qasem Soleimani, at the beginning of 2020 near Baghdad Airport. And it also was the result of US policies, especially in the Trump era, during which there was a lot of bark and little bite, and he (Trump) often expressed his desire to get rid of Iraq and its constant drag in American internal politics.

The Iraqi Security Situation

It will remain one of the important aspects in the American strategy, and we expect that Biden will work to continue American support for the Iraqi government in confronting terrorism and achieving security and stability. Despite the fact that the Iraqi apparatuses are divided amongst themselves between speculative and fearful that Biden will withdraw American forces from Iraq, Biden is not expected to withdraw the American forces completely from Iraq for fear of leaving a vacuum that Iran would likely fill, and he thus does not want to repeat what some consider a strategic mistake made by Obama that paved the way for Iranian control over Iraq and the emergence of the ISIS terrorist group. In light of the political and economic crisis that Iraq is going through, it is expected that Biden, at the request of the Iraqi government, will seek to support Iraq, but on terms defined by the White House, which is the necessity for the Iraqi government to achieve national accord, as well as limit the armed factions loyal to Iran and avert their threat to US interests in Iraq .[15]


Although it is too early to talk about President Biden's inclinations regarding Iraq during the coming age, and in light of the complexities of the crisis and the multiplicity of parties in the Iraqi case, it prioritising political solutions to military ones, and dealing with the Iraqi situation in partial isolation from the Iranian case , and will be keen to actuate the role of NATO forces present nowfrom 500 to "around 4,000" personnel.[16]

and promote regional and international initiatives related to the US strategy in Iraq. In parallel with ongoing anti-terrorism policies against ISIS, initiating the Iraqi government's efforts to reform the security sector Trade, climate, etc ,[17]and actuate security arrangements to enhance the security of American forces in Iraq, the Biden administration will opt for legalizing the American presence in Iraq, strengthening intelligence and security efforts, and giving Iraqi security forces a greater role in the fight against ISIS and initiate strategic dialogue sessions with Iraq to reach clear partnerships and security agreements. The United States views Iran and its allies as a difficult variable in the security equation for Iraq, and therefore it will not exclude this matter from any future approach towards Iraq. The Biden administration will galvanize the human rights situation in Iraq by providing friable support for the protest movement and its demands, as well as supporting the efforts of the Iraqi government in holding early elections to achieve a form of political stability in the next stage and will make efforts to disentangle Iraq from its economic crisis by initiating the intervention of international economic institutions. Overall, the Biden administration will seek to formulate a new approach for the United States in Iraq, perhaps in the same form that he aspired to during his time in the Obama administration, while preserving the course the US political, economic and military priorities and giving political realism a clear margin in his approach. Because of the political circumstances today, it differs from what it was in the past. This means that the return of Biden and his team once again to dealing with the Iraqi situation does not necessarily mean a return to the same political behavior. He and his team indeed have extensive experience in dealing with issues in the Middle East, including Iraq, but the Middle East today is not the same as the one they dealt with when he was Vice President Obama, nor is Iraq, which will force them to update their outlook and develop a new approach.[18]

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