Speculations on Biden’s era in Iraq spreads as the risks of recommitting mistakes of his term as vice-president looms.
“I think much of what is needed is to have a common-sense policy towards Iraq. To think out of the box, to divorce the future policy from the current and old policies that proved to be completely bankrupt.” These words by Abbas Kadhim, head of the Atlantic Council think tank’s Iraq Initiative, truly represents the result of more than two decades of US presence in Iraq developments.
Joe Biden is the fourth US president in turn who has to deal with the limbo of US military involvement in the Middle East. Nevertheless, he is no stranger to the issue as he worked on it as vice-president for multiple years. Stepping on the same, or similar, pathway as his Democrat predecessor, Barack Obama, can turn to the main Achilles heel of the new government.
Despite recurrent announcements by Obama administration about leaving Iraq around ten years ago, US troops have never been withdrawn. A major part of analysts and observers believe that US interference in Iraq and undermining local authorities led to the emergence and development of ISIS in early 2010s. Had Obama implemented the full withdrawal plan, the story of a decade could have metamorphosed.
James Jeffrey, Obama’s ambassador to Iraq and Donald Trump’s special envoy for Syria, believes that Biden proved divergence from Obama approaches. “Biden doesn’t nurse suspicion that the U.S. is responsible for or contributor to world security problems, but rather sees the U.S. as the remedy,” Jeffrey asserted while emphasizing that Biden’s approach is less compromising.
The world has changed much for the United States since Obama era, thanks to the policies of Donald Trump. What Biden must take grasp of is that Washington no more assumes the major role in world developments and interference in political and military affairs of other countries to impose the values respected by the US is doomed to failure.
An 18-year bid for the claimed build of democracy in Iraq led to the harshest security crisis in the region. US attacked Iraq in 2003 under the pretext of alleged weapons of mass destruction; never found, never proved. George W. Bush, then the US president, boasted the success of the operation in front of a banner that read “Mission Accomplished” less than a month later.
The main mission, though, started a decade later when groups of dissident religious militias in Iraq and Syria began to form. Under the security crisis in Syria and political uncertainty, rooted in a decade of occupation by the United States, in Iraq, ISIS found the chance to breathe. The US was never the main force to battle against ISIS fighters. “Till this day, this expedient and heavy support from Iran during the war on ISIS provided Iran and its supporters with further legitimacy. They can claim that Iran has been Iraq’s greatest ally in the war on ISIS, which is not factually wrong,” asserted Ruba Ali al-Hassani, analyst at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.
Since the occupation, the US’ main challenge in Iraq was to set a date to leave the country, proved as a hazardous swamp in the long run. The prospect of the “forever wars” continuing throughout the Biden term is the main risk his government will face in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Biden administration needs a fresh strategic plan based on the ground facts and past experiences in Iraq. The region proved no safe place for the US troops physically, politically and strategically. Obama’s claimed bid for an endgame in the region with specific goals must be practically achieved in Biden era. The strategy might end an age of failure and start a new one of multi-lateral cooperations for the shared goals around the world.