By Nawar Alrikabi and Francesca Cicardi
Baghdad/Cairo, Jan 2 (efe-epa).- A year after the assassination of Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani by the United States in Baghdad, Iraq remains caught in crossfire between the US and Iran.
Similar attacks could still play out, although the arrival of the more moderate Joe Biden in the White House makes such a scenario less likely.
The US selective air strike took place on the night of 2 to 3 January near Baghdad airport killing Soleimani, who had arrived from Damascus, and the deputy commander of the pro-government militia of Popular Mobilization Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes who received the Iranian leader.
Iraq is now in a weaker position because the attack “challenged the credibility of the Iraqi government domestically and also internationally,” and put it in a complicated position in relation to its two main allies, the US and Iran, says Abbas Kadhim, director of the Atlantic Council think tank’s Iraq Initiative.
Measures to prevent such an attack on Iraqi soil “were in place in January (…) as mutual agreements” that stipulate that the US cannot carry out attacks in Iraq without the green light from Baghdad, Kadhim explains.
However, “the Iraqi government did not work hard to enforce all of the agreements it had and (the attack) took place because of that laxity in the Iraqi follow-up on what the Americans are doing in Iraq,” he adds.
While the expert believes that the attack “could happen again at any moment,” he thinks that the arrival of US president-elect Joe Biden in the White House will herald a “change in approach and that the US military action in Iraq will not be unilateral (…) and there will be more respect (of) Iraqi sovereignty”.
Iraq, however, cannot depend only on the goodwill of its ally, but should “negotiate a plan of action and establish rules that both parties agree on, with consequences to violations to both parties,” he adds.
The US attack put in doubt the presence of its troops in the country, with the Iraqi parliament asking the government to take action.
However, it stopped short of demanding the departure of the foreign troops deployed in the country under the flag of the international coalition fighting terrorists.
Upon its own initiative, the US has partly relocated and reduced its troops in Iraq and only 2,500 soldiers are expected to remain in the country as of 15 January.
“The only sure thing that Iraq’s stability is directly affected by the Iran-US relationship”, a senior official at the Iraqi government tells Efe.
“It is expected that with Biden there will be a return to the negotiating table. The sooner Iran and the US commit to meaningful dialogue, the better for Iraq,” says the source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
During this year’s escalation of tension between its two allies, Iraq has felt “the impact of the maximum pressure and maximum resistance,” the source adds.
No reprisals with massive repercussions have taken place, despite many attacks on interests of the US and other countries on Iraq soil.
These incidents mainly consist of rockets launched at Baghdad’s fortified green zone and Iraqi military bases housing US troops.
Washington blamed these attacks on the Iranian-financed Shiite Kata’ib Hezbollah militia, integrated in the Popular Mobilization, which was bombed by the US in Iraq a few days before the killing of Soleimani.
“It is not a combat arena between the two parties, but is exposed to attacks and conflicts,” specifically “to the US aggression and occupation,” Mohammed Mohy, the spokesperson for KH confirms to Efe.