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Iraq: The Biden-Suleimani Battle? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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As the US forces begin to withdraw from Iraqi cities, US President Barack Obama took the decision to charge Vice President Joe Biden with the task of pursuing inter-Iraqi political reconciliation.

There are a number of reasons for Biden’s appointment especially as Iraq is preparing to rely on itself with regards to its own security. Moreover, Iraq is also preparing for the forthcoming elections that are considered crucial, and even though they are not fast approaching, the process of forming electoral alliances in Iraq is in full swing. In addition, [we must also take into consideration] the unexpected changes that have taken place in the region from the genuine division in Iran, which may have implications for the rest of the region and Iraq in particular, to inter-Arab activity, and action regarding the peace process.

Of course we cannot ignore US-Syrian activity that has begun to gather speed. My sources say that the Commander of US Central Command, General [David] Petraeus is preparing to visit Syria soon after a delegation of officers [previously] visited the country without revealing any details of that visit.

All of these changes illustrate that Iraq will be important in the coming stage, as the withdrawal of US forces means that Washington wants to end its occupation of the country and secure its flank from the Iranians, as well as undertake the more difficult task of removing the other occupier from Iraq i.e. Tehran.

In order for Iranian [influence] to be removed from Iraq, there must first be inter-Iraqi [political] reconciliation and this is no easy task. Therefore choosing Biden to undertake this task means that he “will give it political muscle and shed light on its importance,” a US source told me.

According to my source, the task of overseeing political reconciliation in Iraq is considered in Washington a “job that nobody wants.” This is nothing new; its difficulty lies in the fact that pursuing reconciliation will mean confronting the presence of Tehran in Baghdad. In order to understand this we must refer to the statement made a few weeks ago by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki regarding the formation of electoral coalitions. Al Maliki said that the forthcoming coalition will not be a Shia coalition but a “national coalition for the rule of law.”

I asked an Iraqi source close to al Maliki and familiar with the details of Baghdad’s official relationship with Iran about the meaning behind this statement. He said that it means “the formation of a tripartite alliance comprised of the Islamic Dawa Party, the Sadrist current, and the current that is led by [Abdul Aziz] al Hakim [the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Party].” The source added that the architect of this coalition, or to quote him word for word the “maestro behind this coalition is Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force that currently takes its orders directly from the Supreme Leader of Iran.” Many US and Iraqi sources have also confirmed that Suleimani has a large influence in Iraq.

At present there is a very close political alliance between Baghdad and Tehran. A high-ranking Iraqi source informed me that when al Maliki visits the Supreme Leader in Tehran, the two converse in Persian without the aid of an interpreter.

So it is apparent that US President Barack Obama charging his Vice President with the task of pursuing political reconciliation in Iraq will accelerate a difficult political confrontation between Washington and Tehran in Baghdad. This battle will feature Vice President Joe Biden and the Supreme Leader’s proxy Qassem Suleimani.