Joe Biden could help Iraq by defusing US-Iran tensions, Iraqi adviser says

Dr Fanar Haddad says Iraq suffered from disputes between US and Iran that escalated under Donald Trump

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The election of Joe Biden could be a boost for Iraq if the incoming US President backs down from the maximum pressure policy on Iran pursued by Donald Trump's administration, a senior adviser to Iraq's Prime Minister said.

Dr Fanar Haddad said the current government of Mustafa Al Kadhimi, who has been Prime Minister since May 2020, had suffered from the deterioration of US-Iran relations.

"It was painfully obvious in the last year or two the extent to which Iran-US policy impacts on Iraq and the extent to which this is beyond Iraq's control," Dr Haddad told a Chatham House conference called Iraq: Navigating reform, collapse and the status quo.

Mr Trump has been deeply critical of the Iranian regime and in 2018 pulled the US out of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal that sought to clamp down on Iran’s nuclear prowess. He described the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as terrible and renewed crippling sanctions on Iran. Tehran responded by breaching the deal.

The US President also approved an air strike that killed influential Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani and Abu Mahdi Muhandis, a senior Iraqi commander in the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces, earlier this year in Baghdad.

Mr Biden was US Vice-President in 2015 when the JCPOA was agreed.

“So there are elements in the political set-up, there are elements in Iraq’s foreign policy, there are elements in Iraq’s security landscape that are within Iraq’s control,” said Dr Haddad.

“There is a separate layer that is beyond Iraq’s control and is directly related to and reflective of the state of relations between Iran and the United States. The outgoing US administration has been, shall we say, unhelpful in that regard by pursuing a policy of maximum pressure with no discernible end goal.

“This is something that has affected Iraq very negatively and we are hoping that in the incoming administration that there will be a return to the negotiation table. The calmer that relations are or tensions are between Iran and the United States, the better the situation is for Iraq,” he added.