08/25/2021, 10.24
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Iraqi academic: Baghdad like Kabul? Same US failure, but different scenario

Iraqi public opinion is critical of the United States, which, as in Afghanistan, has achieved the same poor results in building a state after years of occupation. Baghdad's silence and Isis' "contempt" for the rise of the Taliban. Saad Salloum: Iraq's 'neutrality and stability' essential for the region's future. The litmus test of elections in October.



Baghdad (AsiaNews) - Iraqi public opinion summarizes that "the United States has failed to build a state in Afghanistan, despite 20 years of occupation" in which profound "political and social changes" have taken place, says Saad Salloum, journalist and associate professor at the Chair of Political Science at the prestigious al-Mustanṣiriyya University in Baghdad, one of the oldest in the world.

In an interview with AsiaNews the regional expert says "It is similar to how the United States also failed in Iraq, after 18 years of presence following the 2003 invasion" to oust Saddam Hussein then in power. "Hence the comparison between Afghan and local history", with the understandable fear that "the same scenario could occur", as a Chaldean priest from Mosul had already explained in recent days. 

To date, there have been no official statements or initiatives by the government in Baghdad, which prefers to keep a low profile on the rise of Koranic students in Kabul - a not too distant memory of what happened in Mosul in the summer of 2014. The radical Islamic movements themselves are keeping a low profile, while some observers even speak of "contempt" on the part of the Islamic State (IS, formerly Isis) towards the Taliban, who were handed over the country following the American withdrawal. The general public, and users on social media, have instead relaunched images and videos of the great escape, with the ensuing chaos at the capital's airport, wondering if this could also happen in Iraq.

US President Joe Biden's plan to significantly reduce the military presence in Iraq by the end of the year, as communicated to Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi during a meeting in July, adds to the uncertainty about the future. A situation of uncertainty could encourage a large-scale return of Isis militiamen on the one hand and strengthen the aims of conquest by local militias linked and supported by Tehran that have long been operating in the political and military underworld, with further bloodshed.

Analysts and international experts underline the similarities in terms of corruption and weakness of the armies of the two Countries, which could lead to the fear of a collapse of the Iraqi State, as happened in Afghanistan. "At the same time", warns Saad Salloum, "the Iraqi front is different from the Afghan one: different experiences, also successful, as happened in Iraqi Kurdistan, in the North, where there are no great threats and where the United States policy has been able to weave good relations. Furthermore, there is a positive bond between Baghdad and Washington, also from a strategic point of view. The approach is different, just as the scenario is different compared to Kabul", where there are more marked influences from China, Russia and Iran to take into account.

"All this," he continues, "suggests that the Afghan scenario will not materialise in Iraq, which is fast approaching the [parliamentary] elections in October" that will give rise to "a new government". 

"Certainly, there are interests and pressures from outside, such as Turkey, Iran and the United States itself,' he notes, but the country is 'too important for the future of the Middle East and its fundamental stability' to be left to its own devices.

A co-founder of the Iraqi Council for Interfaith Dialogue and president of the Masarat Foundation, Salloum is one of the most influential figures in interfaith dialogue, so much so that he received the coveted Stefanus Prize for religious freedom in 2018. "The Gulf nations," he concludes, "see Iraq as a neutral place" and ideal for "talks and negotiations, a crossroads" that manages to survive "amidst tensions and opposing interests of the powers at play. This is also thanks to the policies of the current government, based on greater neutrality".

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