Interview with dr. Imad ALLOW, Major General, Retired Staff
Adviser to the European Center for Counter-terrorism and Intelligence Studies / Germany / Bonn
Deputy director of the Republican Center for Strategic Studies / Baghdad
Military advisor at the Nahrain Center for Strategic Studies
Member of the International Union of Historians for Development and Social Sciences
Member of the Federation of Arab Historians
Member of the Iraqi Center for Media Development
Member of the Association of Arab Academics / Turkey / Istanbul
Member of the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate
Member of the Media Development Center
Military and strategic analyst accredited to a number of Iraqi, Arab and international satellite channels.
Mohammed Al-NASSERY: Excellency,
The international situation, on a global level, has undergone mutations to which we must have rapid reactions at the diplomatic, strategic-military, political-social and geopolitical levels. We are witnessing the formation of new alliances and the dismantling of spaces under the influence of nationalist or terrorist movements. Scenarios are made, strategies and leaders are challenged, political doctrines are challenged, and often the law order of a state actor. How do you comment on global and regional developments?
Imad ALLOW: It is clear today that the world, and especially the Middle East region, is on the cusp of fluctuations in the form of international relations characterized by the dispersal of goals and attitudes, diversity and multiplicity and depth of contradictions, as a result of diverging visions and ambiguity of awareness of goals and objectives! In an atmosphere in which the state of aversion, enmity, divergence and social and political rupture escalated between countries as well as within societies due to extremist intellectual propositions that evoke contradictions and sectarian, ethnic and religious problems that people, nations and societies have suffered through its history … to clearly highlight the weapon of threat, harm, destruction, punishment, terrorism and intimidation in relations between countries and societies and even doctrines and religions. The major international powers have found in this hostile environment a historic opportunity to attend and interfere in the service of their interests and aspirations. All of this indicates that the state of balance among the powers at the international and regional levels are still in a state of anxiety and turmoil, which will definitely lead to the emergence and crystallization of new international and regional alliances that change the balance of forces that prevailed at the end of the last century.
M.A.N.: Mr. Major General,
Iraq represented a pole of stability, manifesting itself as a regional leader. What are Iraqi strategic and security initiatives in the Middle East in relations with Palestine, Israel, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Libya? Can we talk about regional economic projects and investments for the reconstruction of Iraq?
Imad ALLOW: There is no doubt that the absence and exclusion of Iraq from the equations of security and stability in the Middle East region that took place since 1991 and passing through its occupation and destruction of its infrastructure in the year 2003, have resulted in strategic imbalances in the balance of power in the Middle East in particular and the world in general, whose impact will remain on the level of regional relations and the international for many years to come.The state of imbalance in the Iraqi internal security as a result of changes and political impulses, as well as the impact of the phenomenon of terrorism and extremism that Iraq and the region witnessed in an unprecedented way, clearly impeded the wheel of development, development and reconstruction that was hoped after 2003. Therefore, the role and influence of Iraq within the framework of the strategic and security initiatives in the Middle East will remain weak “as long as the internal situation of the Iraqi volatile” and uneasy.
M.A.N.: Mr. Imad Allow,
Iraq, at present, is a state in which there are manifested political-military and security tendencies, which have had effects on national security. Since 2003 and so far, the internal situation has not stabilized. How do you comment on current developments in Iraq? What are the relations with the US, the Russian Federation, Iran and Turkey?
Imad ALLOW: The instability of the internal situation in Iraq after 2003 came as a result of a catastrophic failure of the policy pursued by the United States of America in dealing with the Iraqi situation since 1991 and its subsequent occupation in the year 2003 and the following, when it made Iraq an open field for regional and international interventions that clearly contributed to tearing the Iraqi social fabric and deepening the sectarian and ethnic contradictions in it. This matter later affected the unity of the Iraqi political decision of the regime that was formed by the American occupation administration after 2003, which is still reflected on the policy, form and nature of Iraq’s relations with the United States and Russia, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the countries in the region.
Therefore, a quick review of the current dynamics of the Iraqi situation indicates the escalation of emerging trends of conflict and instability at the state and local levels in Iraq, since the failed Kurdish referendum, the government’s restoration of the disputed territories, the regional defeat of ISIS and the escalating influence and role of the armed factions associated with Iraqi political forces, more than sixteen years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, a build-up of factors – including the effects of the economic meltdown, endemic corruption, severe environmental degradation and domination violence, lack of infrastructure investment, lack of employment opportunities, mismanagement and the provision of services – have led to a loss of people’s confidence in the traditional political system and its leaders. Many of these issues stem from years of neglect, which needs to dismantle the political system based on traditional patronage, all of which led to the outbreak of the protest movement in southern and central Iraq, at a time when societal tensions and potential sectarian conflicts in Iraq arise because of competition for resources such as the deterioration of environmental and agricultural resources, low water resources, poor infrastructure and services, and insecurity have provided an opportunity to exacerbate tensions and disputes between Iraqi tribes over ownership. The shape and manner of the process of forming the current government will create a state of continued instability, while the current protest movement appears to have the ability to escalate, especially since any new government will find it difficult to meet the demands of the demonstrators. Also, the escalation of the protest movement may not be confined to only in central and southern Iraq, but could extend to the rest of the country, which will lead to the escalation of security and economic challenges facing the new government. Especially since the ceiling of the demands of the protest movement has reached the point of demanding political change in addition to fighting issues such as corruption, bad governance, lack of public services, lack of investment in infrastructure, etc., which have appeared throughout the country, with the emergence of the latest movements in the summer of 2015, 2018-2019. These protests were often met with excessive violence and repression, although protests were a common phenomenon in Iraq, but the current protests in the center and south have escalated more than previous ones and fear of serious instability. Consequently, any new government will find it difficult to meet the demands of the demonstrators, which may not be able to tolerate instability in the long term, as a result of the exacerbation of dissatisfaction with the political system and the resentment that is commensurate with the size of the problem and the great long-term effort required to overcome these issues is a source of concern. It is real for the Iraqi political elites to understand and objectively understand it. Especially since, there is a disturbing speech coming from some political elites, such as that the protests were penetrated by Saudi and Ba’athist elements in an invitation to counter the protests with state violence and indeed a number of activists and leaders of the protest were assassinated. The use of force against demonstrators is a dangerous sign for the future. The presence of a stable Iraq without conflict between the population and the state, as well as a culture of lawlessness, is important in preventing the re-emergence of the terrorist organization ISIS, which still exists as sleeper cells and detachments that routinely carry out attacks in a number of governorates.
The situation in the Extended Middle East is a very complex one with very short-term developments. We are witnessing changes in strategies in Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time, Lebanon has been experiencing a state of uncertainty for some time. In the vast majority of conflicts, non-Arab states are involved. How does Baghdad perceive the mix in the internal politics of some states in the Middle East?
How is Iraq trying to expand Iranian Shi’ism into Iraq?
How does Baghdad view the development of the Iranian military nuclear program?
The Middle East witnessed dramatic and rapid changes in the nature of conflicts and the quality of crises. In the midst of the bloody conflict raging in Syria, the war against the terrorist organization ISIS in Iraq, the civil war in Yemen, and Saudi-Qatari disputes, the transfer of the American embassy to Jerusalem came as a prelude to presenting an American plan to solve the Palestinian issue, called a term. “The deal of the century” in the wake of changing the rules of engagement in the conflict between Washington and Tehran when US President Donald Trump decided to assassinate the Iranian leader Qassem Soleimani near Baghdad airport in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. It made it difficult for any leadership to Rania, stressed the importance of the target character that she did not respond strongly to the American operation, as the missile bombing of Ain al-Assad’s base in Anbar, which caused material and human losses on the American side, a conflict and bloody hustling that swept Iraq, brought the region to the brink of a war that was almost universal … and if we consider Strong Palestinian opposition to President Trump’s plan for the “Deal of the Century”, so recent Middle Eastern developments may have prompted the US administration to realize that it is heading to lose its balance in the Middle East represented by negative reactions to US policy regarding the Palestinian issue and confrontation Iran’s growing influence in Iraq.
As for Baghdad’s position on developments in the relationship with both Tehran and Washington, the statements and statements issued by successive Iraqi governments indicated that Iraq seeks to build balanced relations with regional and global countries and to stay at the same distance from all parties, based on the Iraqi national interest that it seeks to keep Iraq from getting involved again in futile wars and disputes that have brought misfortunes to the Iraqi people. However, the political reality in Iraq and the result of interventions and external influence and its impact on the active Iraqi political forces and currents involved in the political process Iraq make the policy of neutrality and distancing self-claimed Iraqi governments far from the reality of the application and the actual practice. However, Iraq always seeks and calls for non-interference in internal affairs and is trying to build a balanced positive relations with all countries of the region and the world.
M.A.N.: Mr. Major General,
How do you look at developments in recent pressures in Syria? But those in Turkey?
Imad ALLOW: Turkey is trying to win the friendliness of the US administration – its strategic ally, and to win the European position to support it, by stopping the Russian-Syrian progress from advancing to Idlib, by moving at the local-regional and international levels, where the Turkish move relied on mastering the play on the contradictions and the interlocking interests of the countries concerned with the Syrian file. On those levels (such as the refugee file, the infiltration of al-Qaeda fighters into Europe, interference in Libya, the intransigent attitude toward Tehran, and other files) in letters to those involved in the Syrian file that Ankara has the final word on future political arrangements in Syria, Moez. Their desire to defend their positions and rejected the scenario of reconciliation is similar to what happened in Daraa, where Ankara managed to gain more time to carry out its role in the tripartite agreement Astana (Ankara, Moscow, Tehran) and the goal of getting rid of terrorist organizations in Idlib as a condition for the continuation of the agreement. In sum, it seems that Turkey and Moscow are seeking to restore political and military restructuring in the Syrian north in the context of preparing for the stage of political settlements and sharing influence and spoils in the Syrian arena to find or reach a new Syrian regime that adopts administrative decentralization, which also necessitates the availability of international support for the success of those endeavors to manage Governance in Syria after the war raging since 2011.
Here, we cannot deny that what is happening in Syria does not have a “direct” effect on the Iraqi interior, as well as on Iraq’s diplomatic positions in the international and regional arenas. Iraq has received thousands of displaced and Syrian refugees, and there are a number of Iraqi political parties and forces that have arms and armed factions involved in a way directly in the armed conflict taking place in Syria. Also, the developments of the military field situation in Syria, especially in the “file of the war against the terrorist organization ISIS, have been reflected and still on Iraqi national security, especially” after the battles of Deir Al-Zour and Al-Baghouz. Also, the Iraqi government is still concerned and looks with suspicion at the Turkish military towards the north of Iraq and its extension to the rear of Syria under the pretext of protecting the Turkmen and Kurdish threat (PKK Turkish PKK).
M.A.N.: Mr. Imad Allow,
Does Iraq have Recovery Strategies? How are the Turkish, American and Russian initiatives seen in Baghdad? Is there collaboration with EU and NATO bodies on these issues? Is there a collaboration with ISIS and other terrorist groups with the Arab states in the Gulf to limit the effects of this organization? But with the US, Russia and China?
Imad ALLOW: The future status of areas liberated from ISIS terrorist control and Kurdish claims over lands recovered by Iraqi forces in late 2017 will certainly pose major challenges for the political elite in Iraq and for the integrity of the country as a whole. The prospect of more conflict, repeated calls for decentralization, and complete separation is still very real. But it is important to note that calls for decentralization in Iraq are not for the sectarian divide of Iraq, but from the provinces that feel they have been ignored, especially from a development perspective, or feel that the central government has failed to achieve a major economic achievement. Basra is a good example of a province seeking autonomy based on these principles. The protests in Basra have turned into violence and threats from Basra politicians that they will control the oil fields and bypass Baghdad. Conflict with the Kurds over Kirkuk remains a possibility. This shows an urgent need for real discussions on decentralization and addressing issues within these governorates.
We have already mentioned that the political reality in Iraq and the result of interference and external influence and its impact on the effective Iraqi political forces and currents that are involved in the Iraqi political process make the policy of neutrality and self-distancing claimed by the Iraqi governments away from the reality of imple-mentation and actual practice. Therefore, the decision-makers in Iraq reach Real strategies to recover from the security, political and economic crises seem at present elusive, at least for the foreseeable future. Especially Iraq suffers from the proliferation and corruption of administrative and financial corruption, and Transparency Organization classified Iraq as the number 166 out of 176 countries, at a time when international reports indicate that the extent of the damage that ISIS inflicted on the infrastructure in the regions and cities it occupied after 2014, It amounts to more than $ 22 billion, which requires joining efforts and cooperation with the international community and European Union and NATO bodies to solve these issues. As for Iraq’s cooperation with Arab and Gulf countries to reduce the risks of ISIS, Iraq today has extensive experience in the war against this organization Except Rehab as well on the vast amount of documents and intelligence information seized by the Iraqi forces that relate to the nature of the activities of this organization, and the Iraqi security services are ready to cooperate with the Arab and Gulf countries to reduce the risks of the terrorist organization ISIS.
Please make a few references to how Iraq projects its power (and here I refer to military and economic power) in the geopolitical regions of the Gulf and the Middle East? What about relations with Kuwait and Iran?
Imad ALLOW: Iraq is a promising investment opportunity for the countries of the region and the world thanks to the natural resources, young human resources and a distinguished geopolitical position available to it,. Therefore, Iraq is looking for a promising future if the Iraqi political forces are able to build bonds of trust between them, towards uniting their efforts towards reconstruction by benefiting Of Iraq’s own capabilities and the support of the international community. It is important to point out that rebuilding the Iraqi military force to face the internal and external threats of the Iraqi national security depends primarily on seeking the right and serious path to enhance and rebuild the Iraqi economy. Which collapsed as a result of wars and instability in the Iraqi internal security. In order to address the major divisions in the country, the Iraqis need to conduct a fundamental review of the rules that govern the current political system in the country. The focus must also shift to deepening sense and national belonging away from sects. Real change requires major amendments to the Iraqi constitution and electoral system, as well as new laws on political parties and resource management. Authority must become less elitist, more distant from centralization, and more expressive of people’s needs.
M.A.N.: Mr. Major General,
What are Iraq’s challenges in relations with the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait? Can we talk about an anti-Iranian current in the region? In the event of a major crisis in Iran, is there a plan to support the Iranian population and the possible migration to Iraq? Is there a plan of action in the event of a nuclear accident at Busher?
Imad ALLOW: The Iraqi relationship with the Gulf states has always been unstable, unresolved, and not governed by a strategic vision. It ranges between hostility, uneasiness, and difficult coexistence, especially since Iranian-Gulf relations have cast a shadow over Iraqi-Gulf relations. The Gulf states see the Iraqi government as an “Iranian” ally because of the sectarian nature for the Iraqi regime after 2003, while some Iraqi political forces in the Gulf states see “anti-sectarian”. Therefore, the future of Iraqi-Gulf relations depends on the current instability in the features of the Iraqi state, which lives in a political system that reproduces the sectarian divide, and in light of the great Iranian political influence in Iraq, which is accompanied by an Iranian-Gulf rivalry (especially Saudi) in the region. Successive Iraqi governments are trying to open their diplomatic relations to the regional environment in a balanced manner, and are trying to return to the Arab incubator, which has slowed down a lot and delayed positively in dealing with the Iraqi situation and situation after 2003, which allowed Iran and Turkey to invest in the Iraqi political and economic sectors. It allowed the two countries to play a more influential role from the Arab and Gulf countries, especially in Iraq, which created a situation of imbalance in the Iraqi engagement in its foreign relations. Therefore, we feel today a “significant” role and a clear influence on Iran in Iraq, which enhances the geographical proximity and the religious and economic relations that the Iranian government has been keen to strengthen with Iraq, which it considers an important “strategic” depth in the Middle East region.