In Iraq, a future clouded by Afghan chaos

” Our future ? It is as if he had already collapsed. “ Seated at the bar of an ultra-secure hotel overlooking the Tigris, opposite the green zone of Baghdad, Abdulrahman, 24, a translator in the Iraqi capital, sketches a skeptical pout. For the next early legislative elections, which should be held on October 10, his decision has already been taken: he will not vote. “What is the use of pretending, if we know the results in advance?” Here, democracy does not exist: in Iraq, we live in a brutal, totalitarian and corrupt regime… ”

→ REPORT. In Iraq, France promises to “maintain its presence against terrorism”

Widespread, the speech conspicuously contrasts with the message that Baghdad sought to send to the world, by co-organizing, Saturday, August 28 with the Elysee, a regional conference with almost all the powers of the Middle East. Baghdad, diplomatically marginalized for 40 years in the wake of the Saddam Hussein era, the American invasion (2003-2011) and then the war against Daesh, wants to convince that it is now in a position to once again become master of its destiny, and could even impose itself as a champion of regional mediations.

Terrorism

However, the country is mired in inextricable problems, in particular security. “On the one hand, there is the resurgence, in the north, of pockets of Daesh, which constitute a creeping threat despite the defeat imposed on the organization in 2017. On the other hand, there is the growing nuisance power of the Shiite militias more or less affiliated with Tehran, which engage in internal struggles ”, decrypts Anne Gadel, member of the Observatory for North Africa and the Middle East of the Jean-Jaurès Foundation, and European expert within the framework of the Iraqi National Dialogue, between the different components of Iraqi society.

In recent weeks, the specter of Afghan chaos resulting from the announcement of the US military’s withdrawal has fueled new fears in Iraq. “In resonance, and even if the configurations are not comparable – the American disengagement in Iraq is not total -, the announcement, at the end of July by Joe Biden, of the end of the combat missions by the end of the year engendered widespread fear of rising violence, impunity, and strengthening Iranian influence ”, she continues.

→ REPORT. In Iraq, France promises to “maintain its presence against terrorism”

Faced with the threat, Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed, Saturday, August 28 in Baghdad, his fierce desire to maintain the military system (800 soldiers, Editor’s note) deployed by Paris in the fight against regional terrorism.

Complex alliance games

Beyond these worries, “Iraq is plagued by systemic corruption, an economic crisis, our government having failed to protect the Iraqi dinar. Politically, it does not have the logistical capacity in my eyes to guarantee, in October, the holding of transparent elections ”, castigates Ahmad, a journalist from the Shiite suburbs of Baghdad.

Former leader of the social protest movement denouncing since 2019 the growing grip of pro-Tehran militias, the 30-something was forced to flee his country, after being personally threatened by Shiite factions. Between the 1is October 2019 and December 31, the protest was severely repressed, with nearly 600 dead and 30,000 injured.

Faced with these alarm signals, how can we ultimately avoid generalized chaos in Iraq? The question is on everyone’s lips, as the influences and alliances are so complex. “At the Baghdad summit, France wanted to send a strong message to the Americans about the weight of their responsibility in the current security destabilization. With the hope that there is still a small door open for a change ”, decrypts a security expert. He still believes that “The Baghdad initiative, without having led to any major announcements, nevertheless laid the groundwork for a new form of cooperation”.

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A journey under the sign of religious dialogue

During his official trip, and on the sidelines of his diplomatic meetings, Emmanuel Macron made a point of meeting all the religious communities: in Baghdad, he visited the Shiite shrine of Kadhimiya, in Mosul, he had an exchange with representatives of Christians Orient within the Notre-Dame church, adjoining the Dominican convent. He finally met a Sunni representative in front of the Al-Nouri Grand Mosque, where the caliphate of Daesh was proclaimed in July.

→ READ ALSO. Why is Emmanuel Macron returning to Iraq?

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