An ambassator to Iraq … at Iran!

July 3, 2010

The new US ambassador to Baghdad, James F Jeffery, would have a tough task ahead of him. Not only should he keep focused on Baghdad, he should also look at Tehran too.
While he would have to oversee a new phase of relationship between DC and Baghdad, he would also have to establish a new standing for the USA in Iraq.
The withdrawal of the US forces from Iraq would place Iraq and the US in front of the real challenge of making sure that Iraq would not descend into real chaos and would not slip quietly into Tehran’s hands.
This would be based on two key policies; the first is not interfering in government formation; the second is to interfere in preventing Tehran from doing so.
These two concepts should be translated into two clear messages from day one. First message; “It is not our business who forms the government, just form one”. Second; No dodgy deals with Tehran.
The various political blocs who are vying for government formation are hoping that the new ambassador would tip the balance in favour of one side against the other.
When Ambassador Jeffery starts his job, each group would try to convince him of supporting them to form the next government. But he should stay away from this.
He should only make sure that the process is as Iraqi as possible by communicating clearly that the US would not support the candidate of a regional capital.
The reality is that Iraq’s dysfunctional politics cannot move forward with outside interference. It makes things worse.
Historically, Iraq’s neighbours always preferred to see politics in Iraq as dysfunctional as possible, as this gives them more room for interference.
After about two years of work on Iraq, in 2006, Ambassador Jeffrey became Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.
He led the Bureau’s Iran Policy Team and coordinated the Bureau public diplomacy at a time when Iran’s interference in Iraq was at its peak.
The key question here is how to stop Iraq from being another battleground between Iran and the US.
When Ambassador Jeffery submits his credentials to President Talabani, he should ask him this question. As he is known to be almost the only man in Baghdad who stands at an equal distance from Iran and the USA. Describing the earlier as brothers and the later as friends.
Iranians always posed privately and sometimes publically by saying: in Iraq, the US provides security and we provide politics and we are always a step ahead.
It is ambassador Jeffery’s chance to turn this around.

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