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US should encourage Iraq-Israel peace
Despite Biden’s promise on peace, Blinken has yet to broach subject with Arab counterparts
When Secretary of State Anthony Blinken received his Iraqi counterpart Fouad Hussain, both men said that cooperation between America and Iraq was not only about military affairs, but also about giving Iraqis a better future. If so, why did Blinken not ask Hussain to consider peace between Iraq and Israel? Peace, normalization and bilateral trade are, after all, proven ways to improve things for impoverished populations, like that of Iraq.
In August 2020, when former President Donald Trump announced the signing of the Abraham Accords for peace between Israel, on one side, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, on the other, then presidential candidate Joe Biden broke ranks with many senior figures of the Democratic Party, and threw his weight behind the accords. Biden went as far as promising that, should he be elected president, his policy would build on the accords’ momentum to sponsor more peace treaties between Israel and Arab States.
Of the Arab League’s 22 member states, Israel currently enjoys peace with seven Arab governments, including the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.
Peace treaties between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco were signed during the Trump presidency. But since Trump’s exit, Biden has yet to show the urge to nudge more Arab countries to enter into peace and normalization treaties with the Jewish State.
While peace may be complicated for Arab countries that border Israel, such as Syria and Lebanon, mainly over border disputes and refugee issues, peace is extremely easy between Israel and Arab countries like Iraq, with which the Jewish State has no borders or outstanding issues.
Peace between Iraq and Israel is as easy as signing a treaty. Even when pro-Iran militia leaders in Iraq tried to argue against Iraqi Israeli peace, they could not offer convincing arguments. Qais al-Khazaali, chief of Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq, said that Iraqi peace with Israel meant that Zionism would bring homosexuality to Iraq, but could not think of other reasons on why Baghdad should resist peace.
In the weeks and months that followed the downfall of the notorious Saddam Hussein regime in 2003, a few Iraqis — such as former lawmaker Mithal Al-Alusi — openly advocated for peace with Israel. Al-Alusi might have lost his two sons, who were assassinated in Baghdad, because of his pro-peace position.
Before Al-Alusi, charlatans like Ahmad Chalabi stood before AIPAC in Washington and promised peace, should Saddam be removed. But once in Iraq, Chalabi turned coat and became one of the faithful assets of Iranian intelligence in Iraq, sometimes passing on to them sensitive US military secrets.
But not all Iraqis are charlatans like Chalabi. The majority of Iraqis are seeking a good life, and if pro-peace politicians are ever given a chance, they can run on a peace platform, and help build an Iraqi grassroots movement that supports it. Such campaigning, and fair elections in general, require the disbanding of pro-Iran militias inside Iraq.
Blinken, however, looks desperate to get Iran to come back to the nuclear deal. Hence, when he received Hussain, Blinken expressed American support of free and fair election in Iraq, but did not say a word about Iranian malicious role inside the country, or that of its unconstitutional militias. Needless to say, Blinken did not say, in public, anything remotely connected to Iraqi peace with Israel, and it is almost certain that he did not even hint at it in private.
On Monday, President Biden will receive Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi in the White House. If the president is serious about expanding Arab-Israeli peace, then he should not shy away from broaching the subject with Kadhimi. Peace might feel unthinkable today, but getting it into the debate might help Iraqis get more familiar with it. President Biden promised he will pursue Arab-Israeli peace. Monday is a great opportunity for him to live up to his promise.