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When the ‘Great Satan’ Grows Tired

When the ‘Great Satan’ Grows Tired

Monday, 26 July, 2021 - 08:45
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Joe Biden and Mustafa al-Kadhimi will not be able to hold a one-on-one meeting today. The shadow of the Iranian supreme leader will be present, just as Qassem Soleimani’s shadow accompanied Iraqi officials during their meetings with US officials.


That is why Iraqi officials used to consult with Tehran before “sinfully” meeting with the Americans, as well as after to ensure that the level of accusations and harsh messages would be lessened.


This picture reminds me of those days when late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri passed through Damascus before and after a Western encounter. Of course, places, stages and men differ.


It is no longer necessary for Tehran to publicly declare its demands, anger or fears, since it has in the region those who can assume the task. Allies/proxies have their own ways of expressing those feelings, ranging from launching cyber campaigns to rocking governments or preventing elections, to resorting to bombs, stray missiles and drones. Sometimes messages require liquidating an activist here or there. The revelation of the killers of Iraqi researcher Hisham al-Hashemi showed that a “mighty” mission of this kind could be carried out by an officer with his licensed weapon.


It is no exaggeration to say that the activists’ bodies constitute messages or advice directed to the authorities to correct their policies. This magical combination, which is based on pairing the army and the factions, is considered a viable recipe for consolidating the non-state logic and putting the constitution, institutions and citizens in the hands of the small armies.


Days after the details of al-Hashemi’s assassination were revealed, hours after the perpetrators of the Sadr City bombing were detained and a day before the Biden-Kadhimi meeting, activist Ali Karim was killed in Basra. He was accused of working for the “Great Satan”.


Kadhimi has been acting as an expert in dismantling improvised explosive devices since he assumed the premiership on May 7, 2020. Sometimes he succeeds in preventing an explosion and others he is unable to neutralize the device. Every time he makes a step - even a modest one - in favor of the idea of the state, the non-state logic unleashes its rage and throws a handful of missiles or corpses in Iraq.


Kadhimi is a legitimate son of the Iraqi fabric and came from the world of information and reports. He knows that those labeled “disorderly agents” are in fact highly disciplined. He also knows that a common thread connects the elements of general turmoil and that resorting to silencers is just part of the overall game.


The Iraqi premier is aware of the size of the mistakes the Americans committed in Iraq. They are terrible. He knows that their foolish decision to dissolve the Iraqi army was the beginning of the dissolution of all institutions and the fall of the country into the non-state logic.


But Kadhimi, who maneuvers between the bombs, realizes that he sometimes has to bite the bullet and at others, he has to reveal half of the scene. He is aware that he is part of a long battle that is as important as it is dangerous.


Perhaps the most critical point that the prime minister realizes is that the actual problem in Iraq today is not the American soldiers, who are no more than 3,000, rather it is Iran’s insistence on expelling the US forces from the country, not only to avenge Soleimani’s killing, but also as a continuation of the agenda that sees American influence as an obstacle to the birth of a new Iran. We say the new Iran so as not to go so far as to say the Greater Iran, which spans Tehran and four Arab capitals.


President Jalal Talabani was an expert in reading the balance of power. He knew that America was a colossal power, but he did not forget that US forces would leave one day, and that geography had condemned Iraq to live alongside Iran. Talabani used to consult with Tehran before and after talks with Washington. He used to quote senior Iranian officials as saying if American positions were “realistic” then Iran would be ready to negotiate with Washington on files ranging “from Afghanistan to Lebanon.”


But Kadhimi’s experience taught him that expressing willingness to engage in the tango does not necessarily mean accepting the terms of the dance, including the timing of the steps and respect for the partner, his interests and temper. Perhaps Iran would have had to accept the terms of the dance if the Americans had renewed Donald Trump’s stay in the White House. However, with the arrival of Biden and the shadows of Barack Obama haunting his administration, as well as his eagerness to save the nuclear agreement and postpone everything else, Iran is now looking forward to dancing alone in the maps it has infiltrated.


It is not surprising to see Iran raising the ceiling of its demands or ambitions. Some Washington circles have sent repeated signals that the Middle East was no longer a hearty or important meal on the US policy table. Some observers believe that abandoning the disputes of this region, which is stuck in the thorns of history, is a prerequisite to fully engaging in the frantic “strategic competition” with China.


Kadhimi knows that the Great Satan is tired of pumping blood and dollars into the veins of the Afghan and Iraqi maps, and that he sees a disappointing outcome when considering the the killing of thousands of soldiers and the loss of trillions of dollars.


It is evident that Washington is not ready to pay the price of restoring its role in Iraq, reinstating a balance of power in Syria, or bearing the burden of saving Lebanon from the abyss. Some diplomats are convinced that the US “will not panic if Syria is part of Russia’s share, or turns, along with Iraq and Lebanon, as a burden on Iran, which excels at producing militias but fails to bring about prosperity and stability.”


The White House will not hesitate to offer Kadhimi a timetable for the withdrawal of the combat forces. There are those who believe that the step may facilitate holding Iraqi elections on October 10. However, observers of the developments of the past years note that the elections - from Afghanistan to Lebanon - did not succeed in changing the course of events, which are likely to escalate when the Great Satan grows tired.


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