A strategy paper prepared by the US Atlantic Council think tank - with the assistance of Germany's CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation - is proposing measures for Western powers to take to insure their continued influence in Iraq following the fall of Mosul. According to the paper, published a few days ago, US military forces should remain in Iraq for the foreseeable future, train and equip Iraqi forces to prevent IS from regrouping and recovering after its expected defeat. To push back Iran's influence, measures should also be taken to help the country's economic development. In Baghdad, a government "strongly inclined to cooperate closely with the United States" is needed, the paper states, and calls for US allies - particularly European countries - to engage in Iraq to "tackle sensitive areas in which the United States is not seen as neutral." Berlin is already using this opportunity to build its own base of influence in Iraq and is supporting the reconstruction of towns recaptured from the IS. Insuring western control of Iraq is considered all the more urgent, since Russia could successfully obtain major influence in Damascus following the anticipated end of the Syrian war.
The report on the "Future of Iraq" was published a few days ago by the "Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East" of the influential Atlantic Council in Washington. It was prepared by a Task Force, which, over the course of 2016, organized consultations in Washington, Berlin, the Jordanian capital, Amman and several cities in Iraq (Baghdad, Najaf, Erbil, Sulaimani). The Task Force was chaired by Ryan Crocker, a former US Ambassador to several Middle East countries, including Syria and Iraq. In the US foreign policy establishment Crocker is considered an influential voice on Middle East questions. Members of his Task Force included former US government employees as well as experts of well known think tanks, including Nils W�rmer, from Germany. W�rmer, a former Bundeswehr soldier, who was temporarily operating in Afghanistan for the military intelligence between 2007 and 2009, is since September 2015, heading the Syria/Iraq Office of the CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation. The Task Force was supported by prominent consultants, including the US Generals John Allen (Former Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS) and David Petraeus, (Former Commanding General in Iraq) as well as by the former US Ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte.
Set the Course for Reconstruction
In its Report, the Task Force explains that, in alliance with its Western partners, the United States should immediately set the course for Iraq's development following the expected reconquest of the city of Mosul. According to the Task Force, it would be "a catastrophic mistake" to simply "declare victory and move on" - because this would enable IS to regroup and persist in large-scale attacks on the West. To prevent this, US troops must systematically advise, train and equip Iraqi Security Forces. Iraq's economy should be rebuilt as quickly as possible, to deprive the remaining IS structures their breeding grounds for recruiting new personnel. Washington must also push for improving governance in Baghdad. After retaking Mosul, it is indispensable that it takes charge of Iraq and sets up a government "strongly inclined to cooperate closely with the United States."
Push Iran Back
The Atlantic Council's report insists on the US maintaining a permanent presence in Iraq. This is not only indispensable for a lasting defeat of IS in that country, the paper contends. The required US presence serves also other strategic objectives. Once Iraq is fully under western control, "the strategic depth of connected terrorist groups operating in Syria" will be reduced limiting their capacity "to threaten US and allied interests." A permanent western presence would reduce Iraq�s "vulnerability" to "Iranian influence" and limit "Iran�s capacity to project power across the Middle East." It is important to take practical steps for a greatly enhanced "public diplomacy" strategy in Iraq to communicate to the Iraqi population that the United States seeks to "support stability and growth" for the country. At present, "Iranian propaganda" is "far more effective than US efforts." In addition, Iraq is currently the fourth largest oil producer in the world, pumping some 4.5 million barrels a day; it is important that Iraqi oil flows freely onto global markets and that oil prices remain relatively stable. And by developing its gas production, Iraq could not only reduce its reliance on Iranian gas imports but, could become an exporter. The fact that this can only be at the expense of the more profitable Iranian exports, weakening Iran, is left unmentioned in the report.
Opportunity for Germany
The paper's authors place importance on not making a plea for a rerun of the US occupation policy following the 2003 invasion - having been far too costly with the loss of nearly 4,500 US military personnel, US $815 billion in direct war expenditures, and US $1.7 trillion in indirect expenses. The task force suggests instead that the anti-IS war coalition be transformed into a sort of support coalition for the period following the recapture of Mosul. Then, the burden of Iraq's reconstruction can and should be shared "with allies, partners, and friends." Additionally, some European countries are in a better position to "tackle sensitive areas in which the United States is not seen as neutral." "European states not involved in the 2003 invasion have greater latitude to work in Iraq." The fact that the USA is dependent on the support of its allies, provides Germany new opportunities in its quest for more influence in Baghdad, because its previous possibilities had been limited. In fact, since some time, the German government has been seeking to progress in rebuilding the areas recaptured from IS, which gives Berlin a strong position in Iraq. german-foreign-policy.com will soon report.
Pre-set Breaking Points
Remaining unclear about these proposals is why should this project, of taking and maintaining an occupied country under its control using western troops or allied militias, be successful in Iraq in 2017, when it had been unsuccessful, not only in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan and Libya. In fact, pre-set breaking points are already apparent - breaking points set by the western countries, themselves. As the Atlantic Council paper notes, "any military conflict" between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government "would seriously undermine US efforts to achieve a permanent defeat of violent extremism in Iraq." Such a conflict has been threatening, since the Kurdish Regional Government announced it would hold a referendum on the region's secession, and, last week, set the referendum date for September 25. The fact that Erbil is powerful enough to prevail, is, not least of all, thanks to Germany's long years of support, which, since some time, has even included arming the Peshmerga into becoming the de facto armed forces of the Kurdish Regional Government. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.) The systematic support for these secessionists could foil the West's plans of taking complete control of Iraq.
 The quotes are from: Atlantic Council: Report of the Task Force on the Future of Iraq. Achieving Long-Term Stability to Ensure the Defeat of ISIS. Washington, May 2017.
 See In the Wake of the War and Breaking up Iraq.