Sabah Alnasseri on US Imperialism in Iraq

Professor Sabah Alnasseri discussed the situation in Iraq in a 3 July interview with The Real News: “Iraqi Parliament Adjourns in Chaos without Choosing New Leader.” Alnasseri, who was born in Basra, Iraq, teaches Middle East politics and economy at the Political Science Department at York University in Toronto, Canada.

In the interview, Alnasseri explains how and why US imperialism continues in the region.

Jessica Desvarieux begins the segment noting that, according to the UN, over 2,400 Iraqis died during just last month. These are the long-term effects of US invasion, occupation, and imperialism in Iraq. The Iraqi people pay the price.

Desvarieux explains that “not a week goes by without reports of more military equipment, arms, and U.S. troops being sent into Baghdad, prompting critics to really accuse the Obama administration of this sort of mission creep.”

Alnasseri notes, right off the bat, that the US sending military aid and weapons to Iraq is a fundamentally bad idea. He says, if

we look at it from the internal politics of Iraq, this is, you know, the worst that the US can do, to send more weapons and more arms to Iraq and escalate the conflict, because the conflict is mainly political. So from this perspective, this is wrong. It’s a wrong policy. It will lead nowhere.

Clearly, then, further US military involvement would mean bad results for Iraqis. But the US is not interested in Iraqis, Alnasseri believes. He says

I think the focus and the priority of the U.S. policy in Iraq is not Iraq or the so-called Islamic caliphate, but mostly Iran and Syria. So you can see it’s bizarre where U.S. support the same groups in Syria who fight against al-Assad, and al-Assad is supported by Iran and Russia, whereas in Iraq, all the three join together to fight the Islamic caliphate.

Once again, Iraq is just a pawn in the US’ imperial agenda in the Middle East.

Alnasseri then speaks of the “political crisis” in the country. He notes that, in the session of the Iraqi parliament,

only 75 out of 328 MPs came back to the session after the break, so there was no quorum to nominate the speaker of the house and the president, etc. This shows you the depth of the crisis, the political crisis in Iraq. This in itself should have, you know, been sufficient to the Obama administration to stop supporting the al-Maliki government and to push for a different formation, much more inclusive, democratic, representative, which is not the case.

Instead, of halting its support for the Maliki government (that the US itself put into power), Alnasseri believes that US politicians

don’t really want it to be much more inclusive, because they are using this conflict to sustain the instabilities, because the instabilities keep the US a … permanent mean to intervene in Iraqi politics and regional politics.

So, in Alnasseri’s perspective, the US is using the Maliki government and the political crisis as a way to sustain instability in Iraq, thereby always providing a reason for which to intervene in Iraqi politics and regional politics (i.e., an alibi for imperialism).

Alnasseri continues, explaining that

one of the things that the Iraqi parliament refused in 2011 was to give immunities to the US army in Iraq. That’s why they withdraw the troops. So now President Obama, before sending the 300 adviser, he insisted upon such immunity vis-à-vis the Iraqi law, which al-Malki, as a concession, made to the Obama administration to get some weapons and support. Right? So they utilize the conflict to push for some concession to sustain their influence in Iraqi politics, not because Iraqi politics per se are important to them, but, as I said, regional politics. And Iraq offers some kind of [laboratory?] in the sense of security, of gathering information, intervention in regional politics, etc.

Again, then, Uncle Sam is using Iraqi instability as a way to exert US hegemony in the Middle East.

In the subsequent discussion of Iraq’s upcoming elections, Alnasseri notes US complicity in creating a system in which reform, through electoral politics, is not even possible. In a truly, systemic analysis (as opposed to a liberal, individualist analysis), the scholar explains

the problem is is not the person, it’s not faces. I mean, you can bring a different figure, and maybe he or she can, you know, set something in motion. The problem is, as I said, like, years ago on The Real News, the problem is the whole state edifice, the whole institutional structure created by the United States, which permanently and systematically fractured the Iraqi polity according to ethnic and sectarian lines. So even if politicians don’t want to be sectarian, they have to be in order to be elected. They have to appeal to their own ethnic or sectarian minorities and so on to be elected. So it’s imposed ethnicity and sectarianism onto the body of the people. So that need to be redesigned. The whole institution, the Constitution, the election law, all of these need to be restructured.

Alnasseri echoes the point made by Dahlia Wasfi, et al.—as I have noted in a previous post—that sectarianism was not a problem in Iraq before the US invasion, and that it is the US who is directly responsible for the country’s problems with sectarianism today. He, however, takes this analysis a step further and notes that the problem in Iraq is about much more than just sectarianism. The entire system—and especially the imperial system the US has imposed, and still maintains—must be deconstructed.