There are concerns about Iraq once again becoming a battlefield to settle accounts between Iran and the United States. In a clear indication of Iraq’s unwillingness to become involved in conflicts between the United States and Iran, the report issued by Abadi’s office on Feb. 9 regarding his phone call with Trump did not mention the Iranian threat.
When asked about his phone call with Trump during the weekly press conference on Feb. 14, Abadi said, “The US and Iran are enemies, but Iraq is not part of this enmity.” Abadi repeated his stance at the next press conference on Feb. 21.
Former Iraqi Ambassador to the United States Lukman Faily told Al-Monitor over the phone, “The first signs indicate increasing pressure on Iraq, especially since Trump, unlike his predecessor Obama, does not want to improve relations with Iran.” He added, “The Iraqi government is closely watching the moves of the US and Iran, which might have a bad influence on Iraq and its attempts to manage the risks threatening it.”
Maysam Behravesh, a Ph.D. candidate in international relations at the Swedish Lund University, told Al-Monitor over the phone, “Iran is at its strongest in Iraq now. The Iran-backed Iraqi armed groups have gained wide fighting experience through their battles with the Islamic State [IS]. They now carry arms and equipment that they did not have before. Besides, these groups have a large public base because they succeeded in halting IS’ advancement in 2014 and played a remarkable role in liberating important regions in Iraq. This will make their participation in the upcoming elections strong.”