Between Trump’s Iranian lens and Obama’s indifference: What might a Biden presidency mean for Iraq?

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Joe Biden is no stranger to Iraq and this informs how Iraqi politicians have responded to his victory in the U.S. presidential election. Some have welcomed the news, while others are more cautious given concerns that a Biden presidency might lead to greater Iranian influence in the country. Indeed, Biden has a mixed record on Iraq. Though a Democrat, he voted for the 2003 Iraq War. But later as vice president, he was President Barack Obama’s right hand and fast-tracked their campaign promise to withdraw U.S. troops in 2011. Looking ahead to his presidency, his familiarity with the political class in Baghdad, forthright proposals about Iraq’s territorial integrity, and previous role in tipping power between major actors may falsely lead to a conclusion that Iraq will be a focus for his upcoming administration. The reality, however, is much different.

The state of U.S.-Iraq relations

Iraq itself is in a precarious position. Politically, after more than a year of upheaval, the country is finally gearing up for unpredictable parliamentary elections next year that could either bring forth a young, brave, and reform-minded generation of politicians or see the existing malicious practices of elitism, corruption, and poor governance recycled once again. Financially, Iraq’s rentier economy is on the verge of collapse due to diminished oil revenues — despite temporary assistance from unprecedented domestic borrowing and budgetary tinkering. As the situation continues to worsen, Iraq is slowly approaching the same perilous fate as Lebanon. The government’s inability to provide a welcoming environment to attract foreign investment and to adopt free market economics means Baghdad has little room to compete for capital regionally.

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