US urges quick formation of Iraqi government; repeats denunciations of Iranian missile strike

In both conversations, Blinken "condemned the Iranian missile attacks near Erbil that violated Iraq's sovereignty and expressed solidarity with the Iraqi people."
Press Briefing by State Department Spokesman Ned Price. April 7, 2021. (Photo: United States Department of State Website)
Press Briefing by State Department Spokesman Ned Price. April 7, 2021. (Photo: United States Department of State Website)

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – State Department Spokesperson Ned Price, addressing reporters on Monday, urged the speedy formation of a new Iraqi government. It has been over five months since Iraq's Oct. 10 elections, and still, there is no government in place.

Price also condemned the Iranian missile strike on Erbil on Sunday, as he read aloud—for the camera—the US summary of the phone call that Secretary of State Antony Blinken had on Sunday with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, which had earlier been posted on the State Department website.

Blinken also spoke with the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Masrour al-Barzani, and he made similar points in his discussion with the Kurdish leader.

Read More: US condemns Iranian missile strikes on Kurdistan Region; will send missile defense systems

In both conversations, Blinken "condemned the Iranian missile attacks near Erbil that violated Iraq's sovereignty and expressed solidarity with the Iraqi people."

In both conversations, the Secretary of State also stressed "the urgency" of forming a new Iraqi government "accountable to the Iraqi people" and "that protects the country's territorial integrity." 

The pro-Iranian parties are the stumbling block in the formation of a new Iraqi government. They did not win the seats necessary to be part of the government, but they want the benefits that come with ministerial positions.

Their involvement in the next government is being resisted by the most successful Shi'ite party, led by Muqtada al-Sadr, in alliance with the most successful Kurdish party, led by Masoud Barzani.

One of the several motives that Tehran may have had in Sunday's missile strike, according to The Washington Post, could have involved an attempt to intimidate the Sadrists and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) into accepting Iran's proxies in the new government, despite their poor electoral showing.

Relation to Ukraine Crisis?

Other possible reasons for Iran's missile attack include a general emboldening of Moscow's allies, as tensions between the US and Europe, on the one hand, and Russia, on the other, mount over Ukraine.

"Do you get a sense that, as this conflict with Russia and Ukraine," builds, "other actors that are [US] adversaries"—"China, Iran North Korea—are also testing the West?" a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday.

"We have not assessed those to be related," she replied. However, Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who focuses on Iranian security and political issues, offered another perspective. 

"Iran and Russia, and soon to be North Korea, if reports of a forthcoming potential ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] test are true, are simultaneously firing on all pistons at once," Ben Taleblu told Kurdistan 24. "This should dispel any notion that the administration may have that it can compartmentalize or ignore certain crises for the sake of another."

"These states have increasing material capabilities, commensurate political will, and the risk-tolerance to challenge America," he warned, and "they are testing now, since they sense weakness."

Neocons and the "Victory Disease"

That Iraq is entering its sixth month following the Oct. 10 elections without a government underscores the tremendous blunder made by the so-called "neocons" in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

There were very good reasons for the 2003 Iraq war that ousted Saddam Hussein and his regime, but they got lost in an unrealistic—and unrealizable—vision: that the Middle East—not just Iraq, but the entire Middle East—could be transformed through democracy.

The first US target after the 9/11 attacks was Afghanistan. That war began in October, and the Bush administration believed it had won in December. The US then began active preparations for the war in Iraq. 

By that time, however, the neocons, led by Richard Perle, Chairman of the Defense Policy Board, were promoting a policy of broader wars that would include Iraq but also go beyond Iraq. They aimed to bring about radical change in the entire region, and Perle and others, including former CIA Director R. James Woolsey, believed it was entirely feasible. 

They thought that Bush could achieve in the Middle East what Ronald Reagan had in the Communist bloc—in Eastern Europe and even the Soviet Union: precipitate a democratic transformation.

Perle is a lovely man, but that was a bridge too far—a manifestation of the "Victory Disease," common enough in history: overconfidence generated by a big win against a major foe.

One consequence of that pollyannish perspective—the US could bring about a democratic transformation of the Middle East—was that the US lost track of who it was fighting and why. The legitimate national security reasons for the war were lost.

"We shouldn't have argued that the Iraq war would be easy," a senior aide to the Deputy Secretary of Defense told this reporter a decade later. "We should have argued why it was necessary."

Indeed, in a moment of unusual candor, a senior White House official told this reporter in late 2007, when it was already clear that the Iraq war was not going well, "I didn't pay attention to what you said"—all the details and difficulties—"because I thought we were going to do it all."

Strange concepts about democracy muddy the political waters in Iraq today. In a properly functioning democracy, there are winners and losers. Those with the majority of votes assume control of the government, while the losers sit in the opposition and wait for their chance in the next elections.

In Iraq, however, there has emerged the concept of a "majority government" and a "consensual government." A majority government is how the West understands democracy—and that is what Muqtada al-Sadr and Massoud Barzani are pushing for.

Read More: Sadr reiterates call for majority government, welcomes dialogue with 'national opposition'

However, the pro-Iranian parties want a consensual government—i.e., even the losers get ministries and the benefits that ministries bring. In that view, the political elite divvies up the pie—irrespective of the popular will!

Of course, that is no democracy at all—at least no democracy that would be recognized as such in the West.