Secret U.S.-Iran Deal May Have Secured Kadhimi’s Confirmation as Iraqi Prime Minister
May 15, 2020 (EIRNS)—According to an exclusive report published by Middle East Eye news organization, the Trump Administration made a secret deal with Iran to install Mustaf al Kadhimi as prime minister of Iraq. Middle East Eye’s unnamed Iraqi sources reveal that, in return for getting Tehran’s support for Kadhimi, the U.S. agreed to de-escalate militarily in the Persian Gulf and to “look the other way” if a third-party country in Europe released some of the Iranian money frozen when sanctions were imposed. Iranian intercession was necessary because many of Iraq’s Shi’ite factions—particularly Kataib Hezbollah—opposed Kadhimi. They blamed him for the U.S. assassinations of Iran’s Gen. Qasem Soleimani and Iraq’s influential militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis on Jan. 3, 2020 outside Baghdad airport, despite denials by the Iraqi Intelligence Service which Kadhimi headed at the time. Kataib Hezbollah continued to threaten Kadhimi personally but other Shi’a political factions influenced by Iran allowed his nomination to go ahead.
According to Middle East Eye’s Iraqi sources, Iran agreed to lean on the Shi’a factions in the Iraqi parliament in return for some relief from economically crippling U.S. sanctions against Iran by having some of the Iranian assets in Europe unfrozen. Iraqi sources declined to say where Iranian assets would be unfrozen, but pointed to a decision last month by a court in Luxembourg to block a U.S. request to transfer $1.6 billion in Iranian assets to victims of the 9/11 attacks.
“The Americans managed to get their man, and the Iranians to get their money,” said the news agency’s source with knowledge of the secret deal. “The economic hardship that Iranians have faced, and all the difficulties they faced after the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, has hit them hard. There were negotiations. The deal ended with the Iranians accepting this guy [Kadhimi] and they told their allies to vote for him.”
In March, a senior source in Tehran told Middle East Eye that the U.S. had agreed to grant waivers allowing some countries to release Iranian assets to help Iran to buy medical supplies to fight the coronavirus epidemic. “The efforts of some countries have led to the release of some of the Iranian central bank’s money,” he said. “Those countries will receive a sanctions waiver, this has been granted and we are following this issue.” This would indicate that the deal, if there in fact was one, was in the works for weeks before Kadhimi was confirmed as prime minister on May 7. Kadhimi wasn’t named prime minister-designate until April 9, though President Barham Salih had indicated as early as Feb. 1 that Kadhimi was his preferred candidate.
Middle East Eye reports that news of the secret deal has already circulated in Arab media. The London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi Arabic newspaper said that the U.S.-Iran deal was the “decisive matter that opens the way for the parliamentarians’ agreement, and then the regional and world agreement.” Ibrahim al-Zubaidi wrote in another London-based Arab outlet, The Arab: “As you saw and you see, [political currents] agreed to pass it in parliament, as if nothing had happened, only when the last orders and instructions were issued from the [Iranian] embassy in Baghdad, or from the embassy of Uncle Donald Trump.”
Officially, the U.S. maximum pressure policy on Iran remains unchanged. But the U.S. military has also begun drawing down in the region, as shown by the withdrawal of the Patriot batteries from Saudi Arabia first reported by the Wall Street Journal May 7.
“While Trump will claim credit for his maximum pressure policies on Iran, the fact is U.S. policy in the Gulf, the Saudi campaign in Yemen which it can no longer afford, and the pressures on Iran—all three powers are in trouble. And this is something for the Saudis to consider: The collapse of a U.S.-based strategy to push back on Iran. Trump will not mind negotiating a new nuclear deal with Iran, just as long as it has got his name on it,”
said one Iraqi official.
This may lead to negotiations and further agreements between Washington and Tehran, the official further said. The view expressed by this Iraqi official is contradicted by the U.S. strategy at the UN Security Council to “snap back” at UN sanctions on Iran. Nonetheless, President Trump has said more than once that he’d be willing to talk to the Iranian leadership.