Alwaght- The activities of US ambassador to Baghdad in Iraq are brought in spotlight of the local media and politicians who argue that Alina Romanowski’s back-to-back meetings with various figures and visits of state institutions and remarks about the country’s home affairs are violation of the Iraqi national sovereignty.
Romanowski, a career member of the Senior Executive Service, assumed her post as US Ambassador to Iraq on June 2, 2022. She served as US Ambassador to Kuwait from January 2020 to March 2022.
The American ambassador has published a long list of her meetings with Iraqi officials in the last four months, which includes at least 45 meetings, including 10 with the prime minister and numerous meetings with the president, ministers of defense, finance, oil, planning, and culture, foreign affairs, environment, immigration, justice and power.
In addition, she met more than once with central bank governor and Qassem al-Aarji, the national security advisor.
Romanowski’s meetings have reportedly drawn sensitivity of the Iraqi lawmakers who have seriously stepped into the case in a bid to check her interventions in the national Iraqi affairs. They also started a motion to expel her and to this end, they recalled to the parliament Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein.
According to media outlets, the FM recall request for explanations about the rife interventions of the American ambassador was sent to the parliament speaker in a letter by the office of Hassan Salem, the head of the Sadeqoun parliamentary faction.
Mahmoud al-Hayani, a member of the Hadi al-Amiri-led Fatah parliamentary alliance, described the ambassador’s unchecked visits and meetings as intervention in Iraqi home affairs, adding: “The Iraqi constitution should be respected in the meetings of all ambassadors to Iraq. The interference of the Iraqi ambassador is unacceptable.”
Mohammad al-Sayhoud, a member of ex-PM Nouri al-Maliki-led State of Law bloc, asked the government to take a clear stance against these moves by the American ambassador and her “blatant interventions” in Iraq’s home affairs.
Saud Al-Saadi, the head of the Legal Faction, the political branch of the Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades, requested from the foreign ministry to hand over a protest note to the US embassy and prevent the ambassador from interfering in legislative and executive affairs.
“We condemn the violation of Iraqi sovereignty and demand respect for our constitution and international laws,” a statement of him said.
Ahmad Al-Kanani, a member of Sadeqoun faction as a political branch of Asaib Ahl Al-Haq Brigades, while describing the actions of the US ambassador as a “provocative violation”, emphasized: “What the ambassador does in Iraq is not part of her responsibilities and expertise, but interference in the affairs of the parliament and the government. And the meeting of the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament al-Mandalawi with her and consulting with her about the laws under consideration is reprehensible.”
The criticism against Washington’s interference in Iraq’s internal affairs comes as the American moves in recent months to scrutinize the Iraqi business ties especially with neighboring Iran have led to foreign currency fluctuations heavily challenging to national economy.
Earlier this year, the US Treasury banned 14 Iraqi banks from the global financial transaction system, Swift. The Federal Reserve had already imposed severe restrictions on dollar transactions by Iraqi commercial banks from November 2022. Applying these restrictions, while more than 80 percent of daily remittances in Iraq are in US dollar, reduced dollar supply to market and led to Iraqi dinar value slump by 30 percent, to 1,700 dinar for one dollar.
The US ties Iraqi access to over $100 billion of its deposits in an account in the US Treasury Department in New York to commitment to laws regarding fight against money launching, terrorism funding, and the American sanctions on Iran and Russia.
Even a recent agreement between the Treasury Department and Iraqi central bank has not eased the fear about future markets as some sources revealed that Washington gave Baghdad three months to adopt American conditions.
These pressures are at a time when Iran has a strong presence in economy and energy market of Iraq, and according to Iran’s economic deputy minister of foreign affairs, in September last year, Iran’s exports volume to Iraq later last year touched $14 billion. Therefore, it is clear that the booming trade with Iraq has played an important role in mitigating the effectiveness of the illegitimate and unilateral US sanctions on Tehran.
However, by publishing the content of her talks with Iraqi officials and her speeches in American-Iraqi business meetings, Romanowski tries to pretend that she is a patron of the Iraqi interests and cooperates with Iraqi officials in such areas as employment, activation of private sector, fight against corruption, and financial stability. However, a large part of the Iraqi Shiite factions in the parliament consider Washington’s moves not only not to the benefit of Iraq’s national interests, but also a sign of Washington’s effort to maintain political and economic dominance over Iraq after the end of the military occupation.
Sadrist Movement’s biased criticism
Despite criticism of the American ambassador’s interventionist stances in Iraq by a majority of Shiite groups, criticism by figures and media outlets close to Sadrist Movement have a different target.
News websites and social media users close to Sadrists have launched a campaign with “son of ambassador” and “Coordination Framework” hashtags criticizing meetings of senior Shiite Coordination Framework (SCF) figures with the American ambassador. In their online campaign, Sadrists mock a behavioral contradiction shown by SCF leaders compared to their past anti-American stances, especially under Sadrist-backed PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi government whose close ties to the Americans after assassination of top anti-terror commanders, Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani and Iraq’s Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, drew substantial public criticism.
Earlier, there were reports that the SCF had agreed to an Iraqi oil pipeline to Aqaba at the behest of the US. Additionally, in the list of names of figures the American ambassador met there are names of the National Wisdom Movement chief Ammar al-Hakim and Nasr Coalition head Haider al-Abadi, both members of the SCF.
Despite the Sadrist claims that are made for pressuring the SCF and damaging its popularity among public opinion, the US Treasury Department had sanctioned the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) chairman Falih al-Fayyad and the SCF head Qais al-Khazali —both SCF members— and a majority of the SCF lawmakers want bigger control and supervision over the activities of the American ambassador and prohibition of her interventions in Iraq’s affairs.