A great talk with former Ambassador to Iraq Doug Silliman.
The complicated relationship between Iraq and the United States is once again approaching a crossroads. Parliamentary elections held in Iraq last month promise a new government featuring a new cast of political forces with their own difficult histories with the United States. The United States, meanwhile, is approaching the self-imposed deadline by which it has promised to withdraw U.S. combat troops from the country, even as its diplomatic and military presences in the country have continued to come under attack by Iran-backed militias. To discuss these developments, Scott R. Anderson sat down on Lawfare Live with Ambassador Doug Silliman, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2016 to 2019 and was previously the deputy chief of mission and political counselor there. They talked about the Sadrist block that appears to have won the recent elections, what other challenges are facing the Iraqi state and what they all mean for the future of our bilateral relationship.The Lawfare Podcast: Ambassador Doug Silliman on What’s Next in U.S.-Iraq Relations
I enjoy listening to Doug Silliman. He understands the region and he certainly understands Iraq.
And he also understands US interests in the region and in Iraq.
Better yet, he can communicate it.
A few things that stood out to me in this episode:
- Slogans – نريد الوطن – We want a nation! Simple, but so important.
- ISIS Propaganda – Ambassador Silliman talks about how the desertions in the Iraqi Army were partly due to ISIS propaganda. Iraqi soldiers believed that if they were captured by ISIS they would be beheaded and displayed, potentially to an international audience. Propaganda works.
- The Counter Terrorism Service – A good chunk of this interview is Ambassador Silliman extolling the benefit of having a robust mil-to-mil arrangement in Iraq. The State Department, and foreign service officers specifially often get a bad wrap as being ‘anti-military’ in some regard. That is (mostly) unfounded. And in this interview we hear it, where Ambassador Silliman is talking about how important the mil-to-mil partnerships were in Iraq. Fostering military cooperation is a diplomatic win.
Interviews like this give me hope.
Want to quickly build clout? Shout out into the void about how if we want to compete more effectively we need to invest further into our diplomatic corps.
But what is often missing is our diplomatic corps saying how much of a useful tool our military partnerships can be to further diplomatic aims.
That is interagency cooperation right there.