Baghdad (GPA) – Diyari Salih, Iraqi academic with a Ph.D. in Political Geography and writer for Iraqi Thoughts, Middle East Online and LSE spoke with Geopolitics Alert contributor Damir Nazarov about the current political situation in Iraq.

While it may not be spoken of as much these days in Western media, Iraq is clearly still a hotbed of political activity that plays a key role in regional events. Whether it is Iraq’s internal politics, their relation to the Kurdish population, or the effects on the country from actions by external forces like the US or Turkey; what happens in Iraq is important. One man who understands these politics better than most is Dr. Diyari Salih who recently spoke with Geopolitics Alert.

Damir Nazarov: Coming up on a year in office this October, how would you rate the government Adil Abdul-Mahdi thus far?

Diyari Salih: Until now, Abdul Mahdi’s government is still faltering in its performance. There are many internal and regional constraints that limit its ability to implement its governmental program. Nevertheless, this government has acceptance among many moderate Iraqi circles. The problem now lies in the presence of political forces that want to overthrow Adel Abdul Mahdi because he is now threatening their interests and influence.

DN: With the US trying to keep Iranian oil off the market there has been more demand for oil out of the Kurdish region in Iraq. Earlier this year agreements were made between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish region’s government about this oil production and export but now the Kurds have been accused of violating this agreement, what exactly is happening there?

DS: Today, the Kurds are trying to bypass agreements signed with Baghdad within the framework of the fiscal budget for 2019. They believe that there is the possibility of producing some kind of trade-offs that serve their interests. For example, they propose a commitment to deliver 250,000 barrels per day to Baghdad in exchange for the latter pledging to solve the problems of Erbil’s obligations with foreign oil companies as well as the subject of the return of Peshmerga forces to the disputed areas.

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DN: In June Grand ayatollah Sistani leveled fierce criticism against corruption and conflicts between political blocs. What problems do you associate, with either politicians or the state system, after 2005? Why is the new premier repeating the same mistakes, as in re-appointing members of the former cabinet?

DS: The problems of Iraq after 2003 lie in the fact that the political forces do not have a project to re-produce the state. Therefore, these forces used all their means to achieve material gains in illegal ways which thus led to a corrupt system built into the state. There are also external powers supporting this subversive league. These powers have many geostrategic objectives in Iraq. These objectives do not include anything concerning the rise of a strong and healthy Iraq.

DN: Lately it seems people in the city of Basra initiate changes in the government. Would you say Basra city is the home of a possible revolutionary movement?

DS: Basra in recent years has been a city that greatly affects the nature of political stability in Iraq. The revolt of protesters in Basra greatly affected Haidar al-Abadi’s chances to be the prime minister for the second time. It will also affect the political future of Adel Abdul Mahdi and his government. The conflicted parties and the government are unable to adopt effective mechanisms and decisions in order to respond to the demands of the protesters. The beneficiary ultimately behind this image is the powerful parties competing for influence and interests. They want to use Basra as a card to blackmail and overthrow the government of Adel Abdul Mahdi.

DN: Under this most recent government we have seen greater cooperation between Iraq and a larger range of non-NATO countries including Russia. In which sectors do you think this cooperation with Moscow could be most crucial?

DS:  Iraq and Russia can cooperate effectively in many fields. Corruption in a period of time was also widely spreading in the structure of the Russian state, especially after the nineties of the last century, but Russia has been able to exercise effective policies and strong to confront corruption. Russia can be an important ally of Iraq in the strategic field, especially in terms of combating terrorism and its positive role in Syria affirms this matter. It can also contribute to the prosperity of the energy sector and the other economic fields.

This post was submitted by a Geopolitics Alert contributor, the opinions expressed may not reflect those of the editorial staff.