At a time when the Obama administration is pressing NATO allies to do more in Afghanistan, should Europeans devote resources to support stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Iraq? Some observers think that it would be an unwelcome diversion. Europeans, they advise, can’t make a difference there and should concentrate their efforts instead on Afghanistan, a truly Transatlantic enterprise that appears to matter more to the current administration. Others maintain that Europe should do more in the Congo and the rest of Africa – where the challenges are immense, and the already stretched US is not doing enough – to thereby “share the burden” through a regional repartition of roles.
But many observers, including an ever greater number of Europeans, have begun to think otherwise about engaging Iraq. Not only can Europe help, and bring specific contributions to Iraq, but it should – for Iraq itself, for the sake of Transatlantic relations, and above all for its own good. Regional stability, the alleviation of humanitarian tragedies such as those endured by refugees and internally displaced persons, and economic development leading to foreign direct investment, trade opportunities, and decreased migration pressure, are among the many European political interests at stake in Iraq.
The Biden administration has a pretty good idea of what it wants from Europe, which is to go along with their China policy. They are less clear about what they type of Europe they want. Ultimately, if Biden wants a Europe that competes with China he will have to change how the US thinks about the EU, strategic autonomy, burden sharing, and trade.