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Iraq's Prime Minister Emphasizes the Need to Strengthen Relations with the United States Beyond Security Concerns.
- September 23, 2023
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani has expressed a strong commitment to broaden the scope of bilateral relations with the United States beyond the realm of security. In an interview with CNN on September 21, he underscored Iraq's abundant economic resources and its significant influence in the energy market, highlighting various opportunities for American companies to engage in economic, service, and urban sectors within Iraq. These remarks follow closely on the heels of a call from the US Treasury Department for Iraq to address potential risks associated with the misuse of US dollars by commercial banks, a situation that could trigger new sanctions against the country's fragile financial sector. Prime Minister Sudani also mentioned an invitation he received to meet with US President Joe Biden at the White House, noting that discussions are underway between the US and Iraqi Foreign Ministries to arrange the meeting later in the year. He emphasized the importance of addressing the Strategic Framework Agreement, a two-part agreement signed by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and then-US President Barack Obama. The first part stipulated the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq by late 2011, while the second part included provisions for maintaining advisers and technicians to train Iraqi troops. Sudani's statements come against the backdrop of a complex history of US military involvement in Iraq. US forces initially entered Iraq in 2003, ostensibly to topple Saddam Hussein's government. They withdrew in 2011 when an agreement couldn't be reached on the Status of Forces (SOFA). However, a significant number of US troops returned to Iraq's Ain al-Asad base to assist in training Iraqi forces after the rise of ISIS in 2014. After the US assassination of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi resistance leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in January 2020, the Iraqi parliament voted to revoke permission for US operations on Iraqi soil. However, the enforcement of this decision has been inconsistent, with approximately 2,500 US troops remaining in an "advisory" capacity. Additionally, Iraqi military officials have revealed that the Pentagon continues to store offensive military equipment at the Ain al-Asad base, in apparent violation of a 2021 agreement between Washington and Baghdad, which was meant to mark the end of the US combat role in Iraq. Prime Minister Sudani emphasized that Iraq no longer requires combat forces, whether from the US or other coalition members, as Iraqi security forces have significantly improved their readiness and capability to maintain security, stabilize the region, and combat ISIS remnants, which are dispersed in deserts, mountains, and caves and no longer pose a substantial threat to Iraq's sovereignty.
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