Middle east

Washington strengthens its security and military cooperation with Baghdad to curb Tehran’s influence 

Iraq and the United States emphasize the need to support the mature bilateral strategic partnership and build upon the foundation established by previous bilateral discussions, including strategic dialogue

The Iraqi arena continues to receive significant American attention despite Iran’s control over decision-making in the country through political forces led by the Coordinating Framework and a group of militias. Washington and Baghdad have renewed their commitment to enhancing dialogue and security and military cooperation, in addition to their shared interest in regional stability. The US administration believes that Iran’s ability to enhance its influence in its western neighbor remains a constant threat to its interests in the region.

In a joint statement released on Wednesday at the conclusion of the ‘Joint Security Cooperation Dialogue’ between the United States and Iraq, held in the US capital Washington from August 7th to 8th of the current year, both sides affirmed the necessity of supporting the mature bilateral strategic partnership and building upon the foundation established by previous bilateral discussions, including the strategic dialogue between the United States and Iraq in July 2021 and the High Coordination Committee between the United States and Iraq in February 2023.

The Iraqi delegation in the joint dialogue was led by Defense Minister Thabit Al-Abbas, while the US delegation was led by Assistant Secretary of Defense Celeste Wallander, as reported by the Iraqi News Agency ‘WAA’.

The statement affirmed Iraq’s commitment to protecting American individuals and advisors, the international coalition, convoys, and diplomatic facilities. It mentioned that the participating delegations in the dialogue expressed their intention to hold subsequent joint security cooperation dialogues and related meetings to discuss the evolving threat from the terrorist organization ISIS.

The statement also indicated that cooperation between the two countries primarily revolves around the ‘permanent defeat of ISIS under Iraq’s leadership’.

In recent years, US diplomatic facilities, bases, and establishments in Iraq have been targeted in attacks by Iran-backed armed groups, prompting the US military to target prominent leaders within those militias.

Both delegations agreed to ‘develop Iraqi security and defense capabilities’ to ensure the enhancement of our common interests in Iraq’s security, sovereignty, and regional stability. During their meeting, the delegations also reviewed the efforts undertaken to build the institutional capacities of the Iraqi security forces, through US military assistance and security cooperation programs, including external military funding, foreign military sales, and training operations.

In this context, the statement noted the satisfaction of both delegations with the full implementation of the outcomes of the strategic dialogue (held between the two countries in 2021).

On July 26, 2021, Baghdad and Washington reached an agreement stipulating the withdrawal of combat US forces from Iraq by the end of the same year, following pressure from militias and pro-Iranian political forces. However, a limited number of US forces remained to provide advice and train Iraqi forces.

The statement emphasized the absence of any US forces with a ‘combat role in Iraq’, stating that the American military personnel present in Iraq by invitation from the Iraqi government serve in roles of training, advising, assisting, and exchanging intelligence to support Iraq’s ongoing battle to ensure the permanent defeat of ISIS.

On Monday, the Iraqi Defense Minister and the accompanying delegation began a visit to the United States, during which they met several officials, including their American counterpart Lloyd Austin, and the American National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who recently met with several Gulf leaders.

The Iraqi delegation to the United States included the head of the Counter-Terrorism Bureau, Chief of Staff, Deputy Commander of Joint Operations, and several advisors and officers.

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