Like It or Not in Iraq, U.S. Ties Are Here to Stay

Mar 4, 2019 | 10:00 GMT

Iraqis gather in a mosque in Najaf on Feb. 20, 2019, to mourn victims who were reportedly abducted and killed by armed men on motorbikes.

Iraqis gather in a mosque in Najaf to mourn victims who were reportedly abducted and killed in a recent attack by armed men on motorbikes.



  • As the United States begins to withdraw troops from Syria, maintaining a presence in Iraq will become increasingly important to countering terrorism and Iranian influence in the region.
  • The economic threat of U.S. sanctions because of Baghdad's ties to Iran will continue to spark debate and fracture Iraq's dominant Shiite political elite.
  • Some Iraqi lawmakers have been pushing to legally expel the United States from their country, though such legislation is unlikely to pass.
  • Despite mounting anti-U.S. sentiment in the country, Iraq's pervasive security concerns will solidify its need to keep ties with Washington.

In December, the United States abruptly announced it would begin withdrawing troops from Syria, leaving neighboring Iraq to consider how its own political and security situation might be affected. However, Washington has assured Baghdad that it does not intend to change its deployment in Iraq, where it currently maintains more than 4,000 troops. This is partially because Iraq's security and stability depend on its relationship with the United States, and partially because leaving Iraq would force Baghdad to align more closely with Iran. Amid increasingly hostile relations between Washington and Tehran, Iraq is attempting to balance necessary U.S. cooperation alongside its close but complicated economic and security relationship with Iran. And while this dynamic has led to Iraq's increasingly nationalist political environment in recent years, the truth is that in the face of mounting security threats, the country remains too weak to completely sever ties with either the United States...

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