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Issue briefs and reports April 27, 2020

The future of US-Iraq relations

By C. Anthony Pfaff

With US-Iraq ties strained and a Strategic Dialogue between the two countries set to begin in June 2020, this Atlantic Council Iraq Initiative report by Nonresident Senior Fellow and former White House National Security Council Iraq Director Dr. C. Anthony Pfaff analyzes the current challenges in the relationship and presents policy recommendations.

Dr. Pfaff argues in the report that the United States should:

  • Avoid dragging Iraq into its broader campaign against Iran
  • Play to its comparative advantage: The United States can be a better security partner for Iraq than other countries and can also assist with integrating it into the international community and developing the economic and financial capabilities necessary to participate in the global economy
  • Continue to insist on the integration of Iran-backed militias into Iraq’s security forces
  • Highlight US aid to Iraq and while acknowledging US mistakes, push back against politicized narratives that explain Iraq’s lack of recovery
  • Emphasize military interoperability, so that in the event of an ISIS resurgence – or the emergence of a like-minded group – US forces can quickly fill in the Iraqi armed forces’ capability gaps
  • Promote reconciliation and provide an alternative to Iranian mediation while at the same time avoiding advocacy for a particular outcome
  • Provide economic assistance to set conditions for foreign investment by US companies and like-minded partners
  • Focus additional COVID-19 related assistance on economic recovery

The Iraq Initiative provides transatlantic and regional policy makers with unique perspectives and analysis on the ongoing challenges and opportunities facing Iraq as the country tries to build an inclusive political system, attract economic investment, and encourage a vibrant civil society.

Image: University students gather during ongoing anti-government protests in Baghdad, Iraq February 9, 2020. The posters read "My allegiance to Iraq". REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani