Sudani’s Sincere Vision and Insightful Leadership

Sudani’s Sincere Vision and Insightful Leadership

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Interest and attention have returned to the issue of scheduling the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq following events in the Middle East and the political conflicts within the Iraqi political scene. These events have taken on multiple dimensions, all pointing towards the future of U.S.-Iraq relations.
The initial stages of discussing the withdrawal of U.S. forces began at a meeting of the High Coordinating Committee of the two countries in Washington on August 7-8, 2023. This meeting outlined the future framework and boundaries for defining the security and military relationship between Washington and Baghdad. It was considered an extension of the Strategic Framework Agreement signed in 2008 and involved drafting a specific timetable for the presence and gradual reduction of international coalition advisors in Iraq. The discussions also initiated a thorough study on ending the coalition’s military tasks and transitioning to comprehensive bilateral relations in all essential areas, as defined by the nature of the relationship between the U.S., Iraq, and other coalition countries.

The government of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al-Sudani closely followed the results of these discussions, which led to the first round of meetings on January 27, 2024, of the High Military Committee between Washington and Baghdad. This meeting discussed the coalition’s mission in confronting remnants and elements of ISIS within Iraq and its extension into Syria, its communication methods, movement routes, and its impact on Iraqi national security and U.S. strategic directions in the region. A timetable was agreed upon for transitioning the international coalition’s mission from counterterrorism operations against ISIS to a new framework that ensures a sustainable security partnership between Iraq and the international coalition. Both parties agreed on a gradual, studied reduction of international combat forces, moving towards shared goals, intelligence sharing, enhanced field cooperation, and defining the future scope of the ISIS threat. This evolution in discussions aligned with the field vision shown by the U.S. Congress in approving the American Partnership Program to Combat ISIS in Iraq and Syria, which was sanctioned in December 2023 and extended to the end of 2024.
The first round of work was interrupted by the security escalation following a military attack on the U.S. base (Tower 22) near the Jordanian border, which resulted in the deaths of three U.S. soldiers and injuries to dozens more.

Meetings and discussions between the U.S. and Iraq continued, with another session scheduled for February 11, 2024, to draft a withdrawal timetable and set a field perspective for the gradual reduction of international coalition forces. This session would also consider the continued combat missions of U.S. forces and their use of Iraqi airspace to monitor and track ISIS movements, facilitate military operations in Syria, and ease the use of land borders. Future requirements and the environment for combating ISIS activities, and estimating the combat capability of Iraqi forces, were also to be discussed.
The joint committee meetings were marked by keen interest from the Iraqi side, especially from Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al-Sudani, who attended the initial rounds. He emphasized Iraq’s political stance on maintaining close relations with the U.S. and coalition countries, considering the supreme interests of all parties, and strengthening the anti-ISIS coalition. As the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi armed forces, his presence underscored his serious intent to calm the situation and adopt a collective approach to framing the next phase of the security relationship between Iraq and the U.S.

This was further affirmed by Al-Sudani during his visit to Washington and his meeting with President Joe Biden in April 2024, where he stated, “We are working on transitioning from a military relationship to a full partnership with Washington,” indicating Baghdad’s desire regarding the future presence of U.S. forces in Iraq after the war against ISIS.
The Rawabet Center for Strategic and Political Studies obtained specific information about the next round of discussions between the U.S. and Iraq, set for July 1, 2024. These discussions will address key tasks and priorities for setting appropriate timelines for the U.S. and international coalition withdrawal, keeping some military advisors and forces for preparation, training, logistical advice, and intelligence sharing on developments in Iraq and the broader Syrian scene. They will also address the role of the Syrian Democratic Forces in maintaining prisons holding ISIS leaders and members in camps like Al-Hol and Al-Hasakah, and the role of U.S. forces in enhancing protection to prevent any disturbances or breaches, as occurred with the escape of ISIS leaders from Al-Sina’a prison in Al-Hasakah on August 27, 2023.
U.S. and Iraqi military leaders will continue their dialogue until the next round of talks, which will focus significantly on preparing alternatives for U.S. military bases in Al-Asad in Anbar province and near Erbil airport in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. These bases will be central to the discussions scheduled for July.
Questions remain about how to address the threats facing Iraq amid the ongoing acceleration in the Middle East, the nature of political conflicts, regional and international interests, developments in the Palestinian territories, and continued threats and attacks on U.S. forces and bases in Syria and Iraq by some Iran-linked armed factions. The mechanisms to address any political and military developments that impact U.S. strategic goals in the region are also under consideration.
Accurate information from the Rawabet Center for Strategic and Political Studies indicates that the U.S. has requested three years as a suitable timeframe for its withdrawal from Iraq, where 2,500 U.S. troops are present as part of the coalition against ISIS. The invitation was extended to Washington by Iraq in June 2014. In contrast, the Iraqi government believes a one-year period is sufficient to complete the withdrawal, while maintaining fruitful security cooperation and strong political and economic relations that serve the interests of both nations. This cooperation should adhere to the agreements made during Prime Minister Al-Sudani’s visit to Washington on April 15, 2024, which emphasized the economic and financial protection for Iraq, U.S. commitment to financial reforms, and opportunities for foreign investment, expanded international banking relations, and preventing the misuse of Iraq’s financial sector.The ongoing question remains about how events will unfold in Iraq after a complete withdrawal. Can Iraqi forces extend their influence, control the borders, maintain national and domestic security, prevent armed factions from targeting economic and financial institutions, and ensure stability in Iraq and the Kurdistan region? Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al-Sudani’s sincere vision for the withdrawal of international coalition forces, establishing suitable frameworks for relations with the U.S. according to international law and UN principles, and enhancing Iraq’s independence and national stance has been heard by the U.S. administration.

The U.S. affirmed that the work of the joint committees reflects the development of bilateral relations under the Strategic Framework Agreement, with a commitment to deepening security cooperation and enhancing stability in Iraq and the region.
The decision on withdrawal depends on a well-studied plan rather than political, internal, or regional pressures, ensuring it does not affect Iraq’s security environment or exceed U.S. strategic goals, while maintaining bilateral relations.

 

Economic Studies Unit / North America Office
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies