Politics

Iraq, US boost partnership with strategic dialogue

By Faris al-Omran

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Iraqi parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi meets with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during Pompeo's 2019 visit to Iraq. [Photo courtesy of Iraqi parliament]

The strategic affairs dialogue between Iraq and the US that kicked off June 11th marks a new beginning for the bilateral partnership and will serve the interests and future of both countries, analysts told Diyaruna.

The dialogue will address "all strategic issues between our two countries", US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an April 7th announcement.

This includes the future presence of US forces, and how best to support an independent and sovereign Iraq.

The dialogue is based on the principles agreed upon in the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement between the two countries, and comes as Iraq is contending with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and plummeting oil revenues.

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A US Army military adviser leads a class for Iraqi Federal Police on April 21st, 2018. [Photo via International Coalition Facebook page]

The two governments are seeking to work together to stop any reversal of the gains made in their joint efforts to defeat the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) and to stabilise the country.

Topics of common interest that are being discussed include politics, economics and culture, security analyst Sarmad al-Bayati told Diyaruna.

It is likely that the negotiations will be held in four stages and will culminate with a comprehensive and integrated agreement, he said.

There are previous understandings on many issues, particularly economic co-operation, and these will be built on with the aim of facilitating bilateral action that will serve both countries, he added.

Serving interests of both countries

The Iraqi-US dialogue sketches out a plan for an advanced stage of bilateral relations that serves the interests and futures of both countries, said Thaer al-Bayati, secretary general of the Council of Arab Tribes in Salaheddine.

The outputs of the dialogue, including agreements and memoranda of co-operation, will not supplant the 2008 agreement, but will rather complement and support it, he told Diyaruna.

"We look forward to the US, through the new partnership, continuing to support the building of security forces" and developing their capabilities, he said.

It is also hoped the US will "play a significant role in the reconstruction of our country through revitalising the fields of agriculture, industry, investments, energy as well as the major services sectors", al-Bayati said.

These sectors include education and housing, in addition to cultural support and exchange of expertise, he said.

Al-Bayati expressed hope that "the partnership will serve to support Iraq's efforts towards stability and address the security challenges represented by the terrorist threat and Iran-affiliated armed factions".

"We hope there will be an independent and national will to conduct the dialogue on the Iraqi side free of the influence of Iran, its militias or any other regional party," he said.

"So far, we believe we are proceeding with the right steps, and we have confidence that the government of Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhemi has a new vision for building an Iraq that maintains its unity and independence," he said.

Security central topic of talks

Security is a key topic of the bilateral dialogue, said Issam al-Fayli who teaches political science at al-Mustansiriyah University.

"Despite Iraq's success in defeating terrorism, with the help of the international coalition, it still faces the threat posed by terrorist remnants," he told Diyaruna.

In light of this threat, which has escalated recently, there still is a great need for US support through the training, armament and consultations it provides to Iraqi forces through its leadership of the international coalition, he said.

Economic co-operation is another central topic that is being discussed.

The US is a country with vast resources, and any partnership with it opens wide doors in the areas of investment, development and reconstruction, al-Fayli said.

It would help Iraq tackle its economic crises, diversify its sources of income, and recover the money that corrupt figures sent outside the country, he said.

"We hope that the strategic partnership with Washington will mark a new and clear start for the course of our bilateral relations that serves the interests of both countries and helps with the advancement of our country," he said.

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