Washington, D.C. — Even as the threat of the Islamic State recedes, the United States must continue to play an active role in Iraq and redouble diplomatic efforts to help shape Iraqi politics, according to the results of a recent fact-finding mission conducted by the Center for American Progress.
The results of the trip are published in a new issue brief outlining top priorities for U.S. officials. Those include helping the next Iraqi government train a professional military to fight the Islamic State, making headway on economic reform, fighting political corruption, and boosting Iraq’s ties with Saudi Arabia. Taken together, these efforts will maximize the odds that Iraqis can prevent a new terrorist insurgency, slide into civil war, or succumb to Iranian domination.
These recommendations are based on a series of meetings held in Baghdad and the Shi’ite holy city of Najaf in late May 2018—as part of a research effort to study Iraq’s political, security, and economic situation and the next steps in U.S. policy toward Iraq.
“After investing so much to defeat the Islamic State, the United States must now continue to engage and compete to shape what comes next in Iraq,” said Daniel Benaim, a senior fellow at CAP and author of the issue brief.
U.S. interests include empowering Iraqi nationalists and government institutions to push back against extremism, sectarianism, militiaism, and corruption, and make headway toward independent and inclusive Iraqi governance.
While the world’s attention has shifted to other conflict zones in recent years, Iraq still matters for the United States. It remains on the frontlines of three interlocking struggles: the long-term fight against extremist groups such as the Islamic State and its successors; the struggle to protect sovereign countries from Iranian domination; and the challenge of proving that different sects and ethnicities can still live peacefully together in today’s Middle East. The United States has an interest in each one of these goals, as well as the capacity to help Iraqis advance all three.
Read the issue brief: “The Next Phase in Iraq’s Transition” by Daniel Benaim
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