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Iraq-US Relations

The US Mission in Iraq remains dedicated to building a strategic partnership with Iraq and the Iraqi people. The December 2011 departure of US troops from Iraq marked a milestone in our relationship as Iraq continues to develop as a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant country. Iraq is now a partner for the US in the region as well as a voice of moderation and democracy in the Middle East. Iraq has functioning government institutions including an active legislature, is playing an increasingly constructive role in the region, and has a bright economic future as oil revenues surpass pre-Saddam production levels with continued rapid growth to come. The US maintains broad engagement with Iraq on diplomatic, political, economic, and security issues in accordance with the US-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement.

The Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) between Iraq and theUS provides the basis for the US-Iraq bilateral relationship. It covers the range of bilateral issues including political relations and diplomacy, defense and security, trade and finance, energy, judicial and law enforcement issues, services, science, culture, education, and environment. Efforts to implement the SFA are overseen by the Higher Coordinating Committee and several Joint Coordination Committees, which meet periodically.

America’s largest embassy, in the Green Zone in Baghdad, cost over one billion dollars, and occupies more land than the Vatican. At one point the State Department had nearly 20,000 personnel on its pay roll in Iraq. The Deparatment of State [DOS] used a multi-phased, percentage-based approach to reduce US Mission staff personnel in Iraq from 16,298 in 2012 to a planned 6,320 by January 2014. Even with “rightsizing” at 5,500 staff, of which over 4000 will be contractors and cooks, it would still be the largest embassy in the world. Instead of fully considering US foreign policy priorities, DOS and Embassy Baghdad applied three primary approaches to achieve an overall 61 percent staffing reduction—across-the-board reductions for direct hire staff and some security contractors, reductions in the amount of life support services provided, and the closure of sites throughout Iraq outside of the main embassy compound in Baghdad.

DOS may have established policy priorities for Iraq, but neither DOS nor embassy officials in Iraq could show how staffing levels, whether for overall staffing or for specific agencies and sections, were systematically assessed using those priorities as criteria to support the reductions. Nor had the US Embassy communicated sufficient guidance to agencies or its section leaders on the factors to consider when selecting positions to eliminate. Sections and agency leaders consequently had to apply their own criteria for determining which positions to retain and which to eliminate.

US assistance to Iraq has changed over the last several years, shifting from large scale infrastructure projects to focus on capacity-building, long-term development, assistance to vulnerable groups, and democracy and governance. US assistance also continues to help build the capacity of Iraq’s civil society organizations and elected representatives, including assistance in the modernization of Iraqi law and seeks to increase participation in the democratic process. US bilateral assistance aims to preserve the strategic, political, and economic importance of the US-Iraq partnership in a changing Middle East region.

US security assistance supports the development of a modern, accountable, and professional Iraqi military capable of defending Iraq and its borders. US security assistance programs also promote civilian oversight of the military, adherence to the rule of law, and the respect for human rights, while simultaneously increasing the Iraqi military’s capability to respond to threats and conduct counter-terrorism operations. Embassy Baghdad maintains the Office of Security Cooperation – Iraq to further these goals and to facilitate Iraq’s role as a responsible security partner, contributing to the peace and security of the region.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) is responsible for managing many DoD international programs through close coordination with security cooperation organizations (SCOs), such as Office of Security Cooperation–Iraq [OSC-I]. By October 2012, DOS included the OSC-I in its US Mission personnel reduction efforts. The largest reduction of overall OSC-I personnel involved transitioning all DoD managed and financed field sites back to the government of Iraq. Site transitions were to occur by the end of December 2013 and included physically consolidating the core OSC-I element, which was at Embassy Military Attaché and Security Assistance Annex (EMASAA), into the Baghdad Embassy Complex (BEC).

The US Government strives to work in partnership with Iraqis on initiatives that they support with their own funds. The US Government seeks to utilize assistance to help Iraq marshal its own financial resources for the self-sustaining benefit of its people.

The Iraqi Government has stated its desire to transition from a centrally run economy to one that is more market-oriented, though progress has been slow and uneven. Iraq is gradually deepening its trade with the international community, with both exports and imports showing rapid growth in recent years. Turkey is currently Iraq’s largest trading partner The United States has designated Iraq as a beneficiary developing country under the Generalized System of Preferences program and a number of US companies are active in Iraq, including in the energy, defense, Information technology, automotive, transportation sectors. Two-way trade in 2011 was $19.3 billion, with US exports to Iraq at $2.4 billion (a 46.8% increase over 2010), and Iraqi exports to the United States at $16.9 billion, almost entirely consisting of crude oil. In the first half of 2012, US exports totaled $951.7 million, down from $1.365 billion in the first half of 2011.

Iraq’s re-integration into the international community has been underscored by their cooperation with international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund,World Bank and Arab League. Iraq is also a candidate for accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In late October 2013 Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appealed to the United States for more help to fight a surge of violence in his country. Maliki met with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other top officials in Washington. They discussed the political and security situation in Iraq and ways to enhance bilateral strategic cooperation. At a speech in Washington, the Iraqi leader said the fight against organizations such as al-Qaida in Iraq and the al-Nusra Front is preventing his government from moving forward on other issues. Maliki spoke with President Barack Obama at the White House, where he asked for more help in improving Iraq's military capabilities. Delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Iraq is on track for late in 2014 despite some earlier delays. But a group of six senators want Maliki to come up with a political and security strategy to stabilize the country. They called for increased counterterrorism support for Iraq, but only as part of a comprehensive plan that unites Iraqis of every sect. They said Maliki's leadership was a key factor behind the deteriorating situation in post-war Iraq.

Mansoor Moaddel, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland, who surveyed Iraqi opinion polls stretching back to 2004, noted in 2014 that “Among the Sunnis, the percentage of those who did not wish to have Americans as neighbors fluctuated between 92 percent in 2011 and 99 percent in 2006... Among Shia between 86 percent in 2011 and 98 percent in 2006; and among the Kurds between 46 percent in 2006 and 69 percent in 2011.”

In October 2015, Iraq’s ruling coalition calling on the prime minister to request Russian air support in the fight against IS, criticizing the actions of the US-led coalition in Iraq. “The largest bloc has sent a request to the prime minister to add further forces to the fight against terrorism and not only to rely on the United States and the international coalition, which has up till now been rather shy in its efforts to destroy [Islamic State] bases in Iraq,” Saad Al-Matlabi, a member of the country’s State of Law Coalition, said.

“The public mood is definitely in favor of Russian involvement because it has been over a year and a half now and ISIS has flourished in Iraq under the American airstrikes. One could question the honesty and integrity of the US airstrikes,” the Iraqi politician added, stressing that Russian strikes in Syria “have proved quite efficient in destroying [Islamic State] bases ...”

Iranian intelligence scooped up former CIA agents and intelligence assets who were abandoned and left to fend for themselves after the Americans withdrew in 2011. These agents, fearing death at Iran’s hands, decided to switch sides and gave up all manner of information on CIA safehouses, their training, and vital intelligence they had shared with their American handlers.

Apart from this, the US also failed to out-maneuver Iran when it came to making sure they had the right men and women in the right places to exert influence and control. Iran deftly used its Shia credentials to recruit Iraqi agents who could occupy ministerial posts and military commands, many of whom it had recruited during the Iran-Iraq War.

Iraq had not requested that any country send ground troops into its territory and will regard any such move as a “hostile act,” the country’s prime minister, Haider Al-Abadi, said in view of a US decision to deploy special forces in the country. Iraq “will consider any country sending ground combat forces a hostile act and will deal with it on this basis,” Al-Abadi said in a statement published by the prime minister’s office on 03 December 2015, adding that “the Iraqi government is committed to not allowing the presence of any ground force on the land of Iraq.”

“The Iraqi government confirms its firm and categorical rejection of any action of this kind issued by any country [that] violates our [Iraq’s] national sovereignty,” Al-Abadi also said in the statement.

By 2018 Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said his country needs up to $100 billion to fix crumbling infrastructure and cities devastated by the conflict against Islamic State. The United States did not plan to contribute any money at a February 2018 conference in Kuwait to fund Iraq's reconstruction drive after the war against Islamic State forces, a move critics saied could deal a new blow to American standing internationally. Washington instead encouraged private-sector investment and counting on Iraq's Gulf neighbors, particularly Sunni regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia, to pour in money as part of a rapprochement with Baghdad meant to reduce Shiite rival Iran's influence in Iraq. Donald Trump said during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign that if elected, "the era of nation-building will be ended."

US forces must remain in Iraq so the United States can keep a close eye on neighbouring Iran, according to Donald Trump on 03 February 2019. Trump apparently was referring to the Al-Asad airbase in western Iraq, where he paid a brief visit to US troops in December. The base hosts American soldiers but belongs to the Iraqi army.

Both Iraq's president and prime minister hit back at Trump's statements to US media this week stating American forces should stay at a base in Iraq so Washington can "watch Iran". Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi reminded Trump there are no US bases in Iraq and said he does not accept the idea of his country becoming an arena for fighting a neighboring country. Iraqi President Barham Saleh said that Trump did not ask for permission to use Iraqi territory to monitor Iran, adding Iraq's constitution forbids the use of the country as a base to threaten the interests or security of neighboring countries.

Iraq's most senior Shia religious scholar on 06 February 2019 joined a chorus of criticism aimed at President Donald Trump who said US troops should stay in the country to keep an eye on neighboring Iran. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said Iraq aspires to have "good and balanced relations" with all of its neighbours "based on mutual interests and without intervention in internal affairs". Iraq "rejects being a launching pad for harming any other country", he said during a meeting with UN Iraq envoy Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert at the Muslim leader's base in Najaf.

Iraq’s parliament passed a resolution on 05 January 2020, urged by its caretaker prime minister, calling for the removal of foreign troops from the country, after the US’ assassination of a top Iranian general and a commander of an Iraqi militia. Many Sunni and Kurdish legislators did not show up for the session, apparently because they oppose abolishing the deal. The resolution, which was passed anonymously, instructs the government to cancel a request for military assistance from the US-led coalition, which was issued in response to the rise of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). With IS supposedly defeated, Iraq will not need foreign troops to fight the jihadists and can close its airspace to coalition aircraft. Some Western military presence may remain for training purposes. The resolution says Iraqi military leadership has to report the number of foreign instructors that are necessary for Iraqi national security. "The Iraqi government should work to end the presence of any foreign forces in the territories and prevent them from using the Iraqi airspace for any reason," the parliament said. At the same time, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said that Baghdad had turned to the UN Security Council with complaints about US violations of its sovereignty.

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Page last modified: 06-01-2020 17:30:01 ZULU