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Why helping Iraq makes strategic sense after end of US combat mission

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02.08.2021
By Trudy Rubin

President Joe Biden declared July 26 that the U.S. combat mission in Iraq would cease by the end of this year. But he also made clear that U.S. forces ― probably most of the 2,500 now in the country ― would be rebranded to "train, to assist, to help and to deal with ISIS."

Unlike his abrupt end to the "forever war" in Afghanistan, Biden wants to deepen a strategic partnership with Iraq.

Moreover, the White House wants to help Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, an unusual Iraqi leader and former human rights crusader. He is trying to pull together a country fragmented by sectarianism, corruption ― and Iranian meddling, including aid to Shiite militias that challenge the government.

Aiding Iraq makes strategic sense, given Baghdad's geography at the center of the Middle East, where it borders Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf and Jordan. Al-Kadhimi's government has enhanced frayed Iraqi relationships with its Arab and Turkish neighbors.

A stabilized Iraq could provide an anchor in an increasingly chaotic region. But that goal often seems as distant as a desert mirage.

So I interviewed the Iraqi leader at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., (after his lengthy one-on-one session with Biden at the White House July 26) about what he hopes to achieve and why he welcomes further U.S. help.

To understand al-Kadhimi's goals ― and why he deserves U.S.........

© The Korea Times


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