US troops in Iraq. (Photo credit: Specialist Briana Alfaro/U.S. Army National Guard)
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani confirmed that the US would continue to have an indefinite military presence in Iraq to combat ISIS.
“We think that we need the foreign forces,” said Sudani in his first interview with US media since taking office in October, adding that the “elimination of ISIS needs some more time.”
The Biden administration left 2,000 US troops in Iraq to train Iraq’s security forces against ISIS, along with several hundred NATO troops, who largely remain out of combat.
Sudani said that his country wants good relations with both the US and Iran.
“We strive for that,” he said. “I don’t see this as an impossible matter, to see Iraq have a good relationship with Iran and the US.”
In the interview, Sudani also said he would like to send a high-level delegation to Washington for a future meeting with President Joe Biden.
In recent months, the relationship between Iraq and Iran has been put to the test, as Iran has carried out several military operations in Iraqi airspace targeting the bases and headquarters of separatist groups in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) who have been trying to use the security situation in Iran to their advantage in cross-border attacks.
In response, Iraq and the IKR discussed a control mechanism for border security to prevent such attacks on Iran while protecting Iraq’s sovereignty after continued shelling and drone attacks by Iran.
Similarly, on 7 November, former US national security advisor John Bolton said the weapons used by armed separatist groups in Iran are being smuggled into the country from the IKR.
Iranian media outlet Tabnak published a report on 2 December showing photos of a huge cache of confiscated, Iran-bound weapons which were reportedly seized by Iraqi authorities in the city of Sulaymaniyah, east of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) and not far from the border between Iraq and the Islamic Republic.
According to Tabnak, this was the largest weapon smuggling operation thwarted so far and is part of a recent surge of arms smuggling into Iran.
Just recently, on 10 January, security officials in the Iraqi-Kurdistan Region (IKR) announced that they had dismantled two ISIS-linked networks that were plotting for bomb attacks across Iraq.
In November 2022, Iraq launched the eighth phase of its anti-ISIS operation dubbed “Solid Will,” targeting ISIS remnants in northern Mosul.