January 24, 2023

‘They Have to Balance’: New Iraqi Leader Tilts the Scales toward U.S.

Source: Foreign Policy

Journalist: Jack Detsch

The scene in Baghdad, according to former U.S. officials, was a state of near-pandemonium, with Iran-backed Hezbollah operatives whipping votes in a flurry of calls just as U.S. lawmakers would on Capitol Hill—only in this case, with much more serious carrots and sticks attached.

“You had Kataib Hezbollah guys texting and calling the cellphones of sitting members of the Council of Representatives, threatening them and/or bribing them if they didn’t vote in support,” said Jonathan Lord, a former U.S. defense official and congressional aide who is now the director of the Middle East security program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a Washington-based think tank. “There was an immense amount of coercion to get that vote across the finish line.”

But the U.S. presence that was hanging by a thread in pre-pandemic Iraq, at the tenuous invite of the Baghdad government, now appears to be there to stay—indefinitely. That’s after freshly inaugurated Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani, in his first interview with Western media last week, told the Wall Street Journal that he wants the 2,000 U.S. forces in the country, who are there training Iraqi troops to fight the Islamic State, to keep doing their work for the foreseeable future.

Read the full story and more from Foreign Policy.

Authors

  • Jonathan Lord

    Senior Fellow and Director, Middle East Security Program

    Jonathan Lord is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Middle East Security program at CNAS. Prior to joining CNAS, Lord served as a professional staff member for the House Arme...