Navigating politics with security

‘Constructive ambiguity’ is the plan for US presence in Iraq, say analysts

BAGHDAD — Recent discussions in political circles have highlighted a significant evolution in Iraq’s relationship with the United States, moving towards a “permanent security partnership.” This development comes as both nations’ military committees diligently work to navigate this transition smoothly, taking into account Iraq’s political landscape.

An Iraqi official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, emphasized the move away from the International Coalition framework to a new model focused on intelligence and surveillance systems. This approach seeks to ensure flexibility and sensitivity to Iraq’s domestic political context.

Conversely, Iraqi experts specializing in U.S. policy have noted that Baghdad has not requested the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Instead, discussions have revolved around restructuring the American military presence to better align with Iraq’s sovereignty and security needs. This strategy, described by some as “constructive ambiguity,” attempts to mitigate potential embarrassment without alienating Washington, which insists on clarity in bilateral relations.

In contrast, analysts close to Iraq’s Coordination Framework, an alliance of Shia parties that formed the current government, assert that Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani has indeed made formal requests to end the U.S. military presence, accusing the American ambassador in Baghdad of public deception.

A senior Iraqi official revealed that the joint military committee between Washington and Baghdad is exploring a transition from the International Coalition’s format, effectively concluded, to a distinct military presence focused on intelligence and surveillance systems. This transition seeks to accommodate Iraq’s political sensitivities while maintaining flexibility and smoothness.

Aqeel Abbas, a political researcher, emphasized to 964media that no formal request for U.S. troop withdrawal has been submitted to Washington. Instead, discussions revolve around restructuring the U.S. forces’ role outside the framework of the International Coalition, authorized by the United Nations Security Council. The remaining forces in Iraq are primarily American, with the International Coalition having significantly reduced its footprint.

The ongoing dialogues aim to transform the American presence into a partnership that respects Iraq’s sovereignty and responds to its security needs. The Iraqi side employs “constructive ambiguity” to navigate domestic pressures and Iranian influence, despite U.S. clarifications of no intention to withdraw entirely. These discussions do not involve a scheduled withdrawal, reflecting a strategic approach to redefine the bilateral security cooperation without compromising Iraq’s stability or international relationships.

Abbas Al-Ardawi, a political analyst, refutes claims that the Iraqi government has not formally requested the withdrawal of American forces. He asserts that Iraq has officially sought the removal of foreign troops, leading to bilateral discussions on a scheduled withdrawal. Al-Ardawi accuses the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad of misleading public discourse and denies the authenticity of the purported “partnership” with Iraq.

Khalid Al-Saray, another analyst, elaborates on the coalition forces in Iraq, predominantly composed of 27 nationalities, including the U.S. He clarifies that individual nations cannot be separately addressed, hence the formation of a joint military committee to negotiate the withdrawal of coalition forces. Al-Saray suggests that any future military agreements with the United States will necessitate broad political consensus within Iraq.

Al-Nasser Duraid, a political commentator, observes a shift in Iraq’s security environment following Iranian pressure on local factions to abandon threats against U.S. presence. He notes the current calm across provinces as evidence that demands for American troop withdrawal have subsided, partly due to diminished factional pressure.