The US Presence in Iraq: Emerging Positions of Iraqi Political Parties

Amidst the ongoing policy conversation about US-Iran escalations and the consequences for the American presence in the region, scant attention has been given to the nuances of the positions of different Iraqi political factions on these matters. Perhaps this is because policymakers assume that Iran will ultimately dictate how Iraq’s major political actors move forward, and so too closely examining the various stances of domestic parties is beside the point. Recent history has shown, however, that even the groups in Iraq with the closest ties to Iran simultaneously operate according to their own political objectives and strategic interests, as they continuously compete with one another for influence and economic resources. If we turn to the present moment, one cannot deny that a symbolic unity among the main Shia parties into an anti-American and pro-Iranian position has certainly emerged. The non-binding resolution to expel American forces included nearly all Shia parties, with the exception of Haidar Abadi’s Nasr coalition. Yet, longstanding diverging political and economic interests among the various Shia blocs have and will continue to manifest themselves both publicly and under the surface – with important implications for the potential removal of foreign forces. Meanwhile, the Kurdish factions have staked out a very delicate position. Representatives from both major Kurdish parties attended commemorations of Soleimani in Erbil and Baghdad, but they have simultaneously given indication that they will oppose any change to the status of American troops. The Sunni Arab parties have indicated alignment with the Kurdish position; however, endemic divisions among these factions mean that any attempt to speculate about their final positions would be premature. Finally, the protest movement has attempted to divorce itself from the US-Iran conflict altogether. Unfortunately, the hard-fought political influence the protest movement had obtained after months of demonstrations has been severely hampered by the recent developments. But they are promising new waves of protests. We analyze the emerging positions of Iraq’s various political actors.

This piece was originally co-published with the London School of Economics Middle East Centre.

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