This visit takes place in advance of the 20th anniversary of the ground invasion, which marked the beginning of twenty years of violence.
On Tuesday, United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made an unannounced visit to Iraq. His arrival came just before 2 weeks of the 20th anniversary of the invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein and was led by the United States.
After landing in Baghdad Austin tweeted, ” I come to reinforce the United States’ and Iraq’s strategic relationship as we advance towards a more secure, stable, and sovereign Iraq.” Austin’s mission in Iraq is to “reaffirm the US-Iraq strategic alliance.”
His visit takes place just a few days before the 20th anniversary of the ground invasion, which marked the beginning of twenty years of war from which Iraq is just now beginning to emerge.
In the time leading up to the occasion, Iraq played home to a large number of high-ranking foreign officials, including the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, as well as the foreign ministers of Iran, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.
Since the Sunni Arab-dominated administration of Saddam Hussein was overthrown by coalition troops led by the United States, the Shiite majority in Iraq has run the country under a power-sharing of confessional arrangement.
In a difficult balancing act, Iraq has managed to preserve connections with the U.S., which is Iran’s primary adversary, while at the same time forging tight relationships with Iran, which is Iraq’s neighbour and is run by Shiites.
in the course of Iraq’s resistance movement against Sunni militants affiliated with the Daesh group, who overran large swaths of northern and western Iraq in 2014, both Tehran and Washington supplied substantial support to Iraq’s military efforts.
In 2017, the terrorists were driven out of Iraqi land; nevertheless, they still have sleeper cells hidden in mountain and desert hideouts in both Syria and Iraq.
Iraq has stated that coalition soldiers led by the United States will cease combat operations at the end of 2021; however, certain units will continue to be stationed to give advice and training.
The visit by Austin comes after he met with King Abdullah II of neighbouring Jordan, an ally of the United States who is very committed to the region.
According to a statement released by the Pentagon, Secretary Austin “expressed his concerns on a variety of shared problems.” These challenges include “maintaining focus on stability and security in Iraq,” as well as “countering others destabilising actions in the region.”
In spite of its massive oil and gas reserves, Iraq has been underinvesting in its public services and infrastructure for decades, which has resulted in recurrent waves of unrest.
After the elections in October 2021, there was a political void that lasted for an entire year before pro-Iran factions took control of the government and swore in PM Mohammed Shia al-Sudani as the new head of state.
The political wing Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization) of the Iraq paramilitary force, which is largely composed of groups trained in Tehran, has for a long time called for the complete withdrawal of all remaining coalition troops.
However, the volume of its demands has decreased since the group gained a seat in the Iraqi government.
The United States Ambassador to Iraq, Alina L. Romanowski, maintains a consistent dialogue with Iraqi government representatives and, just last week, lauded the “strong” connection that exists between the two nations.
In January 2020, US President Donald Trump authorised the drone strike that killed Iran’s head of foreign operations, General Qassem Soleimani, and his second in command in Iraq, Hashed number two Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. This marked a dramatic deterioration in relations between the two countries.