Iraq urges US to resume dialogue over future of international coalition forces

Talks were paused after a drone attack killed three US servicemen in late January

Iraq's Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, left, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington in 2021. AP
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Iraq urged the US on Tuesday to resume talks over the future of troops making up the US-led international coalition formed in 2014 to fight ISIS.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein discussed the matter in a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The talks centred around “the aggressions launched by the US against military and civilian sites” in the towns of Akasahat and Al Qaim in Iraq's western province of Anbar, according to the statement.

Emphasising the “need to return to the negotiation table and dialogue”, Mr Hussein reiterated the Iraqi government's rejection of “such attacks”.

He also called for Iraq to not be made into an arena “for settling scores between rival countries”, the statement said in reference to Iran and the US.

On Thursday, Operation Inherent Resolve announced that the US and Iraq would resume talks aimed at ending the presence of American forces in Iraq.

“We look forward to continuing military-to-military with our partners on Sunday afternoon as we assess our progress in our shared mission to defeat ISIS as well as discuss the future transition of our mission,” Operation Inherent Resolve's commander Maj Gen Joel “JB” Vowell said in a statement.

On January 27, Iraq and the US held the first round of talks to end the international coalition's mission, with Baghdad expecting discussions to lead to a timeline for reducing the coalition's presence and to reach bilateral security agreements with state members.

But talks paused when a drone attack the next day hit US troops stationed in Jordan, killing three servicemen and wounding more than 30 others.

The US accused Iran-backed militias and launched retaliatory strikes in Iraq and Syria.

The attack killed at least 17 people in Iraq, including civilians, and wounded 25 others, according to government statements.

Several others were killed and wounded in Syria.

The US military launched air strikes on Friday in Iraq and Syria against more than 85 targets linked to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the militias it backs, in retaliation for the attack in Jordan.

The US has 2,500 troops in Iraq, advising and assisting local forces to prevent a resurgence of ISIS, which in 2014 seized large parts of Iraq and Syria before being defeated.

Hundreds of troops from mostly European countries are also part of the coalition.

Iraq's government says ISIS is defeated and the coalition's job is over.

However, a US withdrawal would probably increase concern in Washington about the influence of Iran over Iraq's ruling elite.

Mr Hussein also formally demanded that the US Treasury Department reconsider the sanctions it has imposed on several Iraqi banks, asking whether those sanctions were put in place over compliance issues or “other political reasons”.

In July, Washington barred 14 Iraqi banks from conducting dollar transactions as part of a wider crackdown on the illicit use of dollars.

Seven others were also barred recently.

Updated: February 08, 2024, 7:11 PM