US troops leaving depends on negotiations, says Iraqi President

President Abdul Latif Rashid says 'security is priority' after recent violence in the country

Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid speaks in Cyprus in December last year. AFP
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The presence of US troops in Iraq is an outstanding issue that must be resolved through negotiations between Washington and Baghdad, Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid told CNN Business Arabic.

The two sides held a first round of talks on the future of US and other foreign troops in Iraq last week, with Baghdad expecting discussions to lead to a timeline for reducing their presence.

Mr Rashid said that recent violence between US forces and Iran-backed militias in the country had affected foreign investment and needed to be resolved.

“The events that took place in the past short period had an impact on the situation of foreign companies and foreign investors, and of course we are not satisfied with the violence that occurred in the recent period,” he said in an interview on Thursday.

“But whether US troops leave or stay depends on the existing agreement between the Iraqi government and the understanding with the Americans, that requires negotiations, study, as well as a strategy for the future.”

Iraq's government has faced mounting pressure to expel US forces from its territory since a rise in violent strikes between them and militias following the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war in October.

However, experts have warned that expelling US troops – numbering about 2,500 under the coalition against ISIS – comes with considerable risks to Iraq's security.

Mr Rashid said his administration was focused on “security and stability – without them, we will not be able to accomplish anything”.

The President said he believes that Iraq is more stable and secure than many other countries. However, he said its global image “is not at the desired level, so it is our duty to give the correct image of Iraq”.

He added that the security situation is much better now than compared to 2007, when sectarianism was at its peak.

Mr Rashid also addressed corruption. Iraq is considered one of most corrupt countries in the world, ranking 157 out of 180 in Transparency International's corruption perceptions index for 2022.

The widespread corruption has paralysed the country’s efforts to overcome the effects of war and UN-imposed economic sanctions.

Corruption is like a “cancer to every society”, Mr Rashid said. He added that many civilians and governments collapsed due to this issue.

“There are serious steps to fight corruption, but the actual physical practice will take time. It’s very complicated so we need to take the right actions in a legal and correct manner,” he said.

Updated: February 01, 2024, 7:55 PM