The Iraqi prime minister is under pressure from pro-Iranian factions and is trying to delay the departure of US forces

Al-Sudani resists ending US military presence in Iraq

AFP/ AHMAD AL-RUBAYE - A US soldier walks at the Qayyarah airbase, where US-led troops are stationed.

Mohammed Shia al-Sudani was appointed Iraq's prime minister thanks, in large part, to the will dictated from Tehran. The pro-Iranian members of the Coalition Framework nominated al-Sudani, a former human rights minister, with the aim of ending a legislative deadlock caused by the departure of 73 Sadrist Movement MPs from parliament. With his arrival, the coalition of Shiite parties smiled as they saw in him a figure close to them who would not hinder their objectives and, above all, their agreements with Iran's Ayatollah dictatorship.
However, "managing" al-Sudani does not seem to be a trivial matter. The prime minister is reluctant to review the US military presence on Iraqi soil. He does not believe that putting the issue on the table will help the country, especially at a time when relations with Washington are considered very important. What is being conveyed from the prime minister's side in Baghdad is that the intention is to avoid "unnecessary turbulence" with the Biden administration. Therefore, as long as he can continue to resist pressure from his pro-Iranian partners, al-Sudani will continue to delay this decision.


The 2008 agreement between the US and Iraq on the US military presence in the country has long been questioned by pro-Iranians. The strategic agreement, in addition to regulating the activity of US forces, also reinforced economic, cultural and political cooperation. However, following the deaths of Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, the expeditionary wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, deputy head of Iraq's Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), in January 2020, criticism of Washington intensified.
And they did so to the point that the Iraqi parliament voted on a resolution calling on the Iraqi government to withdraw the US troops that had been deployed on its territory to fight Daesh terrorist activity. The trigger was precisely the death of the two aforementioned as a result of a US drone strike in the Iraqi capital. From that moment on, the anger of the Shiite factions led to pressure on Parliament and the executive, which resulted in the approval of the expulsion of the troops, which al-Sudani intends to delay for the time being.


At that time, with Mustafa Al-Kadhimi as prime minister, Iraq reached an agreement for the departure of the American troops, delegating some of their tasks to advisory and training missions. However, this decision did not satisfy the pro-Iranians, who considered this solution too "accommodating" to Washington, so their idea of completely ending the US presence in their country remains intact. This is why having a government that is close to the Iranian regime is seen as the ideal opportunity to seal the deal once and for all.
Many authoritative voices in the Framework for Coordination are publicly calling for an end to the US military presence, such as Turki Al-Atbi, who believes that "it has become necessary to reconsider the strategic framework agreement with Washington, which did not achieve any of its main objectives". Moreover, he singles out Joe Biden's country as posing a threat to his security: "Washington's exploitation of some of the provisions of the agreement to operate military aircraft without any inspection poses a major security problem that deserves attention".


Despite these pressures, observers believe that they will not be enough to change al-Sudani's mind. The prime minister sees US support as key and, far from caving in to the Coordination Framework's demands, they believe he will try to convince the pro-Iranians to focus efforts on other domestic issues. Al-Sudani himself, who is also commander-in-chief of the country's armed forces, stressed the importance of coordination and cooperation with Washington in a meeting with General Michael E. Kurilla, commander of the US Central Command, earlier this year, suggesting that the withdrawal of US troops is far from being a priority.

Americas Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra.