Iraq: What Should America Do Next?

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An Iraqi tank storms forward in the battle to retake Mosul from the Islamic State terrorist group. MOHAMMED SAWAF/AFP/Getty Images)

“We are in the last chapter, the final stages to eliminate ISIS militarily in Iraq,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a video message before leaving to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump.

As the fight against ISIS wraps up, what should America do next?

There are a number of factors to consider:


How Many Soldiers Should America Deploy?

There are currently 5,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq aiding the fight against ISIS. Trump last week proposed an increase of $54 billion in defense spending. “I am sending Congress a budget that rebuilds the military, eliminates the defense sequester and calls for one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history,” Trump told Congress. If approved an additional $3 billion would go to fight ISIS.

How much blood and treasure should America spend to keep Iraq safe? Will early withdrawal worsen the situation?


Should Iraqis be allowed into the US?

The meeting is expected to cover immigration from Iraq into America. Trump removed Iraq from the list of countries he wants to suspend immigration from, following telephone negotiations with Abadi.

Should Iraqis be allowed in? Which Iraqis? How many? For how long?


How is America going to deal with radicalism in Iraq after ISIS?

Defeating ISIS militarily will not solve the problem of radical Islam. Former members of the group will still be at large, along with members of other extremist groups. But ISIS has spent the last three years in charge of the education systems in Mosul and other areas. It has used this platform to radicalize the next generation.

If it doesn’t want to deal with a later threat from another group akin to ISIS, Uncle Sam needs to tackle the ideology at its root.


What About Iran?

To what extent should Washington permit Iranian influence in Iraqi affairs? Iran funded terrorist groups that killed American soldiers during the Iraqi insurgency. Rallies in Iran are repeatedly held with chants of “Death to America.” Iraq’s government has been accused of being an Iranian proxy that only looks after the interests of Shiite Iraqis.

How can America achieve stability in Iraq without emboldening Iran?


What About Infrastructure, Corruption and Economics?

Economics play a key role in the health of a country. Iraq has spent billions fighting ISIS and there is a lot of work to do on rebuilding the country’s economy after victory.

But if Iraq’s endemic problems of corruption are not solved, this enduring grievance will fester and cause further problems down the line, perhaps being used as recruitment fodder for future radical organizations. After all, the Obama administrations attempts to reconstruct Iraq failed, despite massive financial investment.

What should Trump’s administration do differently?


What About the Kurds?

The Kurdish region of Iraq is federally subordinate to the central government, but since the war it has become increasingly autonomous. It also has an independent military, the Peshmerga. Kurdish nationalists have long sought an independent state and unification with Kurdish area of Syria. Trump has not yet set out a definitive platform on the topic.


These are just some of the issues facing President Trump in his meeting with Iraqi President Haider al-Abadi.

How you would like to see America handle these six issues? Send us your comments.

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Elliot Friedland

Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.

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