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Iraqi Officials State US Forces Reduction Dialogue to Persist ‘As Long as Nothing Disturbs the Peace of the Talks’

Iraq and the U.S.-led military coalition resumed meetings Sunday on how to draw down troops who have been deployed there for years combating the Islamic State.

The first long-awaited meeting took place Jan. 27, but had since been put on pause after Iran-backed militants struck a U.S. outpost in Jordan the very next day with a drone that killed three U.S. service members.

Context of Recent Retaliatory Strikes

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In the weeks since, the U.S. has launched multiple retaliatory strikes in Iraq and Syria, including a strike last week that killed a high-ranking commander of the powerful Kataib Hezbollah militia.

The U.S. cited the commander’s involvement in attacks on American troops in the region as justification for the strike.

Transition Talks Initiated Last August

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Both Iraq and the U.S. had agreed last August to enter into talks to transition U.S. and coalition forces from their long-standing role in assisting Iraq in combating IS.

Approximately 2,500 U.S. troops are currently in Iraq, and their departure will consider the security situation and capabilities of the Iraqi armed forces.

Resumed Meetings Focus on Bilateral Relationship

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The resumed meetings aim to chart a path to a new bilateral relationship between Iraq and the U.S.

The statement from Iraq emphasized the importance of maintaining peace during the talks to ensure progress.

Iraq’s Diplomatic Balancing Act

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Iraq has long struggled to balance its ties with the U.S. and Iran, both allies of the Iraqi government but regional archenemies.

Recent attacks by Iran-aligned groups have complicated this balancing act, leading to tensions and retaliatory actions.

Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Dynamics

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The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), mainly Shiite militias, play a significant role in Iraqi politics and security.

Kataib Hezbollah, a part of PMF, has been implicated in attacks against U.S. interests, sparking tensions between Iraq, the U.S., and Iran.

U.S. Response to Attacks

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The U.S. has responded to attacks on its facilities with airstrikes, targeting militia groups it holds responsible.

These strikes have led to condemnation from the Iraqi government and raised questions about the presence and role of foreign forces in Iraq.

Ceasefire and Diplomatic Maneuvering

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Following the deadly strike on U.S. service members, Iran disavowed any knowledge or connection to the attack, and Kataib Hezbollah announced a ceasefire to avoid further embarrassment to the Iraqi government.

This development marked a temporary de-escalation of tensions.

Current Situation and Outlook

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As of February 4, there have been no additional strikes against U.S. bases in Iraq, indicating a period of relative calm.

The resumption of talks between Iraq and the U.S. suggests a continued effort to address security challenges and transition responsibilities.

Ensuring Stability and Progress

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Both Iraq and the U.S. have a vested interest in ensuring stability in the region and progressing towards a mutually beneficial partnership.

The outcome of ongoing discussions will shape the future of security cooperation between the two nations.

Challenges Ahead

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Despite the resumption of talks, challenges remain, including navigating the complex dynamics of regional politics and addressing security threats from militia groups.

Achieving a satisfactory resolution will require diplomatic finesse and sustained engagement.

Importance of Diplomacy and Dialogue

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Diplomacy and dialogue will be crucial in resolving tensions and advancing shared objectives.

Finding common ground and fostering trust between Iraq, the U.S., and regional actors is essential for promoting stability and security in the region.

Remaining Committed to Constructive Engagement 

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As talks continue, both Iraq and the U.S. must remain committed to constructive engagement and compromise.

By prioritizing stability and cooperation, they can navigate challenges and work towards a future characterized by peace and prosperity for the Iraqi people and the region.

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