United States pledges support for Iraq, but asks it to control Iranian militias in the country

Baghdad and several American companies have signed a cooperation agreement worth $8 billion
U.S. soldiers at K1 air base near Kirkuk in northern Iraq

PHOTO/AMEER AL MOHAMMEDAW  -   U.S. soldiers at K1 air base near Kirkuk in northern Iraq

Washington will maintain its commitment to Iraq and continue to support the country as long as it faces the threat of Daesh. This was announced at a joint press conference between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Iraqi counterpart Fouas Hussein. Pompeo also called on the government in Baghdad to intensify its efforts to curb the pro-Iranian militias that are deployed in the country.

Following a meeting between the US Secretary of State and senior Iraqi officials, Pompeo said that the Trump Administration would continue to support Baghdad in recovering and maintaining security, and that the reduction of the US troop presence in the country would not be jeopardised.

"Armed groups that are not under the total control of the prime minister have hindered our progress. These groups must be replaced by local police as soon as possible. I assured Fouas that we could and would help," Pompeo said.

The danger of armed militias

"We are both in the same trench fighting Daesh and we will work together to defeat the terrorist elements," Hussein said.

Pompeo said the United States will not stop supporting Iraqi security forces in their attempt to defeat Daesh and "curb the power of the militias that have terrorized them (the Iraqi people) for so long," but has called on Baghdad to control armed groups loyal to Iran. In addition, the secretary of state announced that the next steps regarding Tehran would be announced in the coming days.

Washington is providing about $204 million in additional humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people, Pompeo said.

During the White House press conference, both Pompeo and Hussein expressed hope that as the security situation improves, there will be greater economic cooperation between the two countries, especially in the energy sector. "We want an Iraq that is free of corruption, prosperous and fully integrated into the global economy," Pompeo said.

The Iraqi Foreign Minister described the negotiations as "good and important" and said the Iraqi government believes in the importance of its partnership with the United States.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kazemi is scheduled to meet with Donald Trump at the White House on Thursday. Just before this meeting, Iraq and several American companies have signed cooperation and alliance agreements worth more than 8 billion dollars.

Political, social and economic uncertainty

On 11 February, US forces began to withdraw from 15 military bases, but according to Iraqi media, the final decision on withdrawal would not be made until a government was formed in Iraq. During the press conference, Pompeo stressed the importance of the rule of law and the holding of early elections.

Since the elimination of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the Iraqi military commander who led the Iraqi paramilitary alliance People's Mobilization Forces (PMF), the country has not been able to find a political stability that can solve the different open fronts that the country has. In mid-April, Iraqi President Barham Saleh entrusted the task of forming a government to the former head of the intelligence services, Mustafa al-Kazemi.

Iraq is experiencing a context of economic, social and political crisis. The state's coffers are dependent on oil and the fall in the price of crude oil has increased economic problems and the state violence used to put down the massive protests that broke out in October has led the Iraqi population to have little confidence in the government.