As Iraq signals its willingness to evict U.S. forces following the airstrike, the time has come for discipline and a focus on shared interests.
The targeted killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraq’s most senior militiamen, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, justified by their orchestration of the deaths of hundreds of Americans, has led to a widespread fear of an imminent war with Iran that could cause untold loss of life and further destabilize an already devastated region. How Iran might respond is impossible to know (much less how the U.S. would react in turn), but I see the potential for a success in Iraq—if the U.S.-led coalition and the Iraqi government can focus on their shared interests and continue to purge Iran’s malign influence.
As someone who has worked in Iraq with every U.S. administration since 2003, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relief when Soleimani and Muhandis were killed, reflecting my own odyssey in Iraq, the friends and colleagues lost there to militia attacks, and the growing impunity of militia kingpins. I know that this feeling was shared across the U.S. government policymaking, military and intelligence communities dealing with Iraq. Most of us have a long history with Iraq and, indirectly, with the likes of Soleimani and Muhandis. Indeed, Soleimani’s outsize influence in the region had been so great for so long that we convened a roundtable