After ISIS, the US Military Could Help Keep Iraq Stable by James Jeffrey, Wall Street Journal
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has called on the U.S. to deepen cooperation with Baghdad under the 2008 U.S.-Iraqi Strategic Framework Agreement. That makes sense. America has expended incalculable resources in Iraq, intervening militarily four times since 1990. Iraq is worth the effort—the center of the Middle East, with almost two-thirds of the oil and gas reserves of Saudi Arabia, abundant water, an educated population and a functioning democracy. But if the U.S. doesn’t want to intervene again, assistance must be linked to maintaining a small military contingent there.
An American-Iraqi decision on keeping U.S. troops in the country must be taken soon, as the rationale for their current presence—to defeat Islamic State—will fade as it is destroyed. The justification for a longer-term presence would be to train and equip Iraqi forces and assist against ISIS remnants. Strategically, it could also help keep Iraq independent of Iran.
The impending destruction of ISIS as a “caliphate” will rank with the 2003 Iraq war, the Arab Spring, the Iran nuclear agreement and Russian intervention in Syria as a regional game-changer. The first four advanced the Iranian and Russian quest to upset the U.S.-led regional security order. But the defeat of ISIS could help the U.S. reverse this trend…