On Monday, Iran expressed support for Iraq’s call to remove the U.S.-led anti-jihadi coalition from Iraqi territory following a U.S. strike that killed a pro-Iran commander in Baghdad. Foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanani stated during a press conference that Iraq is capable of maintaining security independently. Iran has consistently conveyed to regional authorities, including Iraq, that the presence of U.S. forces would not contribute to stability and peace.
Despite Iraq’s announcement to initiate the process of expelling the U.S.-led military coalition, the Pentagon indicated it has no current plans to withdraw its approximately 2,500 troops from Iraq. Air Force Major General Patrick Ryder emphasized the U.S. focus on the mission to defeat ISIS and highlighted that U.S. forces are present in Iraq at the invitation of its government.
The recent U.S. drone strike that killed a military commander and another member of Harakat al-Nujaba, a faction of Hashed al-Shaabi, has escalated tensions. While the U.S. deems the attack as self-defense, Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani condemned it as “blatant aggression.” Sudani expressed determination to end the anti-jihadi coalition, relying on support from Tehran-aligned parties.
The backdrop of regional tensions includes the Israel-Hamas war, with its repercussions increasingly felt in Iraq and the broader Middle East. The U.S. and coalition forces, initially deployed in 2014 to combat the Islamic State group, have faced regular attacks since October 7 amid the Israel-Hamas conflict. The United States currently has around 2,500 troops in Iraq and 900 in Syria, with coalition partners including France, Spain, and Britain. Despite Iraq declaring victory over ISIS in late 2017, sporadic attacks by remaining jihadi cells persist in remote northern areas.