Shafaq News/ An intricate interplay of narratives surrounds the government of Mohammad Shia al-Sudani, with some media outlets depicting a picture of a regime intricately tethered to Tehran-affiliated armed factions. Yet, from the vantage point of Washington, a contrasting landscape emerges.
This was explicitly remarked by Alina Romanowski, the US Ambassador to Baghdad, in an exclusive interview with Shafaq News Agency.
"We have been pleased with the level of cooperation we have had with Prime Minister Sudani and his government," Romanowski stated, underlining the concerted efforts to unfurl the U.S.-Iraq strategic partnership to its fullest extent.
This alliance, according to the veteran US diplomat, envelops a spectrum of interests that intrinsically influence the quotidian existence of the Iraqi people.
Romanowski emphasized a significant confluence of objectives between the US and Sudani's administration. Mutual endeavors range from shaping Iraq's energy independence, catalyzing the private sector's growth, bolstering public services, to ensuring ISIS's enduring defeat.
Other key priority areas consist of enhancing people-to-people ties, mitigating corruption, and fortifying Iraq's stand against the climate crisis, she added.
Invoking recent collaborative milestones, the ambassador referred to her participation in the launch of the U.S.-funded Online Single Window project. "This initiative makes it possible for new Iraqi and foreign businesses to register online easily and transparently," Romanowski stated.
The ambassador highlighted the visit of the Director of USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) to Iraq as a sign of Washington's commitment to aiding local partners in their pursuit of peace and democracy.
"Iraqi Airways has already received its newly purchased Boeing 737 Max airliners, and Iraq’s first Boeing 787 Dreamliner will arrive in Baghdad soon," she said.
The escalating presence of American franchises in Iraq, like Pinkberry, Burger King, Cinnabon, KFC, and Pizza Hut, underlines an increasing public appetite for more.
Romanowski shed light on the USAID's instrumental role in nurturing more than 6,500 Iraqi businesses, leading to significant foreign investment influx across a host of sectors. "We have facilitated more than $400 million in foreign investment for Iraqi businesses," Romanowski noted, pointing to an optimistic trajectory for US-Iraq economic ties.
On January 15, Prime Minister al-Sudani defended the presence of United States troops in his country in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, his first since taking office in October 2022.
The position contradicts the stance of several Iran-aligned groups that in part make up the Shiite-dominated Coordination Framework, the political bloc that nominated the prime minister after a year-long impasse in 2022.
"We think that we need the foreign forces," al-Sudani he said, "elimination of ISIS needs some more time."
The US invaded Iraq in 2003 amid its global "war on terror", with troop numbers reaching a peak of about 170,000 soldiers in 2007 before forces were withdrawn in 2011. They were redeployed to Iraq in 2014 in response to the rise of ISIS; an armed hardline Sunni group that overran a large swath of territory across Iraq and Syria.
The prime minister hailed Iran and Iraq's close economic and security ties on many occasions.
However, to the dissatisfaction of the Iran-backed Shiite patrons, al-Sudani has highlighted relations with Arab countries.
His first trips outside Iraq were to Jordan and Kuwait, and he also visited Saudi Arabia in December to participate in the recent China-Arab States Summit. And while he also traveled to Iran and met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, al-Sudani's emphasis has been on doing business with Iraq's Arab neighbors and implementing energy and trade deals that were previously negotiated by his predecessor.
This unorthodox sentiment in Iraq's foreign policy lifts the lid on the difficult track the prime minister has sought in his dealings with the US and with Iran, which, beyond having substantial sway in domestic Iraqi politics, is also a key provider of natural gas and electricity to the country.