October 17, 2017

Joseph Pennington, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq Policy, US Department of State
Randa Slim, Foreign Policy Institute Fellow and Director of the Track II Dialogues Initiative at The Middle East Institute

The Conflict Management program and the Middle East Institute hosted a discussion with political experts on Iraq’s future prospects amid the decline of ISIS.

Joseph Pennington of the US Department of State opened the floor by offering remarks on the current and expected challenges facing Iraq. After a brief account of Iraq since ISIS claimed its caliphate, Pennington shared thoughts on Iraq’s progress in fighting the militant group, such as the successful Iraqi-led battle of Mosul, and highlighted ways the US military remains committed to the war effort. To ensure a stable and secure Iraq, the US government is funding more than 350 stabilization and reconstruction projects in war-torn areas, he said. The US military is also de-mining inhabited zones, recovering so far up to 10,000 landmines.

Pennington also discussed the financing of infrastructure and the necessity for economic opportunities in Iraq. A successful Iraqi state-building effort relies on developing shared interests with regional partners, Pennington said, adding that efforts to bolster economic relations with Jordan would have beneficial economic ramifications in Sunni regions. With the looming potential of further sectarian divide, Pennington urged the Iraqi government to implement its constitution, while ensuring that ethnic and religious diversity is respected. However, he argued it was not in US interests at this time0 for Kurdish independence and forewarned against influence campaigns in Iraq being conducted by Iranian groups.