Iraq and the United States: Return to the Status Quo or Calm Before the Storm?

Ten days after the Hamas attack on October 7th and the start of Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza, Iran-aligned militias in Iraq resumed attacking U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria following a long period of inactivity. The January 28th deaths of three U.S. Army reservists at Tower 22, a base in Jordan supporting the U.S. mission in Syria, from a drone attack by an Iran-aligned militia in Iraq, highlights the risks faced by U.S. troops in the region. Facing domestic backlash, the Biden administration retaliated with strikes on militia facilities in Iraq and Syria. Critics argued these strikes failed to restore deterrence since they were preannounced to avoid Iranian casualties. But attacks ceased afterward, leaving the future in question.

In mid-April, the Iraqi Prime Minister and U.S. Secretary of Defense discussed ongoing security cooperation and the future of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Will U.S. troops actually leave Iraq and what are the implications on security, U.S. influence, and regional stability? Will Iran-aligned militias begin to escalate against U.S. troops in the near future? If so, how will Washington respond? What is the effect of U.S. troops in Iraq on Iraqi politics? And how can the U.S. continue to support Iraq and maintain influence after U.S. troops withdraw?

The Quincy Institute held a panel to explore these questions and more, featuring Sajad Jiyad, fellow at Century International based in Iraq, Simona Foltyn, an independent journalist with significant experience in Iraq, Mohammed Shummary, Chairman of the Sumeria Foundation, and Steven Simon, Senior Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute. Adam Weinstein, Deputy Middle East Director at the Quincy Institute, moderated the conversation.


Sajad Jiyad

Sajad Jiyad is a fellow at Century International and director of the Shia Politics Working Group. An Iraqi political analyst based in Baghdad, he is the managing director of Bridge, an Iraqi nongovernmental organization and consultancy focused on development projects for young people. Sajad’s main focus is on public policy and governance in Iraq. He is frequently published and cited as an expert commentator on Iraqi affairs. Sajad’s educational background is in economics, politics, and Islamic studies. He also recently published the book "God’s Man in Iraq: The Life and Leadership of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani."

Simona Foltyn

Simona Foltyn is an independent journalist and documentary filmmaker based in the Middle East. From 2018-2023, she was based full-time in Baghdad, covering the end of the war against ISIS and the subsequent fallout between the U.S. and Iran-aligned groups. Her writing has been published in the Guardian, the Financial Times, the Intercept, Politico and Foreign Policy. As a director, producer and on-screen correspondent, she has produced TV reports and documentaries for Al Jazeera English, France24 and PBS. She has also published exclusive investigations in partnership with Type Investigations and the Pulitzer Center.

Mohammed Shummary

Mohammed Shummary is a professor at Al-Nahrain University, College of Political Science in Baghdad and the Chairman of the Sumeria Foundation for International Affairs, an Iraqi non-profit and independent foundation that focuses on enhancing Iraq’s relations with its regional and international surroundings through broadening space of dialogue, communication and research. He regularly speaks at fora in Iraq, the United States, and the Middle East region.

Steven Simon

Steven Simon is a Professor of Practice in Middle East Studies at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies of the University of Washington and Senior Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. He previously served as the Executive Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies for the U.S. and Middle East. From 2011 to 2012, he served on the National Security Council staff as senior director for Middle Eastern and North African affairs. He also worked on the NSC staff 1994 – 1999 on counterterrorism and Middle East security policy. His most recent book, "Grand Delusion: The Rise and Fall of American Ambition in the Middle East", was published in the spring of 2023.

Adam Weinstein

Adam Weinstein is a Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute. He previously worked for KPMG’s international trade practice. Adam’s current research focuses on security, trade, and rule of law in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Middle East. He recently returned from a research trip to Iraq. He previously worked as senior law and policy analyst at the National Iranian American Council where he focused on the securitization of U.S. immigration policy and its effect on immigrant communities. He is also a non-resident fellow at Tabadlab, an Islamabad based think tank and advisory firm. Adam served as a U.S. Marine and deployed to Uruzgan Province Afghanistan in 2012.