Expert warns of lingering ISIS threat, stresses US-KRG partnership, normalization of US-Iraq relations

He underscored the significance of maintaining access to northern Syria through the Kurdistan region to address the ISIS threat, particularly concerning the Al-Hol camp, housing potentially radicalized individuals.
Henri J. Barkey, the former Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. (Photo: Kurdistan24)
Henri J. Barkey, the former Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. (Photo: Kurdistan24)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – In an interview with Kurdistan 24, Henri J. Barkey, the former Director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, emphasized the ongoing threat posed by ISIS, particularly in northern Syria, despite improvements in the Iraqi military's capability to combat the group.

He highlighted the importance of the United States' collaboration with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria to address the ISIS threat effectively.

Barkey discussed the proposed restructuring of the US-Iraqi relationship, with Iraq taking on more responsibility for combating ISIS while maintaining American support, especially in intelligence.

He underscored the significance of maintaining access to northern Syria through the Kurdistan region to address the ISIS threat, particularly concerning the Al-Hol camp, housing potentially radicalized individuals.

“There will be still a great deal of American assistance. Remember, the one thing that the United States is very good at is intelligence. So, the Iraqi military and no other military, I should say, not just the Iraqi military, have the capabilities that the Americans have when it comes to intelligence; however, what is very important for the Americans is that access to Northern Syria through the Kurdistan region does not get hampered because that's where the ISIS threat is,” he stressed.

Regarding the Kurdistan region, Barkey acknowledged its historical importance in the US-Iraqi dynamic and emphasized its autonomy and the importance of Kurdish representation within Iraq's political landscape. Despite acknowledging challenges such as economic issues and corruption, he stressed the region's significance in the broader Iraqi context.

Barkey expressed optimism about the normalization of relations between Baghdad and Washington as the United States considers reducing its military presence in Iraq.

“One way of thinking about it is to say we will see the normalization of relations between Baghdad and Washington. That is to say that as the United States withdraws some of its troops, and again, not all of his troops and certainly not from Northern Iraq, because Northern Iraq is critical to the resupply of American troops in Syria and the resupply of the Syrian Democratic forces in Syria,” he underlined.

He praised Prime Minister Sudani's effectiveness and emphasized that Iraqi decisions would be made in Iraq's interests rather than solely to appease the United States.

The interview provided valuable insights into the evolving dynamics of the fight against ISIS, the US-Iraq relationship, and the importance of the Kurdistan region in the broader Middle East landscape.