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ISIS Dormant Cells Pave Way for Open US Presence in Iraq

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Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari hinted on Monday about the possibility of keeping American troops in Iraq for the long term due to dormant ISIS cells.

“The military intervention of the international coalition in Iraq and the support it offered to the Iraqi government in its war against ISIS were based on conditions that do not violate the country’s sovereignty,” al-Jaafari said.

The US-led international coalition was launched in 2016 to retake ISIS-held regions in Iraq.

The foreign minister said that the presence of this coalition “will continue until dormant ISIS cells currently present in the country are dealt with.”

Fears concerning the security situation in Iraq emerged after the appearance of men from the “White Flags” group in certain Iraqi areas close to Kurdish-majority zones, also driving concerns that the group could become a new version of ISIS, whose military defeat in Iraq was declared last week.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Monday that the focus in the next phase would be directed towards intelligence efforts, a strategy already kicked off by security and military apparatuses.

In Baghdad’s district of Bataween, Iraqi security forces arrested around 256 suspects, including some accused of belonging to terrorist cells, according to a statement issued by Iraqi Interior Minister Qasim al-Araji.

Meanwhile, sources close to the Iraqi prime minister said there “is no presence of any US military bases in Iraq, despite the existence of contrary statements concerning this issue.”

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday, Ihsan Al Shameri, the head of the Political Thought Center in Baghdad said that “the presence of US and international coalition advisers was limited in Iraqi military bases, which operate under Iraqi orders.”

In that context, Hisham al-Hashemi, a defense analyst in Baghdad, asserted to Asharq Al-Awsat there were no purely US military bases in Iraq, except those already present in Irbil.

“The US forces in other Iraqi areas operate in joint bases with the Iraqi side, including the international coalition forces, which are responsible for training and supporting the mission of Iraqi forces,” he said.

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