The United States cannot stabilize—or safely deprioritize—the Middle East without first stabilizing Iraq. Regional powers treat Iraq as a battleground to carry out proxy conﬂicts that harm US interests and exacerbate instability through the region. Stability begets stability; strengthening the Iraqi state such that foreign proxy wars cannot easily take place within its borders would reduce tensions in the region. A more resilient Iraqi state will be better protected from future foreign interference like internationally sponsored militia activities, political inﬂuence, and jihadism. A stable and sovereign Iraq could provide a physical and political buﬀer between its heavyweight neighbors: Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, and between Iran and its projects in Syria and Lebanon. That buﬀer could help enable a desired pivot in US policy and security focus away from the Middle East and toward pressing concerns elsewhere in the world.
The United States cannot stabilize—or safely deprioritize—the Middle East without first stabilizing Iraq.