Daily Memo: Speeding Up Withdrawals and Vaccines

As the U.S. discusses ways to leave Iraq, three COVID-19 vaccines enter their third phase of trials.

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Countering Iranian influence in Iraq. After discussions on bilateral relations on a host of issues between the U.S. and Iraq, Washington officially committed to continue to withdraw troops from the country. After 17 years of war, there are plenty of reasons to believe Washington sincerely wants to reduce its footprint there, but Iran’s presence in Iraq complicates the issue. Iraq consumes a lot of Iranian energy exports, and Tehran maintains a lot of influence among Iraqi political leaders, cultivated in no small part through its many Shiite militias. The U.S. has allowed Iraq to continue electricity imports from Iran by extending a waiver on sanctions, but the two countries plan to explore alternative energy options. Baghdad has also committed to placing Iranian proxies, including those of the Popular Mobilization Forces, under further governmental control. Other issues are working in Washington’s favor too. Sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic have kept Tehran from doling out the support to proxy groups it normally extends, leading to fresh reports of discontent among the many militias. Expediting a vaccine. In conjunction with the U.S. National Institutes of Health, phase three clinical trials — the final major hurdle to regulatory approval — for three coronavirus vaccines […]

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