Biden to Meet Iraqi PM Amid Soaring Tensions in Middle East

Mon Apr 15 2024
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WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden will meet Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani, who is on his first visit to the US since assuming office in October 2022, at the White House Monday, after Iran’s attack on Israel sent tensions in the region.

Sudani’s trip to Washington was initially slated to discuss the presence of US troops in Iraq as part of an anti-jihadist coalition.

However, recent events have shifted the focus of the meeting towards the volatile situation in the region following Iran’s retaliatory missile and drone attack on Israel over the weekend.

US forces stationed near the northern Iraqi city of Erbil played a role in countering Iran’s assault on Israel by utilizing a Patriot missile battery to intercept an Iranian ballistic missile.

“This official visit comes at a critical juncture in our relations with the United States, against the backdrop of evolving regional dynamics,” a statement from Sudani’s office noted prior to his departure on Saturday.

In March, the White House had announced that President Biden and Sudani would discuss their mutual commitment to defeating ISIS and shaping the future of the military mission.

Throughout the past six months, Iraq has endeavored to navigate regional tensions amidst Israel’s ongoing conflict with Iran-backed Palestinian Hamas militants in Gaza, triggered by an attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7.

Armed groups with ties to Iran, some of which operate from within Iraq, have carried out multiple attacks on US facilities, with the United States being a key ally of Israel.

Iraq, aiming to avoid being entangled in US-Iran tensions, strongly denounced a US drone strike in February that resulted in the death of an Iraqi militia leader, conducted in response to an attack that claimed the lives of three US service members in Jordan.

However, tensions have since eased between Washington and Baghdad, leading to the resumption of discussions regarding the future of the US-led coalition.

Iraqi authorities have expressed optimism about establishing a timeline for reducing the presence of US forces.

Following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which ousted Saddam Hussein, most US troops withdrew by 2011. However, troops were redeployed in 2014 to combat the Islamic State extremist group, also known as ISIS, which had seized significant territories in Iraq and Syria.

At present, approximately 2,500 US troops are stationed in Iraq, with an additional 900 in neighboring Syria as part of the coalition efforts.


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