May 27, 2024

Brighton Journal

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Biden hosts Iraqi leader after Iranian attack on Israel creates more uncertainty in the Middle East

Biden hosts Iraqi leader after Iranian attack on Israel creates more uncertainty in the Middle East

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is hosting the Iraqi leader at the White House as fears grow of a major escalation in hostilities in the Middle East next. Iran attack this weekend On Israel.

Biden was scheduled to meet on Monday with Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani for talks intended to focus primarily on US-Iraqi relations, which were scheduled to take place long before the Iranian strikes.

But Saturday's drone and missile launches, including one that flew over Iraqi airspace, highlighted the sensitive relationship between Washington and Baghdad, not least because of Iranian proxy groups operating in Iraq.

The sharp increase in regional tensions is over Israel's war in Gaza The weekend's developments raised more questions about the feasibility of the American military presence in Iraq, which has lasted for two decades. However, a US Patriot battery in Erbil, Iraq, shot down at least one Iranian ballistic missile, according to US officials.

During his meeting with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Tamim before Biden's session with Al-Sudani, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that the United States urges all parties to avoid escalation.

He added: “During the ensuing 36 hours, we coordinated a diplomatic response in an effort to prevent escalation.” “Strength and wisdom should be two different sides of the same coin.”

Tamim said that the Iraqi government is similarly concerned.

He said: “Today the Middle East is experiencing exceptional circumstances that have repercussions on our countries, and we hope that the escalation and tensions in the region will stop.”

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“The Iraqi government warns against escalation and dragging the region into a broader war that threatens international security and safety. Therefore, we call on all parties to exercise restraint and respect the rules of diplomacy and international laws,” Tamim said.

To complicate matters further, Iranian proxies have begun attacks against American interests throughout the region from within Iraq. These ongoing strikes have made discussions between the United States and Iraq about regional stability and future US troop deployments even more important.

Monday's talks will also focus on economic, trade and energy issues, which have become a major priority for the Iraqi government, according to US officials.

The United States and Iraq began Formal talks in January On ending the coalition created to help the Iraqi government fight ISIS, with about 2,000 American soldiers remaining in the country under an agreement with Baghdad. Iraqi officials have periodically called for the withdrawal of those forces.

The two countries have a sensitive relationship, partly due to Iran's significant influence in Iraq, where a coalition of Iranian-backed groups brought Sudani to power in October 2022.

The United States has urged Iraq in recent months to do more to prevent attacks on US bases in Iraq and Syria that have further destabilized the Middle East following the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7. Iran's weekend attacks on Israel via Iraqi airspace highlighted US concerns, although Al-Sudani had already left Baghdad and was on his way to Washington when the drones and missiles were launched.

The United States has it too It sought to exert financial pressure Regarding Baghdad’s relationship with Tehran, and restricting Iraq’s access to its own dollars in an attempt to eliminate money laundering, which is said to benefit Iran and Syria.

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Most previous Iraqi prime ministers visited Washington earlier in their terms. Al-Sudani's visit was postponed due to tensions between the United States and Iran and regional escalation, including the Gaza war and the killing of three American soldiers in Jordan in a drone attack in late January. This was followed by an American strike that resulted in the killing of a commander in the Kataib Hezbollah militia, whom Washington accused of planning and participating in attacks on American forces.

Al-Sudani tried to maintain a balance between Iran and America, even though he is seen as close to Tehran, and despite several incidents that put his government in an embarrassing position vis-à-vis Washington.

Early in his term, American citizen Stephen Edward Truell was shot and killed by armed men who approached him as he stopped on the street where he lived with his family in the Karrada district of central Baghdad. An Iraqi criminal court convicted five men last August and sentenced them to life imprisonment in the case, which officials described as a kidnapping gone wrong.

After several months, Elizabeth Tsurkov, an Israeli-Russian doctoral student at Princeton University, was kidnapped while conducting research in Iraq. She is believed to be being held by Kataib Hezbollah. The senior American official said that the Tsurkov issue would also be raised during Al-Sudani's visit.

Al-Sudani began his term with promises to focus on economic development and fighting corruption, but his government faced economic difficulties, including the discrepancy in official and market exchange rates between the Iraqi dinar and the US dollar.

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The currency problems resulted in part from the United States tightening dollar supplies to Iraq, as part of a crackdown on money laundering and money smuggling into Iran. The United States prevented more than 20 Iraqi banks from dealing in dollars as part of the campaign.

The Sudanese government recently renewed Iraq's contract to purchase natural gas from Iran for another five years, which may raise American dissatisfaction.

The Iraqi Prime Minister will return to Iraq and meet with the Turkish President after his trip to Washington, which could finally lead to a resolution of the long-standing dispute over oil exports from the Kurdish regions of Iraq to Turkey. Washington is seeking to resume the flow of oil.


Narrated by Abdul Zahra from Baghdad. Eric Tucker in Washington contributed.