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Iraq, US companies sign deals worth more than $8 billion before Kadhimi-Trump meeting

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An Iraqi prime minister will visit the White House Thursday for the first time in three years as ties have warmed between Washington and Baghdad since Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi was appointed earlier this year.

On Wednesday, Kadhimi and other members of his government met with US officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, where several bilateral agreements and deals were signed.

Five American companies signed deals with Iraqi officials in the Oil and Electricity Ministries worth over $8 billion, according to a statement from the US Department of Energy. Among the new agreements is a deal between Iraq and the US’s General Electric worth more than $1 billion.

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A $500 million agreement was signed between Iraq and GE Gas Power to service power plants in Iraq and to help maintain over 6,000 megawatts of electricity, a statement from GE said.

Another agreement worth $727 million was signed between Iraq and GE Renewable Energy’s Grid Solutions “to reinforce Iraq’s transmission network, enhancing grid stability and interconnection with the electricity grid of Jordan.”

Earlier in the day, a senior US administration official said that “many US companies” would sign different agreements with the Iraqi government during the visit.

“We are covering a broad range of investments,” and a number of different US companies are working on energy and electricity projects, the official said.

“The Prime Minister [Kadhimi] and President [Trump] made this a priority,” the official, speaking to reporters on background, said.

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The US official said Washington would continue to assist and enable the Iraqi electricity grid so that it can be connected to the GCC.

On July 16, a joint statement from the US, Iraq and the GCC announced full support for the Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority (GCCIA) project to connect the electricity grids of Iraq and the GCC.

“The United States is committed to facilitating this project and providing support where needed,” the statement said at the time.

“Our goal is to ensure that there is a balance within Iraq with its relationship with its neighbors,” the US official said Wednesday.

US withdrawal of troops

Kadhimi’s visit comes on the heels of the US-Iraqi Strategic Dialogue where both sides look to boost bilateral relations and build a better understanding on how to counter common threats.

Trump has repeatedly said he would pull the US out of “endless wars,” with Iraq being one of them.

On Wednesday, Trump reiterated his desire to continue reducing the number of US soldiers abroad.

This will be discussed on Thursday, according to the US administration official, who said he did not expect a specific timeline to be announced.

Western military trainers are expected to remain in Iraq, but it is not clear how many. The US has had around 5,000 troops stationed in the country, and coalition allies have another 2,500.

In an interview with The Associated Press ahead of his trip to the US, Kadhimi hinted at downsizing the US force.

“In the end, we will still need cooperation and assistance at levels that today might not require direct and military support, and support on the ground,” he said. Kadhimi added that the cooperation “will reflect the changing nature of terrorism’s threat,” including continued training and weapons support.