Biden to host Iraqi prime minister on April 15: White House

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President Joe Biden will welcome Iraq’s prime minister on April 15 for talks on the US troop presence, the White House announced Friday, as tensions subside following US clashes with pro-Iran militias.

It will mark the first trip to Washington by Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani, who took office in October 2022.

Al-Sudani in the past has called for an exit of US forces, redeployed nearly 10 years ago as part of a campaign to defeat ISIS, which had seized vast swathes of Iraq and Syria.

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Biden and al-Sudani will discuss “our shared commitment to the lasting defeat of ISIS and evolution of the military mission,” a White House statement said.

Al-Sudani’s office said that the two would “discuss the future relationship” between Iraq and the United States following the fight against the extremists.

Tensions soared amid the Israel-Hamas war with armed groups linked to Iran carrying out a slew of attacks on positions in the Middle East of the United States, the main ally of Israel.

The United States carried out reprisals after a drone strike killed three US soldiers stationed in the Jordanian desert in late January.

A US drone strike inside Baghdad killed Abu Baqir al-Saadi, a senior commander of Iran-lined Kataeb Hezbollah who was accused by the US military of planning and participating in the attacks on US forces.
Iraq, hoping not to be consumed by US-Iran hostility, protested the strike.

But calm has largely returned and tensions have subsided between the United States and Iraq, which have resumed talks on the future of the anti-extremist coalition.

Iraqi authorities have voiced hope for drawing up a timeline to reduce the presence of US forces.

Both Biden and Donald Trump, who is seeking to return to the White House in November elections, generally oppose extended deployments of troops overseas, with Biden in 2021 completing the pullout of US forces from Afghanistan, where the Taliban swiftly took back control.

The United States stations some 2,500 troops in Iraq and 900 in neighboring Syria as part of the coalition.

Iran wields considerable political influence in Baghdad. Its Iraqi allies dominate parliament and appointed the current government.

The White House said Biden would discuss Iraqi economic reforms in hopes of promoting economic development and “energy independence,” with the country still relying on Iran.

With AFP

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