Biden to host Iraqi PM, re-examine ‘strategic partnership’
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will welcome Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to the White House this month, his office said Friday.
The July 26 meeting will “highlight the strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq,” the White House said in a statement.
Kadhimi and US envoy Brett McGurk discussed the withdrawal of troops from Iraq Thursday in Baghdad.
Some 3,500 foreign troops are still on Iraqi territory, including 2,500 Americans, who have been posted to help fight the Islamic State (ISIS) group since 2014.
In Washington, Kadhimi is expected to push for a concrete timetable of American troop withdrawal. The implementation of their departure could take years.
Iraq, long an arena for bitter rivalry between the US and Iran despite their shared enmity towards ISIS, has seen growing numbers of rocket and drone attacks on American targets in recent months.
Kadhimi’s meeting with McGurk came a little more than a week after 14 rockets were fired at the Ain al-Assad air base, which hosts American troops in western Iraq, and three others which landed near the US embassy in Baghdad.
They were the latest in a spate of attacks targeting US military and diplomatic facilities in Iraq. The attacks have been blamed on pro-Iranian armed groups within a state-sponsored paramilitary force.
Last month, the US launched air strikes against pro-Iranian militias along the Iraq-Syria border.
The security situation has been complicated since last year’s US drone strike killing of Iran’s expeditionary Quds Force commander Qassim Soleimani and senior Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis at Baghdad International Airport. That strike was ordered by then-President Donald Trump.
But with the Biden administration seeking to revive an Obama-era nuclear accord with Iran, there have been signs that Iran is looking to curb, at least for now, militia attacks on the US.
Soleimani’s successor Esmail Qaani last month called on Iranian-backed militias to remain calm until after nuclear talks between Iran and the United States.