Defense ties to be part of US-Iraq talks in Washington


The official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said the emphasis of Sudani’s visit would be economic ties…reports Asian Lite News

The security and defense relationship between the US and Iraq will be an important part of talks when Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani visits Washington next week but is not the primary focus of the visit, a senior State Department official said on Thursday.

The official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said the emphasis of Sudani’s visit would be economic ties, even as Washington and Baghdad are in talks over ending the US-led military coalition in the country.

US forces and Shiite Muslim armed groups have engaged in tit-for-tat attacks in recent months amid regional conflict linked to Israel’s war in Gaza, leading to Sudani in January announcing his intention to end the US military presence.

The senior State Department official said the defense and security relationship will be part of the discussions during Sudani’s visit, when he will meet both with President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin as well as Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“(It is) likely to be a very important part of our – of the discussion,” the official said. “It is not the primary focus of the visit … but it is almost certainly going to come up.”

The visit’s focus will instead be the economy and issues including education, environment and US support for development, the official said, without providing details.

“We’re going to have a full range of discussions about our relationship and where it’s going,” the official said.

The US invaded Iraq in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein and withdrew in 2011, only for troops to return in 2014 to help fight Islamic State (IS) after the extremist Sunni Muslim militant group overran large parts of the country.

Washington and Baghdad began talks in January to reassess the US-led military coalition presence there.

The official said those talks were likely to lead to a second joint security cooperation dialogue later this year.

Meanwhile, Iraq is using a period of relative stability to assert more control over the autonomous Kurdistan region that has long had fraught relations with federal authorities, analysts and politicians say.

Long-simmering disputes between Baghdad and Irbil, the capital of the northern region, came to a head recently after several Supreme Court rulings that the Kurds saw as an attempt to weaken the region’s autonomy.

Regional Prime Minister Masrour Barzani warned last week of “conspiracies aimed at undermining and dismantling the Kurdistan region” with “internal support within Kurdistan.”

The pressure is aimed at Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party or KDP, which has been locked in a never-ending rivalry with the other main party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan or PUK.

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