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U.S. President Biden meets Iraqi Prime Minister amid regional tensions

U.S. President Biden meets Iraqi Prime Minister amid regional tensions

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Washington. D.C. 16 April 2024 (WAI): U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani on Monday amidst escalating tensions in the region following Iran’s unprecedented strike on Israel over the weekend.

The strike, a historic first by Iran on Israel, has sparked concerns of a broader regional conflict, overshadowing the leaders’ planned discussions on mutual efforts against the Islamic State, economic cooperation, and Iraq’s strides toward energy independence and modernization.

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In a joint statement following their meeting in the Oval Office, President Biden and Prime Minister al-Sudani reaffirmed their commitment to the enduring strategic partnership between Iraq and the United States, emphasizing comprehensive bilateral cooperation under the 2008 U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement.

White House officials dismissed reports suggesting Iran had provided a warning before the strike. National security spokesperson John Kirby labeled such claims as “nonsense,” asserting that Iran did not communicate any intention of attacking Israel beforehand.

Regarding Israel’s response to the attack, Kirby emphasized that it was an Israeli decision to make, leaving the matter squarely in their hands.

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Despite the U.S. describing Iran’s assault as unsuccessful, Prime Minister al-Sudani acknowledged the gravity of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, expressing eagerness to halt the escalating violence that has claimed the lives of numerous civilians.

The United States and Iraq maintain a delicate relationship following decades of U.S. military involvement in Iraq, evidenced by the use of U.S. anti-aircraft assets in northern Iraq to intercept some of the Iranian missiles.

President Biden underscored Iraq’s role in maintaining peace, highlighting the pivotal nature of their partnership for the Middle East and beyond.

Earlier on Monday, Iraq’s deputy prime minister met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Both officials praised regional cooperation in thwarting the attack and urged de-escalation.

A joint statement by President Biden and Prime Minister al-Sudani

The joint statement issued by President Biden and Prime Minister al-Sudani outlined various bilateral measures, emphasizing the importance of working together to advance regional stability while respecting Iraqi sovereignty, strength, and security.

Analysts stress the importance of Iraq utilizing diplomatic channels to advocate for peace amidst escalating tensions. Daniel Byman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, emphasized Iraq’s need to communicate its preference for de-escalation to relevant parties.

As Israel weighs its response, regional actors remain active. On Monday, Iraq’s president held discussions with King Abdullah II of Jordan, underscoring the shared concern over further escalation of the conflict.

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