Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, in US Meeting, Calls for Regional Restraint

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (C) and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Tamim (R) arrive for remarks at the State Department April 15, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images/AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (C) and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Tamim (R) arrive for remarks at the State Department April 15, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, in US Meeting, Calls for Regional Restraint

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (C) and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Tamim (R) arrive for remarks at the State Department April 15, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images/AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (C) and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Tamim (R) arrive for remarks at the State Department April 15, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images/AFP)

Iraq called on all parties to show restraint amid soaring tensions between neighboring Iran and Israel, Deputy Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Tamim said on Monday, as talks on the complex US-Iraq relationship began in Washington.

The meetings come as US ally Israel weighs its response to Iran's weekend missile and drone attack, with the United States and Europe urging restraint.

Tamim, who co-chaired a meeting of the US-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said Iraq was concerned about its region being "dragged into a wider war that will threaten international security and safety."

"And therefore, we call on all parties for self-restraint and respect the rules of diplomatic works and also international laws," he said.

Iraq is a rare ally of both Washington and Tehran. Iraqi airspace was a main route for Iran’s unprecedented drone and ballistic missile attack on Israel, and Iraqi officials say Iran informed them, as well as other countries in the region, ahead of the attack.

A delegation led by Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani will meet officials across Washington on Monday, including President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

US and other Western officials have welcomed economic reform plans put forward by Sudani, but concerns remain over the influence of Iran-backed groups. Shiite armed groups have engaged in tit-for-tat attacks on US forces linked to Israel's war in Gaza.

The US invaded Iraq in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein and withdrew in 2011, only for troops to return in 2014 to help fight ISIS after the extremist group overran large parts of the country.

Washington and Baghdad are in talks over ending the US-led military coalition in the country, although the Higher Coordinating Committee is tasked with discussing other aspects of the relationship, including economic ties.

Blinken, who reiterated that Washington does not want to see the regional conflict swell, said the meetings would focus on issues including energy security, democracy, the rule of law, climate and water, and noted US private sector interest, especially in Iraq's energy sector.

"Through these efforts we look forward to helping advance the prime minister's affirmative agenda, and seeing Iraq succeed," Blinken said.



In Lebanon, Top French Diplomat Seeks Israel-Hezbollah De-Escalation

French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne is visiting Lebanon as part of a renewed push for calm as fighting intensifies between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement. AFP
French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne is visiting Lebanon as part of a renewed push for calm as fighting intensifies between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement. AFP
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In Lebanon, Top French Diplomat Seeks Israel-Hezbollah De-Escalation

French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne is visiting Lebanon as part of a renewed push for calm as fighting intensifies between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement. AFP
French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne is visiting Lebanon as part of a renewed push for calm as fighting intensifies between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement. AFP

France's top diplomat on Sunday urged de-escalation between Israel and the Hezbollah movement during his second visit to Lebanon since cross-border tensions flared alongside the Gaza war.
Israel and Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah group have exchanged near-daily fire since Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel sparked the war in Gaza.
Fighting has intensified in recent weeks, with Israel striking deeper into Lebanese territory, while Hezbollah has stepped up its missile and drone attacks on military positions in northern Israel, said AFP.
The United States has led diplomatic efforts to halt violence along the border with Israel, with France also seeking ways to calm tensions.
Paris presented to both Lebanon and Israel an initiative earlier this year seeking to end hostilities.
"We refuse a worst-case scenario... No one has any interest in Israel and Hezbollah continuing this escalation. This is my message here," French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne told reporters in Beirut.
He said he "will bring this same message to Israel on Tuesday,"
Hezbollah has repeatedly declared that only a ceasefire in Gaza will put an end to its attacks on Israel.
A French diplomatic source told AFP that the volume of cross-border attacks had doubled since April 13.
Ahead of the press conference Sejourne met Lebanese officials, including Prime Minister Najib Mikati, army chief Joseph Aoun and influential parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri, a Hezbollah ally.
Proposals 'to avoid war'
A return to stability "requires the redeployment of armed forces in southern Lebanon," he added, referring to a region where Hezbollah holds sway.
In March, Beirut submitted its response to the French initiative, based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 that ended a 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.
The resolution called for the removal of weapons in southern Lebanon from everyone except the army and other state security forces.
The objective of that roadmap, Sejourne said, "is to achieve the full implementation by all parties of Security Council Resolution 1701."
Berri and Mikati both said that Lebanon was keen on implementing the UN resolution, according to separate statements following their meetings with Sejourne.
"The French initiative constitutes a practical framework for implementing Resolution 1701, which Lebanon is committed to implementing in full, while demanding Israel commit to it and stop its destructive aggression against southern Lebanon," Mikati said in a statement.
More than four years into an economic collapse, and essentially leaderless, Lebanon is ill-prepared for regional conflict.
Mikati has for about two years headed a caretaker government with reduced powers after a general election failed to deliver a majority to either of Lebanon's rival power blocs.
The country has not had a president since late 2022 when Michel Aoun's mandate ended without agreement on a successor.
"Without an elected president, without a fully-functioning government, Lebanon will not... be invited to the discussion table," he said.
Earlier in the day Sejourne visited the headquarters of the United Nations' peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon (UNIFIL), which includes around 700 French troops.
Sejourne reiterated that Paris has been making proposals to "avoid war in Lebanon".
Since October 8 at least 385 people have been killed in Lebanon, including 254 Hezbollah fighters and dozens of civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Israel says 11 soldiers and nine civilians have been killed on its side of the border.
Tens of thousands of people have been displaced on both sides.