Iran-Israel Tension Delays Decision on US Troop Withdrawal from Iraq

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani at the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, US, April 15, 2024. REUTERS/REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani at the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, US, April 15, 2024. REUTERS/REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
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Iran-Israel Tension Delays Decision on US Troop Withdrawal from Iraq

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani at the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, US, April 15, 2024. REUTERS/REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani at the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, US, April 15, 2024. REUTERS/REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani struck military deals and security agreements in meetings at the White House and with US officials, welcomed by Iraqi circles.

Sudani and US President Joe Biden had conflicting viewpoints on the Gaza conflict. The Iraqi PM stressed no escalation and voiced Iraq’s wish to end the US-led international coalition’s mission and move to a bilateral relationship, covering various fields under the “Strategic Framework Agreement,” according to Asharq Al-Awsat sources.

Biden and Sudani agreed, however, to work together on politics, economics, and security.

They aim for Iraq to produce its own energy by 2030, improve electricity reliability, and connect its power grid with neighboring countries, including Jordan and Gulf states.

A key focus of their talks was preventing ISIS from regrouping after setbacks inflicted by the international coalition over the past decade.

Biden and Sudani pledged to keep discussing security threats and strengthening Iraqi forces, with an eye toward ending the coalition’s mission and transitioning to a lasting bilateral security partnership as per Iraqi law and agreements between Baghdad and Washington.

Tensions rise in the Middle East amid worries about potential Israeli actions against Iran, while discussions continue on the withdrawal of US and coalition forces from Iraq.

The US insists on ongoing talks without setting a clear exit date for the troops.

Conversations also covered financial reforms, combating money laundering and corruption, and boosting Iraq’s ties to the global economy to attract foreign investment.

US officials vowed to work with Baghdad against illicit finance and sanctioned activities.

Biden praised the Iraqi Prime Minister’s efforts in reaching agreements with the Kurdistan Regional Government and ensuring salaries for civil servants in the region.

Both sides affirmed Kurdistan’s integral role in Iraq, with Biden backing free and fair elections there.

Farhad Alaa Al-Din, advisor to the Iraqi Prime Minister, stated the visit is on track with productive meetings.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that after key political discussions, Iraqi officials will meet with investors, companies, and communities in Houston and Michigan, engaging with media and intellectuals.



Clashes Escalate in Sudan’s North Darfur

Rapid Support Forces members. (AP)
Rapid Support Forces members. (AP)
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Clashes Escalate in Sudan’s North Darfur

Rapid Support Forces members. (AP)
Rapid Support Forces members. (AP)

Clashes renewed on Monday between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in several locations in North Darfur, while each side claimed to have inflicted the other with heavy losses in lives and military equipment.

Eyewitnesses said fierce ground clashes took place early in the morning in the vicinity of El Fasher, and around the Zarq and Um Baar areas, which are controlled by the RSF.

Meanwhile, residents fear counter-attacks following threats launched by several RSF leaders, who vowed to strongly respond to the killing of Ali Yagoub Gibril, one of their senior commanders during a battle in the besieged north Darfur city of El Fasher last Friday.

Social media accounts affiliated with the RSF posted videos showing violent clashes that took place Monday in the Um Baar area.

The video also showed destroyed military and armored vehicles of the army and the armed movements backing it.

Since the outbreak of fighting in Sudan, the RSF has pushed large numbers of its forces to capture the town of El Fasher. The city is the army's last stronghold in the western Darfur region.

On Sunday, RSF commander Mohammed Hamdan Daglo, also known as Hemedti, blamed the escalation in El Fasher on armed factions “that have abandoned neutrality and chosen to side with their slaughterer.”

A resident of El Fasher said the Eid Al-Adha celebrations were completely absent, and that many residents did not leave their homes to perform religious rituals for fear of bombs targeting residential neighborhoods.