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.



Yemen's Houthis Say to Escalate Military Operations in Support of Gaza

A Houthi military helicopter flies over a cargo ship in the Red Sea. (Reuters)
A Houthi military helicopter flies over a cargo ship in the Red Sea. (Reuters)
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Yemen's Houthis Say to Escalate Military Operations in Support of Gaza

A Houthi military helicopter flies over a cargo ship in the Red Sea. (Reuters)
A Houthi military helicopter flies over a cargo ship in the Red Sea. (Reuters)

Yemen's Houthis will continue their military operations and escalate them "in quality and quantity" in support of Palestinians in Israel's war in Gaza, the Iran-backed group's leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi said in a televised speech on Thursday, Reuters reported.

The group have been attacking ships in the Red Sea region since November, forcing shippers to re-route cargo to longer and more expensive journeys around southern Africa.

The group later expanded the scope of its attacks to the Indian Ocean and said it would also target any ships heading towards Israeli ports in the Mediterranean Sea.