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Sudani, McGurk Discuss Bolstering Iraqi-American Cooperation

Sudani, McGurk Discuss Bolstering Iraqi-American Cooperation

Wednesday, 18 January, 2023 - 06:00
Iraqi PM Sudani receives the US delegation in Baghdad. (Iraqi prime minister's office on Twitter)

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani held talks in Baghdad on Monday with Deputy Assistant to the US President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk.

The talks coincided with the arrival of Iran’s Quds Force commander Esmail Qaani to the Iraqi capital on a secret visit, said media reports. No further details about the visit were available.

Such trips are not unusual for Qaani, but the latest was carried out at a time when Baghdad appears to be shifting its stances from Tehran’s. This most notably came to light in wake of Iran’s objection to Iraqi officials using the term “Arabian Gulf” as Basra hosts the 25th Arabian Gulf Cup football tournament.

Tehran had protested the term, saying the Gulf should be referred to as “Persian.” Iraqi officials have so far ignored the complaints.

Moreover, just days ago, Sudani defended the open-ended presence of US and other foreign troops in his country, a stance that is at odds with Iran’s.

“We think that we need the foreign forces,” Sudani told The Wall Street Journal on Sunday in his first US interview since taking office in October.

An independent Iraqi politician told Asharq Al-Awsat that the secret diplomacy that is being adopted by Iran towards Iraq “is no longer very useful given the changes taking place in the region and their impact on Iraq.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said: “Iraqi officials no longer accept the policy of dictates that Iran wants to continue.”

This even applies to the Shiite Coordination Framework, an ally of Iran that now dominates the Iraqi government, he added.

He explained that Iran disappointed several Shiite leaderships in Iraq in wake of last year’s crisis that pitted the Framework against the Sadrist movement, led by influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, that eventually spiraled into clashes in Baghdad.

Shiite leaders believe that fighting – encouraged by Iran - was aimed at weakening Sadr even if it meant shedding Shiite blood. The Shiite forces realized the plan early, with Sadr deciding the clear the political arena for the Framework to avoid further bloodshed, explained the politician.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad the PM and McGurk discussed bilateral relations between Iraq and the US and ways to bolster them in various fields, said a statement from Sudani’s office.

McGurk was joined by Special Presidential Coordinator for Global Infrastructure and Energy Security Amos Hochstein and US Ambassador to Iraq Alina Romanowski.

“In the meeting, the US delegation confirmed President Joe Biden’s commitment to the Strategic Framework Agreement with special emphasis on coordination and programs to support the Government of Iraq’s reforms in the areas of energy, infrastructure, and climate to benefit the Iraqi people,” said the US embassy in Baghdad.

“McGurk affirmed the ongoing US commitment to advise, enable, and assist Iraqi forces in their fight against ISIS, and to ensuring that ISIS can never again regenerate in Iraq and Syria,” it added.

“The delegation welcomed the Baghdad II conference held last month in Jordan and discussed opportunities to deepen Iraq’s broader integration in the region through joint infrastructure projects and strategic investments,” it stated.

McGurk welcomed the upcoming visit of Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein to Washington in early February to co-chair the SFA’s Higher Coordinating Committee with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The delegations also welcomed recent progress in resolving differences between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government with respect to revenue sharing and energy exports.

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