Iraq’s prime minister to visit Washington next month for strategic dialogue

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi will visit Washington next month to attend high-level talks between the United States and Iraq, foreign minister Fuad Hussein revealed on Tuesday.
Kadhimi’s visit will begin the second round of strategic dialogue talks between the US and Iraq that are the first of their kind in more than a decade. They aim to put all bilateral issues on the table, including the faltering Iraqi economy and the possible withdrawal of US troops.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on April 8 that the US and Iraq plan to hold meetings starting in mid-June to discuss several matters, including “the future presence of the United States forces in [the] country and how best to support an independent and sovereign Iraq,” Pompeo said at a Washington press briefing on April 8.
Hussein revealed the planned visit to Washington while receiving UN envoy Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert in Baghdad on Tuesday to discuss the strategic dialogue, among other topics.
Iraq is currently facing a severe economic crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and the collapse of global oil prices. The Iraqi government decided last week to scrap plans to hash out its 2020 budgets and instead focus on formulating a budget for 2021, due to the high deficit caused by crashing oil revenues.
The first round of the dialogue began on June 11 via an online conference, with the first outcome being both US and Iraq agreed to reduce the number of American troops in Iraq in the coming months, according to a joint statement by both US administration and Iraqi government.
US forces have withdrawn from several Iraqi bases in recent months, which they say is part of a general repositioning in response to successes in the campaign to defeat ISIS and to protect personnel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.In the space of a month, the US-led coalition handed over control of six military bases to the ISF, including Abu Ghraib near Baghdad, K1 in Kirkuk, al-Qaim near the Syrian border, Qayyarah in western Iraq, al-Sqoor in Mosul, and al-Taqaddum in Anbar.
The second round of the US-Iraq strategic dialogue is expected to take place in Washington next month, which will see an Iraqi delegation sit down with US officials.
Washington and Baghdad have had a rocky relationship in recent years, exacerbated by mounting tensions between the US and its adversary, Iran.
Iraq remains an important theatre in the landscape of US foreign policy. Iraqi military bases hosting US troops have come under repeated rocket attacks in recent months. American intelligence officials suspect that the mysterious groups behind the attacks are backed by Iran.
A deadly rocket attack on the K-1 base in Kirkuk last December led to an escalation in hostilities between the US and Iran, culminating in the US assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi militia chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad on January 3.
Tehran retaliated on January 8 with a barrage of missiles targeting Iraqi military bases that host US troops.
In response to the assassinations on Iraqi soil, pro-Iran factions in the Iraqi parliament held a non-binding vote to expel foreign forces from the country.
The US has deployed Patriot air defense batteries to Ain al-Asad military base in Anbar province and as well as to Erbil.
Despite the US drawdown, Washington appears to remain committed to tackling pro-Iran forces in Iraq.

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