The Iraqi and the US leadership is in talks for complete withdrawal of the US troops from Iraq.
Cecile Feuillatre and Laure Al-Khoury, Agence France-Presse
Weakened by pro-Iran factions at home, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhemi will meet with US President Joe Biden on Monday to discuss a possible full US troop withdrawal from his country.
The White House talks between the two allies come just a week after a deadly attack claimed by the Daesh group, despite Baghdad declaring the Sunni extremists defeated over three years ago.
Kadhemi finds himself backed into a corner by the influence of Iraq’s other main ally — neighbouring Iran, which has long seen the United States as its arch-nemesis.
Despite shared enmity on the part of the US and Shiite Iran toward a resilient Daesh, Kadhemi is under intense pressure from pro-Tehran armed factions who demand the withdrawal of 2,500 US troops still deployed in Iraq.
Operating under the Hashed al-Shaabi, a paramilitary network whose tentacles extend deep into the state, these Shiite factions stand accused of carrying out around 50 rocket and drone attacks this year against US interests in Iraq.
“If there is no significant announcement on the withdrawal of troops, I fear that the pro-Iran groups may... increase attacks on the US forces,” Iraqi researcher Sajad Jiyad told AFP.
Such concerns are given weight by the leader of one such paramilitary group, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, who recently warned that “resistance operations will continue until all American forces have left Iraqi territory”.
Most of the US soldiers, deployed in 2014 to lead an international military coalition against Daesh, left under Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, who hosted Kadhemi at the White House last August.
The troops that remain are officially classed as advisers and trainers for Iraq’s army and counter-terrorism units.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, already in Washington for several days, has assured Iraqi media that “the talks will successfully establish a timetable for the withdrawal of American forces”.
But US media outlets have only pointed to a “redefinition” of the troops’ mission.
Ramzy Mardini, an Iraq specialist at the University of Chicago’s Pearson Institute, believes there will be no “radical change” in the US position.
The Biden-Kadhemi meeting may cosmetically be “shaped” to help the Iraqi premier alleviate domestic pressures, “but the reality on the ground will reflect the status quo and an enduring US presence,” he said.
Just ahead of the meeting, an armed drone — an increasingly favoured form of attack — targeted a base used by US personnel at Al-Harir in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region on Saturday, but without causing casualties, according to the US-led coalition.
Mardini points to “political costs” for Biden were he to authorise a full withdrawal of US troops, stemming from the catastrophic “legacy” of the 2011 withdrawal, which created a vacuum exploited by Daesh during their lightning 2014 offensive.
It took a three-year military onslaught, heavily supported by a US-led coalition at the invitation of Iraq, to wrest back all the urban centres the Sunni militants seized.
“The last thing that the US would want would be to quit Iraq and find themselves a few years later facing... a return by Daesh,” according to one diplomatic source.
IS today operates from mountainous and desert regions, activating cells for attacks including Monday’s suicide bombing of a market in Baghdad’s Shiite district of Sadr City that officially killed 30. The prime minister announced on Saturday that the cell behind that attack had been arrested.
-Election calculations - Beyond the ever-present security issues, Kadhemi, in power for little over a year, is grappling with a cocktail of other crises three months ahead of a general election that threatens his tenure.
Severe electricity shortages, endemic corruption, a spate of murders of activists blamed on pro-Iran armed groups, the coronavirus pandemic and diminished oil revenues have all stoked renewed instability. Kadhemi will therefore also seek to secure a softening of secondary US sanctions relating to Iran when in Washington, to help Iraq honour crucial transactions with its neighbour and tackle the power crisis, according to Jiyad. Shortages during the stifling summer heat have been exacerbated by Iran suspending crucial gas deliveries in recent weeks, due to payment arrears of $6 billion that Baghdad is unable to settle, in part because of US sanctions on Tehran.
“The prime minister’s visit (to Washington) is inextricably tied with his electoral campaign,” according to Mardini.
“It’s part of an effort to shore up international and regional support” to help him revive a faltering domestic political base, he added.
As US President Joe Biden defended his actions in Afghanistan, Russian and Chinese state media were using chaotic scenes in Kabul to argue that the United States would one day similarly abandon its allies in Ukraine and Taiwan. The Biden administration
The Biden administration’s surprise announcement of an unconditional troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 appears to strip the Taliban and the Afghan government of considerable leverage and could ramp up pressure on them to reach a peace deal.
Like thousands of Afghan translators who served with NATO forces, Nazir Ahmad fears for his life as the US-led alliance scrambles to pull out of the country in the coming weeks. “The situation is deteriorating now as foreign forces leave,” he told AFP in Kabul. “We are scared of the
Amid the chaos in Kabul, politicians and pundits have declared the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan a defeat from which US influence may never recover. “Biden’s credibility is now shot,” wrote Gideon Rachman, chief oracle of Britain’s Financial Times.
United States President Joe Biden’s helpless cry after a deranged gunman in Ovalde in Texas killed two teachers and over a dozen students of fourth grade at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday, saying “As a nation we have to ask when in God’s
T.L. Wali, a 66-year-old lawyer in Delhi’s high court, had been looking forward to retirement. But with India’s living costs soaring, he is now forced to dip into his savings and will need to keep working longer just to pay for medicine, travel and
I just checked on my two children, asleep in their beds. They’re both under 10, and I’m fretting about the fact that one has a sore throat, the other asthma and a bad cough. Earlier today, they came home from school, full of chatter about their day.
In a peaceful corner of northern France, Ukrainian Olympic athlete Tatyana Kolesnikova tends to a freshly planted vegetable field beside a medieval castle — the sounds of the war she fled replaced by a chorus of birdsong. The former world rowing