Trump to meet Iraqi PM Mustafa Al Kadhimi as ties recover
Tensions rose following a US strike on Baghdad in January that killed Iranian general Qassem Suleimani
US President Donald Trump will meet Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi in Washington this month, the White House said on Friday, highlighting a turnaround in relations since the Iraq's US-friendly leader took office.
Tensions between the two states increased in January after the US killed Iranian general Qassem Suleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis, prompting Iraqi politicians to demand the expulsion of the 5,200 US troops in the country.
The hostility has calmed substantially since Mr Al Kadhimi – an ex-spy chief with ties to the US and its allies in the region – took the reins as Iraq's prime minister in May.
The White House said the August 20 visit came at a "critical time" in the fight against ISIS and the myriad problems posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
"As close partners, the United States and Iraq will look to expand our relations," the White House added.
A Washington invitation was the type of diplomatic approach never received by Mr Al Kadhimi's predecessor, Adel Abdel Mahdi, who was forced to resign by months of protests.
Mr Al Kadhimi took office in April, becoming the third Iraq head of state in a chaotic 10-week period that followed months of deadly protests in the country, which has been exhausted by decades of sanctions, war, corruption and economic challenges.
He is trying to balance Iraq's relations with both Washington and Tehran.
Last month, he visited Iran and said relations between the two nations would have to be based on non-interference.
“The two countries are facing economic challenges and our people are dependent on us, and this service will not take place without co-operation between Iraq and Iran,” Mr Al Kadhimi said.
“The people of Iraq want good relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran based on the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of both countries.
“Iraq is a country that won’t allow any aggression or challenge to Iran from its territory.”
It was his first official trip abroad since taking office and he met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Updated: August 8, 2020 05:58 PM