Iraqi Foreign Minister arrives in Washington ahead of meetings with US officials

Fuad Hussein's visit comes following US strikes on Iran-backed militias and amid talks on withdrawing American troops from Iraq

Iraq's Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said he would be holding an 'important series of anticipated meetings' with US officials. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iraq
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Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein arrived in Washington on Friday ahead of meetings next week with US officials.

“We arrived in Washington, DC, today to hold an important series of anticipated meetings with USA officials,” Mr Hussein said on social media platform X.

He added that he expected to meet Secretary of State Antony Blinken, with whom he expected “to discuss new opportunities to strengthen our bilateral relations and joint co-operation”.

In response to a request for comment, the State Department did not confirm a meeting between Mr Blinken and Mr Hussein would take place next week.

The trip comes at a time of strained relations between the US and Iraq, as calls for the withdrawal of American troops in the country mount in Baghdad.

There are currently about 2,500 US troops in Iraq serving in an advise-and-assist capacity as part of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

Mr Hussein's visit comes following US strikes on Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq in retaliation for a rise in attacks on American troops in the region, including one on a US base in Jordan that killed three soldiers.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Al Sudani is expected to visit the White House next month.

Mr Al Sudani and President Joe Biden are expected to discuss “common priorities and reinforce the strong bilateral partnership between the United States and Iraq” as well as the presence of US troops, the White House said in a statement.

“President Biden and Prime Minister [Al] Sudani will consult on a range of issues during the visit, including our shared commitment to the lasting defeat of ISIS and evolution of the military mission nearly 10 years after forming the successful Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS,” the White House said.

“They will also discuss continuing Iraqi financial reforms to promote economic development and progress towards Iraq’s energy independence and modernisation.”

The meeting between the two leaders shows that despite recent tension, the relationship between Baghdad and Washington remains strong.

“Him [Mr Al Sudani] coming, it shows that the relationship of the two countries has not been affected by the war in Gaza in a negative way and the two countries continue to maintain positive partnerships,” said Sarhang Hamasaeed, director of Middle East Programmes at the United States Institute of Peace.

Mr Hussein's visit to Washington is likely an opportunity for the two countries to set the stage for Mr Al Sudani's White House visit.

“It's an advance, it's there to get the lines straight so that by the time the Prime Minister arrives, everyone knows exactly what they're going to say about things like US military presence,” said Michael Knights, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Before arriving in Washington, Mr Hussein was in Canada, where he met Canadian ministers including Foreign Minister Melanie Joly and Minister of National Defence Bill Blair.

While in Canada, Mr Hussein inaugurated the consulate general in Toronto.

Watch: Exclusive interview with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein

Updated: March 25, 2024, 6:45 AM