Sudani's visit to Washington

Military and economic relations on top of the agenda

BAGHDAD — Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani is set to embark on his inaugural official visit to Washington in mid-April, marking a significant milestone nearly a year and a half into his tenure.

The timing of this visit is particularly notable against the backdrop of evolving dynamics in his relationship with allies within the Shia Coordination Framework. The Framework is a coalition primarily comprising pro-Iran Shia groups shaping Iraq’s government

Sources within the Framework have revealed to 964media that party leaders anticipate Prime Minister Al-Sudani’s visit to yield “American facilitations,” including the potential lifting of Washington’s sanctions against Iraqi individuals and banks.

This expectation stems from Al-Sudani’s perceived success in de-escalating tensions between Iraqi armed factions and U.S. forces in Iraq.

However, amidst these expectations, there is anticipation of a “hostile campaign” against Al-Sudani, fueled by efforts from Framework leaders to curtail his influence, a situation that may intensify following his meeting with President Joe Biden.

Some political factions view the visit as elevating Al-Sudani’s status beyond merit, reflecting broader tensions within the coalition.

Key aspects of the visit, according to three experts, revolve around resolving issues related to the dollar and sanctions imposed on Iraqi banks.

Notably, discussions on U.S. troop withdrawal appear somewhat muted, with emphasis placed on the broader bilateral relationship. Insiders within the Coordination Framework reveal a divergence of opinions regarding Al-Sudani’s White House invitation.

Political analyst Haitham Al-Khazali predicts that discussions during the visit will focus on aligning “the U.S.-Iraq relationship with the Strategic Framework Agreement” signed in 2008, with Al-Sudani advocating for the scheduling of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS withdrawal from Iraq.

The visit is also expected to “lead to a tangible improvement in the Iraqi economy,” with Al-Sudani pushing for increased investment and strengthening energy and banking ties between the two nations.

President Biden’s aim to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East underscores the significance of Al-Sudani’s visit, with a keen eye on mitigating conflicts that undermine Western and U.S. interests.

Academic and researcher Essam Al-Faili views the delayed visit as a concrete signal of Washington’s commitment to “establish a serious and good relationship with Baghdad” especially as the U.S. administration is closely monitoring Al-Sudani’s government performance.

Against the backdrop of the U.S. election season, the timing of Al-Sudani’s reception in Washington could offer political leverage for President Biden, who seeks to demonstrate his administration’s ability to address tensions with Iran in Iraq to the American public.

Political analyst Abbas Al-Ardawi suggests that recent attacks by pro-Iran resistance factions in Iraq have put pressure on Biden domestically, and the U.S. president may seek to “leverage [Al-Sudani’s] visit to his advantage during the election season.”