Delegation departs Baghdad

Iraqi PM heads to DC for meeting with US President Joe Biden

BAGHDAD — Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani has left Baghdad for Washington, D.C., on Saturday, where he is set to participate in the inaugural meeting of the U.S.-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee. This high-level committee, as outlined by officials from both nations, will delve into a diverse array of topics, including trade, energy, investment, transportation, education, culture, anti-corruption measures, and the recovery of public funds.

Prior to his departure, Al-Sudani issued a statement highlighting the delicate timing of his visit amidst sensitive developments in Iraq’s relations with Washington and regional dynamics, particularly concerning the ongoing violence in Palestinian territories and an anticipated response to Israel by Iran for an attack on its consulate in Damascus, Syria. The White House has indicated that during his visit, discussions with President Biden on April 15 will cover the evolution of the mission of the anti-jihadist coalition in Iraq and Syria into a “sustainable strategic partnership based on mutual respect.”

The primary objective of Al-Sudani’s visit is to usher Iraq-U.S. relations into a “new phase”. He aims to activate the terms outlined in the Strategic Framework Agreement, aligning with his government’s emphasis on economic and financial reforms and the cultivation of robust global partnerships. According to Al-Sudani, this visit comes at a “delicate and sensitive” time, referencing not only bilateral relations but also the broader regional situation, including the war in Gaza and recent threats by Iran to retaliate against Israeli actions in Damascus.

The Strategic Framework Agreement for a Relationship of Friendship and Cooperation between the United States and the Republic of Iraq is a pivotal bilateral treaty signed in 2008. This agreement laid the groundwork for the long-term relationship between the two countries following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

During his meeting with President Joe Biden, Al-Sudani will address these regional tensions and explore the roles both countries can play in de-escalation efforts. The discussions will extend to the operations of the military committee between Iraq and the International Coalition, with a focus on establishing a timeline for concluding the coalition’s mission and transitioning toward bilateral relations with member states. Al-Sudani is facing pressure from Shia politicians aligned with Iran to eject U.S.-led Western forces from Iraq.

In D.C., Al-Sudani is scheduled to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. Additionally, he will participate in dialogues with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and key executives from the oil and industrial sectors. Discussions will also touch on energy sectors, investments by American companies in Iraq, and ongoing banking reforms. 

Relations between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government will also be on the agenda, following a series of federal court verdicts that the KRG sees as undermining Kurdistan Region autonomy. Accompanying Al-Sudani on this diplomatic mission is a delegation that includes Safeen Dizayee, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s foreign relations department.

AFP contributed to this report.