BAGHDAD: Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani left Baghdad on Saturday for the United States, his office said, where he will meet with the US president as regional tensions flare.

US President Joe Biden is due to receive the Iraqi leader on Monday to “coordinate on common priorities” and discuss the “evolution of the military mission” of the “US-led anti-jihadist coalition” in Iraq and Syria, according to the White House.

The trip comes after Iran threatened to retaliate for deadly strikes, blamed on Israel, on its consulate in the Syrian capital Damascus. Biden has said he expects Tehran to take action “sooner rather than later”.

“This official visit occurs at a delicate and sensitive time in the relations with the United States, as well as in the context of regional conditions and the ongoing crimes against innocents in the Palestinian territories,” a statement from Sudani’s office said.

The surging tensions come against the backdrop of the escalation in Israeli attacks in Gaza.

The “meeting with President Biden will discuss the regional issues and the current escalations, focusing on the joint efforts to promote calm and prevent the conflict from widening, which could impact global stability,” Sudani’s office added.

In recent months, armed groups have carried out a slew of attacks on US soldiers deployed to the Middle East, in support of Palestinians. Washington has responded with several strikes on the factions. But tensions have subsided between the US and Iraq.

An aim of the talks is to establish “a timeline to end the coalition’s mission and transition to bilateral relations with the coalition member states”, Sudani’s office said.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2024

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