US, Iraq Meet for Talks After Pro-Iran Forces Threaten to Cut Off Iraqi PM’s Ear

by akoloy

BAGHDAD—The 2,500 U.S. troops stationed in Iraq because the begin of the Biden administration will proceed their coaching and advisory position for Iraqi safety forces (ISF), U.S. and Iraq delegates mentioned Wednesday, after Iraq referred to as for a 3rd spherical of strategic U.S.-Iraq talks.

According to a joint assertion issued by each international locations, “the transition of U.S. and other international forces away from combat operations to training, equipping, and assisting the ISF reflects the success of their strategic partnership.”

The ongoing partnership “ensures support to the ISF’s continued efforts to ensure ISIS can never again threaten Iraq’s stability,” the assertion learn.

During the talks, each international locations pressured the necessity for continued safety cooperation within the area to counter ISIS.

“U.S. forces are in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi Government for the sole purpose of supporting Iraqi forces in the campaign against ISIS, and of course, that campaign remains important and it remains ongoing,” the governments said.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, and Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hassan and his delegation, which included representatives of the Kurdistan Regional Government, attended the discussions.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said on Monday that the United States shares the Iraqi objective of “having a security force that’s capable of defending Iraq’s own sovereignty and denying terrorist groups the use of Iraq as a base for operations.”

He added, “The coalition continues to support partner forces in Iraq and in Syria with advising air support, provision of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and conditions-based equipment divestment.”

Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fuad Hassan mentioned in a press release throughout the talks that Iraq nonetheless wants U.S. assist associated to coaching, arming, and advising its army.

The talks—held nearly due to the pandemic—started in June underneath the Trump administration. Wednesday’s spherical, the primary underneath President Joe Biden, centered on an array of points, from Iraq’s power safety to the continued counterterrorism efforts.

Shiite political factions and militias loyal to Iran have been lobbying Iraqi politicians and making threats towards leaders within the hopes of forcing U.S. troops to fully depart Iraq.

Last week, native militias in Iraq loyal to Tehran threatened Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, demanding that he kick American troops in another country. A convoy of closely armed Shiite militiamen drove brazenly via Baghdad, denouncing the U.S. presence as they threatened to chop off al-Kadhimi’s ear.

Two Iraqi officers mentioned Wednesday that al-Kadhimi subsequently requested Iran’s leaders to rein in Iran-backed militias in Iraq and steered he would confront the pro-Iran factions. In the observe, al-Kadhimi threatened to “announce clearly who backs these groups,” the officers mentioned.

The message led to a two-day go to this week by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force chief Ismail Qaani to Baghdad, the place he met with militia and Shiite political leaders and referred to as for calm, based on a senior Iraqi Shiite politician.

The two Iraqi officers and the Shiite politician all spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t licensed to speak to reporters.

Pro-Iran factions in Iraq have been extra vocal and violent of their efforts to push out Western-backed forces within the nation, culminating in a visit by Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad final yr which resulted in his death. At the time, Shiite lawmakers had handed a non-binding decision in search of to finish U.S. troop presence in Iraq.

Iraq has additionally seen dozens of rocket assaults geared toward Coalition base round Baghdad over the previous few years, regarded as the work of pro-Iran militias, which have drawn counterattacks by Coalition and U.S. forces.

Iraqis are left feeling cut up between allying with the United States or Iran. Tehran, for example, seeks billions of {dollars} in fee for essential fuel and electrical energy provides to Iraq. Iraqi officers say the cash is sitting idle in an account on the Trade Bank of Iraq due to U.S. restrictions and fears of sanctions.

The Biden administration final month permitted a 120-day sanctions waiver for Iraq to proceed importing power from Iran, the utmost timeframe allowed. Waiver renewals underneath Trump had been typically for shorter durations and laden with situations.

However, Iraqi officers say they require U.S. leniency to repay Tehran immediately for the essential power imports, forgoing a fancy fee system designed to evade U.S. sanctions over buying and selling with Iran.

Iraq depends on Iranian provides for a 3rd of energy wants, particularly throughout peak summer season months. Electricity cuts over fee points resulted in violent protests within the southern province of Basra in the summertime of 2018. As Iraq plans for nationwide parliamentary elections in October, the necessity to keep away from unrest is excessive.

Currently, Iraq pays Iran not directly for the provides in a number of methods. It pays in humanitarian items or medicines, cancel Iran’s overseas debt, and foot payments reminiscent of Iranian Embassy bills, the prices of Iranian corporations working in Iraq and people of Iranian pilgrimages to Shiite holy websites in Iraq.

During the talks, the United States expressed ongoing assist for Iraq’s power independence, given its present reliance on Iran.

“The U.S. delegation reaffirmed that American companies can assist in this diversification by investing in projects that will create jobs, improve public services, and help develop the country’s energy resources,” the joint assertion learn.

“The United States expressed its support for Iraq’s efforts to reform its power sector so that its citizens have cheaper and more reliable electricity, and fewer power shortages. Both countries affirmed their support for Iraq diversifying its sources of energy by building greater ties to its neighbors in Jordan and in the Gulf Cooperation Council, including by moving forward with electric grid interconnection projects.”

Iraqi army spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool mentioned after the talks that al-Kadhimi has ordered the formation of a committee that will maintain technical talks with the American aspect to approve “mechanisms and timings” associated to potential troop redeployments.

“Based on the increasing capacity of the ISF, the parties confirmed that the mission of U.S. and Coalition forces has now transitioned to one focused on training and advisory tasks, thereby allowing for the redeployment of any remaining combat forces from Iraq, with the timing to be established in upcoming technical talks,” the joint assertion learn.

Kirby mentioned the assertion doesn’t characterize an settlement to start an extra withdrawal of U.S. forces.

The Trump administration supported a drawdown of U.S. troops from areas like Iraq whereas saying that some would stay to assist Iraqi forces.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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