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Iraq deputy Prime Minister in US meeting, calls for regional restraint

April 15, 2024 at 5:07 pm

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Tamim (L) wait to speak at the State Department April 15, 2024 in Washington, DC [Win McNamee/Getty Images]

Iraq called on all parties to show restraint amid soaring tensions between neighbouring Iran and Israel, Deputy Prime Minister, Muhammad Ali Tamim, said on Monday, as talks on the complex US-Iraq relationship began in Washington, Reuters reports.

The meetings come as US ally, Israel, weighs its response to Iran’s weekend missile and drone retaliatory attack, with the United States and Europe urging restraint.

Tamim, who co-chaired a meeting of the US-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee with US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said Iraq was concerned about its region being “dragged into a wider war that will threaten international security and safety”.

“And therefore we call on all parties for self restraint and respect the rules of diplomatic works and also international laws,” he said.

Iraq is a rare ally of both Washington and Tehran. Iraqi airspace was a main route for Iran’s unprecedented drone and ballistic missile attack on Israel, and Iraqi officials say Iran informed them, as well as other countries in the region, ahead of the attack.

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A delegation led by Prime Minister, Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani, will meet officials across Washington on Monday, including President Joe Biden and Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin.

US and other Western officials have welcomed economic reform plans put forward by Sudani, but concerns remain over the influence of Iran-backed groups. Shia Muslim armed groups have engaged in tit-for-tat attacks on US forces linked to Israel’s war in Gaza.

The US invaded Iraq in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein and withdrew in 2011, only for troops to return in 2014 to help fight Daesh after the extremist Sunni Muslim militant group overran large parts of the country.

Washington and Baghdad are in talks over ending the US-led military coalition in the country, although the Higher Coordinating Committee is tasked with discussing other aspects of the relationship, including economic ties.

Blinken, who reiterated that Washington does not want to see the regional conflict swell, said the meetings would focus on issues including energy security, democracy, the rule of law, climate and water, and noted US private sector interest, especially in Iraq’s energy sector.

“Through these efforts we look forward to helping advance the Prime Minister’s affirmative agenda, and seeing Iraq succeed,” Blinken said.

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