Biden to Host Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Sudani for Talks on Islamic State Coalition

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On Friday, the White House announced that President Joe Biden plans to host Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani in April. The White House said the leaders will discuss a “range of issues,” including the fight against the Islamic State.

While White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated the leaders would discuss a “shared commitment to the lasting defeat of ISIS,” formal talks were initiated in January between the two countries about ending the coalition that was created a decade ago to help the Iraqi government fight the Islamic State terrorist organization. Currently, 2,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq under an agreement with Baghdad, amid growing calls from Iraqi officials for their withdrawal. 

In a statement, Al-Sudani’s office said that the pair will discuss the “future relationship” between their countries and the “best ways to transition to a comprehensive partnership between the Republic of Iraq and the United States.” This will be the Prime Minister’s first visit to Washington, D.C., after previously having been invited by Vice President Kamala Harris in 2023. The visit never occurred for undisclosed reasons. 

The relationship remains delicate between the two countries due to Iran’s considerable influence in Iraq, including the coalition of Iran-backed groups that brought al-Sudani to power in October 2022. Economic policies will also be at the forefront of discussions between POTUS and the Prime Minister, according to the White House.

Jean-Pierre said,

They will also discuss ongoing Iraqi financial reforms to promote economic development and progress towards Iraq’s energy independence and modernization.

In recent months, the United States has been urging Iraq to increase efforts to prevent attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria, following Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7. Additionally, the U.S. has been applying financial pressure on Baghdad regarding its relationship with Tehran. This includes restricting Iraq’s access to its own currency, in order to combat money laundering activities that support Iran and Syria.

The announcement comes in the wake of terrorist attacks in Russia, which have claimed the lives of 137 people attending a concert hall in Moscow, which the international terrorist organization Islamic State claimed responsibility for. 

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The upcoming visit coincides with the one-year mark since the kidnapping of Elizabeth Tsurkov in Baghdad. Tsurkov, a Princeton University student of Israeli-Russian descent, is believed to be held by the Iran-backed terrorist militia, Kataib Hezbollah. On Thursday, Elizabeth’s sister, Emma Tsurkov, called on the State Department to designate Iraq as a state sponsor of terrorism. She also urged the White House to make the meeting with Prime Minister al-Sudani contingent on securing her sister’s release. 

During an event outside the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, Emma condemned the meeting, saying,

I am appalled that Sudani will be allowed to shake President Biden’s hand while his other hand holds the keys to my sister’s shackles.

The Iraqi Prime Minister’s visit is scheduled for April 15. We’ll keep you posted.

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