Biden hosts Iraqi Prime Minister for talks on security and economy

Biden hosts Iraqi Prime Minister for talks on security and economy

Shafaq News/ The US President Joe Biden is set to host Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani on Monday evening for discussions as Mideast tensions rise after Iran's recent attack on Israel.

The Washington Post (WP) highlighted the importance of the meeting, noting that it will cover a range of topics, including regional stability, economic cooperation, and the potential deployment of American forces.

While US forces will be part of the agenda, the primary focus remains on broader issues affecting Iraq and the Middle East, such as energy and trade, which are now priorities for the Iraqi government.

Senior US officials, including President Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, are expected to engage in separate discussions with PM Al-Sudani.

According to WP, Iran's recent attacks targeting Israel via Iraqi airspace have raised alarm bells in Washington.

Despite Al-Sudani's efforts to navigate a delicate balance between Iran and the United States since assuming office in late 2022, his government was facing many challenges in rapprochement between the two sides.

On Sunday, the Committee of Security and Defense in the Iraqi Parliament refuted claims regarding Iraq's advanced knowledge of Iran's drone and missile attack on Israel.

Committee rapporteur Ali Nehmeh clarified to Shafaq News that "Iraq was taken by surprise by the timing of Iran's response and had no agreement with Tehran to allow Iranian drones or missiles through its airspace. The decision to halt air traffic came as a precautionary measure after the attack, with Iraq playing no role in Iran's actions."

A government source familiar with the situation suggested that Tehran may have refrained from informing Baghdad of the attack's timing to prevent leaks, noting that Iran had notified several regional countries three days prior, as Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian stated.

Amir-Abdollahian had earlier informed Washington that the attacks on Israel would be "limited" and in self-defense, with neighboring countries, including Iraq, reportedly notified 72 hours in advance.

The recent strike by Iran against Israel in response to the targeting of its annex in Damascus has sent ripples of caution throughout the Middle East. This event has heightened apprehensions about the potential fallout on Iraq as the region braces for a possible escalation into a regional war, with the involvement of various factions, including the Islamic Resistance in Iraq (IRI), Tehran's military allies in Iraq, including powerful groups such as Kataeb Hezbollah and Harakat Al-Nujabaa.

In this regard, Dr. Azhar Al-Gharbawi, an expert in international relations, warned of war expansion to involve Iraq, acknowledging the likelihood of Israel targeting Iranian-affiliated institutions in Iraq.

She stated, "The interplay of regional dynamics, particularly Iran's influence within Iraqi security sectors, underscores the strategic calculations behind these responses amidst escalating tensions."

Dr. Al-Gharbawi stressed Iraq's pivotal role in managing the tensions by advocating for an independent position through official statements that condemn violence and extremism.

"This stance aligns with Iraq's historical position against normalization with Israel, highlighting a commitment to peaceful resolutions and adherence to international norms."

According to Dr. Firas Elias, a professor of strategy and national security, "The ongoing escalation between Iran and Israel stands out as a significant security challenge in the Middle East, with potential ramifications across various fronts indirectly involved in the conflict between Israel and Iran and their regional proxies,"

Elias added, "Iraq is among the forefront nations facing the dangers and complexities of this escalation, given its history of enduring various attacks, whether from the United States or in response to Iran's actions, such as its involvement in Syria or support for Hamas during the Gaza conflict..there's substantial concern that Iraq may become a focal point for further escalation in the near future."

Elias pointed out, "This tension arises as Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani visits Washington, seeking to realign Iraq within the context of US policy in the region, encompassing military, economic, and political support. As a result, there are notable risks associated with Iraq's standing in international and regional politics should Iran opt to utilize Iraq as a theater for retaliating against Israel."

Based on this, Elias emphasized that "Iraq is required to neutralize the Iraqi arena from this escalation within the framework that preserves Iraqi national interests. Iran is also required to neutralize the Iraqi arena from such escalation because it is also in Iran's interest for the Iraqi arena to be stable."

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