Iraq-US strategic dialogue to launch amid tempered expectations

Baghdad and Washington are poised to launch strategic talks on Thursday to reset ties after months of tensions.

However, even with a new US-friendly Iraqi premier, a major breakthrough is unlikely.

Bilateral ties had been at their “coldest” in years, Iraqi and US officials said, following deadly rocket attacks on American military and diplomatic sites since last year.

Tensions skyrocketed following a US strike on Baghdad in January that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, prompting Iraqi legislators to vote in favour of ousting all foreign troops.

Washington threatened crippling sanctions.

But the tensions have calmed substantially since Mustafa al-Kadhimi – the country’s former intelligence chief who has close ties to the US and its allies in the region – took the reins as Iraq’s premier in May.

Two Iraqi officials said al-Kadhimi has been invited to the White House this year, a diplomatic olive branch his predecessor Adel Abdul Mahdi never received.

“There was a lack of confidence in the relationship with the previous government, and we’re not there anymore,” one of the officials said.

Troops in the balance

The session, planned for 13:00 GMT, includes a range of diplomatic, military and economic staff from both countries that will split into follow-up committees.

The main event will be the fate of US-led troops, deployed in Iraq from 2014 to head a military coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group.

“Whatever comes out of the dialogue is going to set the future of our strategic relationship,” an American official from the coalition told the AFP news agency.

 

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