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New Iraqi PM to kick off first foreign tour with US, Saudi Arabia, Iran visits

Iraqi PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi is planning to visit the US [Prime Ministry of Iraq/Handout/Anadolu/Getty]

Date of publication: 19 June, 2020

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Iraq's new Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi is planning his first foreign tour.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi is planning his first foreign tour since he took office last month with visits to a number of countries including the United States.

Iraqi officials told The New Arab's Arabic-language service that the tour, expected to start next month, has multiple objectives, the most prominent of which is to support Iraq as it grapples with its current financial crisis.

Two government officials, both of whom spoke separately with The New Arab, said the tour may take place towards the end of July.

The officials said Prime Minister Al-Kadhimi would visit the United States, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Mahmoud Jawad, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Iraqi parliament, told The New Arab's Arabic language service that "Kadhimi's upcoming foreign tour may be necessary at this time in order to secure funds and support for Iraq".

If the tour goes ahead, the prime minister will be expected to share details of his meetings with Iraq's parliament, Jawad added.

Iraqi political analyst Ahmed Al-Sharifi said in an interview with The New Arab that it is important for the Iraqi government to have a clear domestic policy before going abroad.

"Mustafa Al-Kadhimi's government must resolve domestic files, and then go to foreign policy and engage in dialogue with countries," he said.

"The countries that Al-Kadhimi intends to visit may offer limited support to Iraq, as countries support only stable governments and stable political systems, and the current situation in Iraq is unstable," Al-Sharifi added.

Iraq has been rocked by major protests against unemployment and corruption since October last year.

Iraq's economy relies heavily on oil exports, with faltering prices and low demand drastically shrinking the government's ability to pay wages, pensions and welfare to eight million Iraqis.

Read more: Protesters return to Iraqi streets despite coronavirus pandemic, accusing PM of stalling reforms

The protests led to the resignation of former Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi. Al-Kadhimi took over as his successor in April after a long period of political deadlock.

US - Iraq relations

The United States said last week that it would reduce the number of its troops in Iraq in the coming months as friction between the two countries eased under a new prime minister in Baghdad.

Tensions skyrocketed following a US strike on Baghdad in January that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, with lawmakers in Baghdad demanding the expulsion of the roughly 5,200 US troops in the country.

President Donald Trump responded by threatening crippling sanctions and, according to US military sources, Washington began planning a vast bombing spree against militias blamed for rocket attacks on US forces.

Due to coronavirus travel restrictions, top-level talks originally scheduled to take place in Baghdad were demoted to a brief online discussion session.

Tensions have calmed substantially between Iraq and the US since Al-Kadhimi – a former head of Iraqi intelligence with close ties to the US and its allies in the region – became Iraq's prime minister in May.

Two Iraqi officials had earlier confirmed that Kadhimi has been invited to the White House this year, a diplomatic olive branch his predecessor Adel Abdel Mahdi had never received.

The United States said it would look to encourage investment and promote economic reform in Iraq.

The Iraq Report: Mustafa al-Kadhimi takes the helm in stormy political waters

After Kadhimi took charge, the United States extended a waiver from American sanctions to let Iraq keep importing much-needed gas from Iran, although the exemption runs out in September.

Former premier Abdel Mahdi stepped down in December following unprecedented protests over government graft and unemployment that saw tens of thousands of demonstrators hit the streets in the capital and Shia-majority south.

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