US set for 'historic' Iraq investments: PM Al-Kadhimi
A now-completed Iraq-US strategic dialogue will bring extensive American investment to Iraq, the country's Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi said in an interview aired on Tuesday.
Over the course of the meetings in Washington, memorandums were signed for US investment in a broad range of Iraqi sectors, which Kadhimi told state television channel Al-Iraqiya was a "historic" and "golden" opportunity for Baghdad.
US companies will help develop Iraq's ailing energy and health sectors, Kadhimi said, which have suffered underfunding and poor management resulting in huge suffering for Iraqis.
Tragedy struck Iraq when a fire engulfed a Covid isolation unit at the Al-Hussein hospital in Nasiriyah, the south of the country, killing at least 60 people. A similar fire occurred at a hospital in Baghdad in April.
The fires served as a gruesome reminder of the dilapidated state of Iraq's health infrastructure.
Iraq has registered a record-high in Covid cases in recent days, adding extra strain to healthcare.
The country's national grid is failing to supply Iraqis with the electricity they need to cope with the sweltering summer heat.
Iraq's failing energy infrastructure has led to angry protests in the country and a bloody crackdown by Iran-linked militias and security forces.
Much of the focus on the strategic dialogue has been on the agreement on the withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq, announced on Monday night.
There are currently 2,500 US troops in Iraq focusing on countering the remnants of the Islamic State group but have been subject to frequent rocket attacks by Iran-linked militias.
The US role in Iraq will shift entirely to training and advising the Iraqi military in defending itself rather than combat missions.
They are set to leave Iraq by New Year’s Eve 2021, according to a statement from Al-Kadhimi's office released Monday.
The shift is not expected to have a major impact since the US already moved toward focusing on training Iraqi forces since the defeat of IS.
Some analysts say the pull-out could strengthen Iran's hand in the country, whose influence has grown since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent government campaign against IS. US troops have played a more active role in Iraq since the IS invasion of northern Iraq in 2014, supporting government forces.
Hours after the announcement of an Iraq-US agreement on troop withdrawal, Ismail Qaani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force - who replaced slain General Qassem Soleimani - was in Baghdad.
Sources told The New Arab’s sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that Qaani met with forces and political factions allied to Tehran to discuss Al-Kadhimi's agreement with Washington.
Qaani has frequently made unannounced visits to Baghdad, often after attacks on US military and diplomatic sites by Iran-backed militias.
Several powerful pro-Iran groups in Iraq on Tuesday welcomed the announcement of the an of US combat operations in the country, an outcome they have long demanded.
The US announced last week that it would give Iraq $155 million in new humanitarian assistance for internally displaced people and refugees.