Haider Al-Abadi visit highlights continued US-Iraq partnership

This file photo taken on February 18, 2017 shows US Vice President Michael Richard Pence (R) and Iraq's Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi as they shake hands ahead of bilateral talks at the 53rd Munich Security Conference (MSC) at the Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich, southern Germany. (AFP)
Updated 09 March 2017

Haider Al-Abadi visit highlights continued US-Iraq partnership

WASHINGTON: This week has so far boded well for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi.
On Monday his country was removed from the US government’s revised travel ban, on Tuesday he visited liberated areas of Mosul, and now his upcoming trip to Washington has been confirmed by the Trump administration, to take place the week of March 19.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer announced the visit in Tuesday’s briefing.
If no other announcements on regional leaders visiting Washington that same week or before are made, Al-Abadi will be the first Arab leader to officially visit the Trump White House.
Analysts that Arab News spoke to about the visit stressed the “vital partnership” between Baghdad and Washington in coordinating but also looking beyond the fight against Daesh.
Executive Order
The Washington visit, the first for Al-Abadi since 2015, comes on a high note for him, said Randa Slim, director of the Track II Dialogues initiative at The Middle East Institute. “Excluding Iraq from the second Executive Order (EO) was a win for Al-Abadi,” she said.
In the five weeks that separated the two versions of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, Slim said Al-Abadi “was criticized by his political opponents for his responsible and reserved response to the first EO. The latest development (taking Iraq off the list) has vindicated his careful choice of words.”
The New York Times credited Al-Abadi’s negotiations with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as part of the reason that led to the removal. Al-Abadi also held a phone conversation with Trump on Feb. 10, and according to CNN an “in-person conversation with Vice President Mike Pence in Munich on Feb. 18.”
While Iraq lobby groups in Washington helped the push to remove the country from the list, as reported by The Hill, Tillerson lauded Al-Abadi as he announced the order.
He attributed Al-Abadi’s “positive engagement and support for implementing these actions” as criteria to delisting Iraq, adding that the country “is an important ally in the fight to defeat ISIS (Daesh), with their brave soldiers fighting in close coordination with America’s men and women in uniform.”
Crowded agenda
In his first meeting with Trump, Al-Abadi will likely stress “the partnership in the war against Daesh, which Trump has made his top priority in the Middle East,” said Daniel Serwer, director of the Conflict Management Program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
In the battle for Mosul particularly, where Iraqi forces and allied groups have made advances in the last month, “a lot depends on both the regular Iraqi security forces and the (mostly Shiite) Popular Mobilization Forces that Baghdad provides, in addition to the Kurdish Peshmerga that Irbil has made available,” added Serwer. Al-Abadi “is critical to maintaining that joint military effort.”
Beyond Mosul, Serwer said Al-Abadi “will want to develop a rapport with Trump that helps Iraq to recover from what amounts to a civil war.”
One of the concerns Al-Abadi might have is “Kurdish independence ambitions, which are likely to emerge as a major issue once the Islamic State (Daesh) is defeated.” He will test the waters on Trump’s ambiguous position so far on the Kurdish question, said Serwer.
Politically, Al-Abadi’s visit “can be double-edged,” said Slim. “It shows Al-Abadi’s ability to strike an independent position vis-a-vis Iran at a time the Trump administration is endorsing a more hawkish policy toward Iran in the Middle East.” This sentiment, Slim said, “should go down well in the Arab region, especially the Gulf.” But his visit “could be used by his political opponents at home to position him in the camp critical of Iran, especially as Iraq prepares to enter an election season.”
Serwer saw the counter-Iran push as one that preceded the Trump administration. “The Americans in the past have wanted Al-Abadi to resist Iranian political, economic and military pressure, and to provide for some sort of demobilization of the Popular Mobilization Forces post-Mosul, as well as more inclusion of Sunnis in Iraq’s governance.”
This attitude “will likely continue, but it is unclear whether the Trump administration will worry about Iraq’s internal stability or try to withdraw American forces quickly and leave Baghdad to its own devices.”
In the Trump administration, Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser HR McMaster, both of whom served in Iraq, “will set the tone for the US-Iraq relationship,” said Slim.
This could lead to a departure from the Obama policy, with both generals advancing “a long-term process and mechanism for the US military to stay in Iraq in advisory and training capacities,” Slim added. Such plans will rely on Al-Abadi’s efforts and political fortunes, which he is hoping to improve during his Washington visit.


Trump warns Iran’s supreme leader to be ‘careful with his words’

Updated 18 January 2020

Trump warns Iran’s supreme leader to be ‘careful with his words’

  • “Their economy is crashing, and their people are suffering. He should be very careful with his words!” Trump tweeted

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Friday warned Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to be “very careful with his words.”
“The so-called ‘Supreme Leader’ of Iran, who has not been so Supreme lately, had some nasty things to say about the United States and Europe,” Trump tweeted of Khamenei’s comments earlier Friday in Tehran.

According to Trump, Khamenei’s blistering speech, in which he attacked the “vicious” United States and described Britain, France and Germany as “America’s lackey’s,” was a mistake.
“Their economy is crashing, and their people are suffering. He should be very careful with his words!” Trump tweeted.