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Pence gives new Iraq prime minister a warm embrace ahead of expected U.S. visit

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Pence gives new Iraq prime minister a warm embrace ahead of expected U.S. visit

A potential mid-August summit could focus on Iraq's needs for debt relief, stable electricity, trade and security and Trump's desire to bring troops home.

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
By John Solomon and Susan Katz Keating
Updated: August 6, 2020 - 11:53pm


Vice President Mike Pence is giving Iraq's new prime minister a warm embrace ahead of an expected visit to the White House later this month, saying the administration has high hopes Mustafa al-Kadhimi can return his country to prosperity and peace after two decades of war.

Al-Kadhimi's visit, which U.S. officials told Just the News could happen Aug. 18-21, comes at a critical time for both Washington and Baghdad.

President Trump is looking for a partner to help him fulfill one of his last open campaign promises — to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq after 17 years of war.

Al-Kadhimi, who earned U.S. trust as the country's intelligence chief before being named prime minister in April, is looking for urgent help to boost Iraq's sagging economy, which has been stifled by war, sectarian strife, the pandemic and a sudden drop in oil prices and a shortage of electricity during a long, hot summer.

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As the meeting between al-Kadhimi and Trump draws near, several ideas have been floating around Washington for how the West can assist Baghdad on its most pressing issues: maintaining and growing security stability, rooting out long-rampant corruption and jump-starting a long-stalled economy made worse by COVID-19 and low oil prices in recent months.

Among the ideas being discussed in official and unofficial policy arenas:

   Creating an oil marketing and distribution agreement between Iraq's oil ministry and the Kurdish Regional Government, an idea first floated late in the Obama administration and renewed in recent weeks under Trump as an American energy company has offered its assistance for such a plan.

   Seeking debt relief and economic investment from some of Iraq's Arab neighbors

   Converting some U.S. tax dollars committed to supporting U.S. troops on Iraqi soil in 2021 and 2022 to provide either debt relief or economic investment to help Baghdad to jump-start its economy, produce more electricity and keep its government from hitting its debt limits.

   Continuing to transfer more of the daily security tasks from U.S. troops to Iraqi forces as the latter continue to improve capabilities.

   Finding ways to lessen the threat from Iran-backed militias that for years have created violence, strife and chaos on the streets

The stakes and rewards for both country's leaders are high: Trump is widely known to want to complete his promised drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq, and al-Kadhimi needs signs of rapid economic, political and security progress to strengthen his hold on power to a degree that his predecessors as prime minister failed to achieve.

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A Washington meeting will provide "an opportunity to put this relationship on a normal path. If the PM comes to Washington, it will be an important step in a bilateral relationship."

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