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President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Shia al-Sudani this week, amidst escalating tensions across the Middle East due to ongoing conflicts in Gaza and Iran’s recent attack on Israel in retaliation for an Israeli strike in Syria. The American military presence in Iraq has come under scrutiny as Iran-backed groups launching attacks against U.S. interests in the region from Iraq. The talks between Biden and al-Sudani will focus on regional stability, economic issues, future troop deployments, and ongoing security concerns.

There are ongoing discussions between the U.S. and Iraq regarding the coalition created to combat the Islamic State, under which 2,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq. While Iraqi officials have called for a withdrawal of these forces, Iran’s influence in Iraq adds complexity to the relationship between the two countries. The U.S. has urged Iraq to prevent attacks on U.S. bases in the region, and has also applied financial pressure to limit Iraq’s access to its own dollars in an effort to curb money laundering benefiting Iran and Syria.

Al-Sudani’s visit to Washington has been postponed due to tensions between the U.S. and Iran, the Gaza conflict, and the killing of three U.S. soldiers in Jordan. Since becoming prime minister in late 2022, al-Sudani has sought to navigate a delicate relationship between Iran and the U.S., despite being seen as aligned with Tehran. His government has faced challenges related to security incidents, economic development, corruption, and discrepancies in currency exchange rates, with the U.S. tightening the dollar supply to Iraq as part of efforts to combat money laundering.

Al-Sudani’s government has struggled with economic issues, including issues with the Iraqi dinar’s exchange rate against the U.S. dollar. The U.S. crackdown on money laundering has led to restrictions on Iraqi banks’ dealings in dollars. Additionally, the renewed contract for Iraq to purchase natural gas from Iran for another five years could strain relations with the U.S. Al-Sudani is expected to meet with the Turkish president following his visit to Washington, which could help resolve disputes over oil exports from Kurdish areas of Iraq to Turkey, a matter of interest to the U.S.

The visit comes at a critical time, as tensions in the region have heightened due to recent attacks and conflicts, further highlighting the challenges faced by both Iraq and the U.S. in maintaining stability and security in the region. The discussions between Biden and al-Sudani will touch upon a range of topics, including regional security, economic issues, and the status of U.S. troops in Iraq. This meeting will provide an opportunity for both leaders to address the pressing issues facing their countries and the wider Middle East region.

Ultimately, the talks between Biden and al-Sudani will be crucial in addressing the complex security, economic, and political challenges faced by Iraq and the U.S. The future of the American military presence in Iraq, relations with Iran, economic development, and regional stability will all be key topics of discussion. As tensions continue to escalate in the Middle East, finding ways to navigate these challenges and build stronger partnerships will be essential for both countries in ensuring peace and security in the region.

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