US, Iraq hold online strategic dialogue over bilateral ties

Baghdad and Washington held an initial session of strategic dialogue by video conference to discuss bilateral ties and counter-terrorism efforts, as well as the presence of US-led coalition forces in Iraq, the Iraqi official television reported.

The Iraq team in Baghdad was led by Abdul Karim Hashim, the deputy minister for foreign affairs, while the Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker also participated in the US delegation to the virtual US-Iraq strategic dialogue, according to the reports on Thursday, Xinhua news agency reported.

The session started in the evening of Iraqi time and the two sides were scheduled to discuss the fate of the US-led troops deployed in Iraq after 2014 to support the Iraqi forces in the fight against the extremist Islamic State (IS) militants, the state-run Iraqiya channel said.

The dialogue would also discuss the economic situation and the financial crisis resulting from the sharp decline in oil prices, in addition to the country’s energy developing plans, according to the channel.

There was no immediate statement by the Iraqi authorities about the meeting after the end of the video conference.

Earlier, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said in a press conference that “the dialogue will be based on the opinions of al-Marjiyah, or Shiite religious leadership, the parliament and the needs of the Iraqi people.”

“We are focusing on Iraqi sovereignty and we want Iraq to be a ground for peace, not for conflict between the foreign powers,” al-Kadhimi said.

In April, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Washington and Baghdad will hold a strategic dialogue in mid-June to take a decision on the future of the presence of the US forces in Iraq.

The relations between Baghdad and Washington have witnessed a tension since January 3 after a US drone struck a convoy at Baghdad airport, which killed Qassem Soleimani, former commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of Iraq’s paramilitary Hashd Shaabi forces.

The US airstrike prompted the Iraqi parliament on January 5 to pass a resolution requiring the government to end the presence of foreign forces in Iraq.

Over 5,000 US troops have been deployed in Iraq to support the Iraqi forces in the battles against the IS militants, mainly providing training and advising to the Iraqi forces.