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Biden to meet with Iraqi prime minister at White House

July 17, 2021 GMT
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Friday, July 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Friday, July 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Friday, July 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden will meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi later this month in Washington, the White House said Friday.

The meeting set for July 26 comes at a pivotal point in the U.S.-Iraq relationship, and amid growing concerns about more frequent attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.

There have been at least eight drone attacks targeting the U.S. presence since Biden took office in January, as well as 17 rocket attacks.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden “also looks forward to strengthening bilateral cooperation with Iraq on political, economic and security issues to include joint efforts to ensure the enduring defeat” of the Islamic State militant group.

The attacks on U.S. forces have been blamed on the Iranian-backed militias that make up the bulk of Iraq’s state-supported Popular Mobilization Forces.

The Biden administration has responded by twice targeting Iraqi militia groups operating inside Syria, including one close to the Iraq border.

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The relationship has been complicated since last year’s U.S. drone strike killing of Iran’s expeditionary Quds Force commander Qassim Soleimani and senior Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis at Baghdad International Airport. That strike was ordered by then-President Donald Trump.

But with the Biden administration seeking to revive an Obama-era nuclear accord with Iran, there have been signs that Iran is looking to curb, at least for now, militia attacks on the U.S.

Soleimani’s successor Esmail Ghaani last month called on Iranian-backed militias to remain calm until after nuclear talks between Iran and the United States, The Associated Press reported last week.