By Omar Sattar for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
After the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun on April 4, followed by the US airstrike on a Syrian air base April 7, tension between Iraq and the United States escalated significantly.
The United States has made it very clear to Iraq that it wants its ally in fighting terrorism to distance itself from Iran. During Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s visit to the United States last month, Abadi and US President Donald Trump discussed Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), which indicates that the United States is seeking to bring Baghdad and Riyadh closer and to curb the Iranian role in the region. The visit sparked much controversy in Iraq among Shiite parties.
Moreover, Trump explicitly criticized the Iran nuclear deal in front of Abadi. A few days later, Trump sent his senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner to Iraq to discuss US support to Iraq in the fight against the Islamic State. The visit was read as a sign that the “Trump administration sees Iraq as a place to push back on the growing power of Iran across the region.”
Al-Monitor learned from a source close to the prime minister who asked to not be named that limiting Iran’s role in Iraq was at the top of the list of the issues discussed between the two parties.
The National Iraqi Alliance said it was not aware of the details and meeting schedule of Abadi with the American administration. Other Shiite political parties expressed discontent with the visit, especially following the statement of Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi security and political expert, in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. Hashimi said he received information from the Iraqi delegation to Washington that “the American discussed with Abadi the danger of ‘believers in the velayat-e faqih [a jab at Iranians] and the need to keep them out of the PMU.”