Salih, Biden reaffirm efforts to hold ‘credible’ elections in Iraq

Iraqi President Barham Salih meets U.S. President Joe Biden on the sidelines of U.N. General Assembly in New York, September 21, 2021. (Photo: Iraqi presidency)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Iraqi President Barham Salih and his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden on Tuesday reaffirmed efforts to hold “credible and transparent” elections in Iraq, according to the White House. 

Salih, who visited New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, met with Biden on the sidelines of the assembly.

The two leaders discussed strengthening the bilateral relationship and deepening cooperation on regional diplomatic initiatives, the White House said in a statement.

Biden stressed the U.S. commitment to Iraq’s long-term stability, the White House added.

They also reaffirmed “their respect for Iraq’s democracy, rule of law, and efforts to hold credible and transparent elections this October,” the statement read.

Iraq is scheduled to hold early elections on October 10, in response to the anti-government protests against corruption and lack of public services.

The previous parliamentary elections in Iraq were held on May 12, 2018, and the next elections were originally scheduled to take place in 2022.

Biden also lauded recent initiatives such as the Baghdad regional summit and the historic visit of Pope Francis to Iraq earlier this year as an “important symbol of Iraq’s contributions to regional stability and interfaith tolerance”, the White House said.

Salih affirmed that Iraq’s policy “is balanced and seeks to solve outstanding issues through diplomacy, avoid crisis, and Iraq’s central role to build peace”, the Iraqi presidency said in a separate statement.

Iraq is seeking to play a “unifying role” to tackle crises shaking the region, sources close to Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

Oil-rich Iraq has been caught for years in a delicate balancing act between its two main allies, Iran and the United States.

Iran exerts major clout in Iraq through allied armed groups within the Hashid al-Shaabi, a powerful state-sponsored paramilitary network.

In July, Biden said U.S. combat operations in Iraq would end this year, but that U.S. soldiers would continue to train, advise and support the country’s military in the fight against ISIS.

Washington currently has 2,500 troops deployed to Iraq.

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