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Iraq’s Sudani faces US pressure to fix problems with Kurds ahead of Washington visit

Resolving ongoing disputes between Baghdad and Erbil is a matter of priority for Washington.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani meets with US national security advisor Jake Sullivan in Davos on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Jan. 16, 2024.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani is expected to make his first formal visit to the White House in April since taking power in October 2022, and while the sides are close to finalizing a date, there is growing pressure on his government to improve fraught ties with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), according to well-placed sources with close knowledge of the deliberations.

The pressure was palpable during Sudani’s meeting with national security advisor Jake Sullivan on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, according to two of the sources. One of the sources speaking on condition of anonymity told Al-Monitor, “Sullivan told Sudani his visit should be in a good context, one in which progress was seen in the relationship with Erbil.”

Baghdad continues to withhold Erbil’s share of the national budget and refuses to authorize the resumption of oil exports from a KRG pipeline running to Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. At the same time, the Iraqi Federal Court, which was established prior to the promulgation of Iraq’s constitution, continues to issue decisions aimed at undercutting the KRG’s constitutionally enshrined autonomy, decreeing recently that all oil and non-oil revenues be placed under Baghdad’s control. 

Red carpets or red lines?

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