US diplomats reach out to Maliki as troop presence issue revisited by Sadr

Photo Credit: Twitter/@AlhurraIraq

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SULAIMANI — In response to moves to reassess the Status of Forces Agreement with the United States by Moqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon List and other Shia groups, US diplomats have sought to rekindle its relationship with the leader of the State of Law Coalition, Nouri al-Maliki.

Sairoon is reportedly looking to introduce legislation in parliament to revisit the legal basis for allowing US troops to be deployed to Iraq.

Maliki's media office said in a press statement Friday (January 25) that “the official in charge of Iraq and Iran affairs in the State Department, [Deputy Assistant Secretary of State] Andrew Peek, held talks with the leader of the State of Law Coalition, Nouri al-Maliki, in Baghdad.”

The meeting was reported by al-Hurra, a US based, Arabic-language satellite channel.

He added that “during the meeting, which was attended by US Ambassador Douglas Silliman, the two sides discussed the latest political and security situation and the ongoing efforts to complete the cabinet cabin, in addition to discussing the issue of the presence of US forces in Iraq.”

According to the statement, Maliki called for “continued joint work between the two countries, noting that Iraq pursues bilateral relations with countries based on their interests and common challenges.”

The presence of US troops has become increasingly controversial as the country tries to balance ties between Iran and the US.

The US has several thousand troops in Iraq, most of whom serve as trainers for Iraqi and Peshmerga units.

It also comes at a time when the US has just lost one of its most influential voices in Iraqi affairs: Brett McGurk.

McGurk resigned as special presidential envoy to the anti-Islamic State Coalition stemming from disagreements over the administration’s Syria policy. He had been heavily involved in the US’ Iraq portfolio over the course of two administrations.

Sadr has long been a critic of the presence of US troops in the country and ran in last year's election on a platform appealing to Iraqi nationalism.

(NRT Digital Media)