BAGHDAD, April 8 -John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, arrived to Iraq in a visit to show his support for Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s prime minister, through the political crisis that the latter is coping with, despite the severe drop in economy and the restless fight against ISIS militants.
Aiming to set Iraqi ministries at liberty from the rule of a political class that has used the system of ethnic and sectarian quotas introduced after the invasion led by U.S. in 2003 to amass wealth and influence through corruption; the latter unsettled Iraq’s political elite, last week, with a proposed cabinet reshuffle that aims to curb entrenched corruption by replacing long-time politicians with technocrats and academics.
More importantly, the visit holds U.S. officials worries in regard of how might the current political unrest influence Iraq’s efforts to recapture territory it has lost to ISIS militants, notably its second city of Mosul, seized when parts of the Iraqi army collapsed in 2014. Kerry’s visit “will underscore our strong support for the Iraqi government as it addresses significant security, economic, and political challenges,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
Significant parts of the region around Hit, one of the most important towns northwest Baghdad (130 Km “80 miles”) were retaken in the past two weeks through air strikes by Iraqi forces backed by U.S. –led coalition. Noting that the commander of the operation said on Wednesday, that an offensive due to be the first stage of a campaign to retake the northern city of Mosul has been put on hold until reinforcements arrive to hold ground,
Through his visit to Iraq, Kerry seeks to encourage the Iraqis not to lose sight of the important need to keep an eye on fighting against ISIS, by the time they’re dealing with the cabinet reshuffle, stressing on the need “to plan steadily and carefully” to retake Mosul. Noting that a senior U.S. official in Washington stated earlier this week before Kerry flew to Iraq aboard a U.S. military aircraft, that the political wrangling in Iraq is unquestionably an issue that concerns U.S.
Moreover, Baghdad is also hamstrung by the plunge in global oil prices that has shriveled its main source of revenue. On Thursday, officials from the International Monetary Fund and the government said the oil price forecast in the 2016 budget would be cut to about $32 a barrel from $45, widening Iraq’s fiscal deficit by several billion dollars. As well as meeting Abadi, Kerry plans talks with Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and with the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani, the State Department said.