US President Donald Trump will meet this week with his Iraqi counterpart, Barham Salih, on the sidelines of the Davos economic conference in Switzerland. The tete-a-tete will be the first between President Trump and any Iraqi official since the January 3 killing of Iranian Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad, after which Iraq’s prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, called for the expulsion of American troops, prompting the country’s parliament to pass a bill to this effect. President Trump has formally rejected an Iraqi request to draw up a road map for a troop pullout. The US military has since resumed counter-terrorism operations in the nation against Islamic State, and is slowly moving to restart train-and-support missions with Iraqi forces. These missions were suspended in the wake of Soleimani’s assassination in an operation that also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a deputy commander of Iranian-backed Iraqi armed groups collectively known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. The Trump-Salih meeting comes amid political gridlock in Baghdad, with competing factions still unable to agree on the formation of a new cabinet in the wake of November’s resignation of Abdul-Mahdi, who is now overseeing the government in a caretaker capacity.
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