BAGHDAD (AP) — President Donald Trump said in a phone call to Iraq’s new prime minister that the U.S. was willing to provide Iraq with economic assistance, according to an Iraqi government statement on Monday, as the country faces a severe financial crisis brought on by falling oil prices.
Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who was sworn in by Iraqi lawmakers last week ending five months of a leadership vacuum, received a call from Trump, the statement said, ahead of much anticipated talks next month that are expected to shape future Baghdad-Washington ties.
Trump congratulated al-Kadhimi for his new post, the statement said, and stressed the U.S. desire to strengthen bilateral relations and “provide the necessary economic assistance to support the Iraqi economy.”
Iraq is facing a financial crunch as oil prices plummet to historic lows. Iraq depends on crude exports to fund 90% of state expenditure.
Strategic talks to take place in June will run the gamut of U.S.-Iraq relations, from military to economic support, according to Iraqi and U.S. officials. Key questions, including the nature of the U.S. troop presence in Iraq, are expected to be discussed.
Iraqi officials and experts have warned that al-Kadhimi will have the difficult task balancing growing discontent among Iraqi lawmakers over the American presence in Iraq, while keeping Washington’s financial and strategic support for his government.
The U.S. has already taken steps to show its support for al-Kadhimi’s administration.
Hours after he was inaugurated, the State Department said it would grant Iraq a 120-day waiver enabling the country to continue importing crucial Iranian electricity and gas. Previous waivers gave Iraq just 30 days to make headway in developing domestic gas supply to meet energy needs, and were a sign of Washington’s growing impatience.
Al-Kadhimi’s new program also spells out measures welcomed by the U.S. These include a vow to hold early elections following months of widespread street protests, along with addressing Iraq’s severe health and economic woes, and bringing armed groups under the control of the state.