Maliki, Obama meet to plot the future of US-Iraqi relations


Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and President Barack Obama hold a news conference in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House. Al-Maliki is in Washington for talks ahead of the December 31 full withdrawl of U.S. troops from Iraq and the end of a deeply divisive nine-year war.


Chip Somodevilla

President Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met on Monday to discuss their new partnership as the US prepares to withdraw its troops at the end of the month, The Washington Post reported

The two leaders held a series of meetings at the White House on Monday morning to discuss regional security issues, as well as trade, energy, and America's investment in Iraq and education, The New York Times reported. The two countries will still work closely on issues of security: Iraq has contracted to buy 18 F-16 fighter jets from the United States, and Iraqi pilots will be trained by Americans.

As the Times reported, 

While their exchange underscored the reality that the United States is likely to be involved in Iraq’s security even after the withdrawal, Mr. Maliki insisted that Iraq could provide for its internal security, and he made much of Baghdad’s desire to build a relationship with Washington on the basis of "mutual respect."

American forces are preparing to leave Iraq by December 31. There are just 6,000 US soldiers still in Iraq, compared to 170,000 in 2007, the height of the nine-year war. 

More from GlobalPost: US withdrawal from Iraq by the numbers

“Our strong presence in the Middle East endures,” Obama said. “And the United States will never waiver in the defense of our allies, our partners and our interests.”

The US has its eye on how Iraq will deal with diplomatic relations after the withdrawal, particularly with Iran. In October, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Iran not to “miscalculate” the extent of Washington’s support for Baghdad. 

More from GlobalPost: Don't 'miscalculate' Iraq withdrawal, Clinton warns Iran

The troubles in Syria were also on the radar for both politicians, as the UN estimated that around 4,000 people had been killed as a result of the Syrian governments' crackdown. Obama has called for President Bashar Assad to step down, but Iraq has not been quite as forceful, opting instead to abstain from Arab League votes regarding imposing sanctions on Syria and suspending its membership to the League, the Post reported. 

“Even if there are tactical disagreements I have no doubt those decisions are made based on what’s best for Iraq not considerations of what Iran would like to see,” Obama said, regarding Maliki's strategy towards Syria.

The NATO Training Mission in Iraq, separate of US forces, still has nearly 200 troops in the region, and had hoped to remain longer, according to a statement on its website. However, they did not reach an agreement with Baghdad in time, and will withdraw along with US troops at the end of December, the Times reported. 

All 28 of NATO's member countries participated in the mission, which trained more than 5,000 military personnel and 10,000 police officers in Iraq.