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Biden Makes Surprise Visit to Iraq Amid Political Crisis

  • Amanda Scott

Vice President Joe Biden steps off a C-17 military transport plane upon his arrival in Baghdad, Iraq, April 28, 2016. Biden's visit is ‘focused on encouraging Iraqi national unity and continued momentum’ in fight against Islamic State, his office says.

Vice President Joe Biden steps off a C-17 military transport plane upon his arrival in Baghdad, Iraq, April 28, 2016. Biden's visit is ‘focused on encouraging Iraqi national unity and continued momentum’ in fight against Islamic State, his office says.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is in Iraq for talks with Iraqi leaders "focused on encouraging Iraqi national unity and continued momentum" in the fight against Islamic State.

"The Vice President will also be discussing steps the international community can take to promote Iraq's economic stability and further regional cooperation," a statement from Biden's office said.

Biden is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Iraq since his previous trip to the country in 2011. He met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi shortly after his arrival.

"The vice president has been the point person on Iraq for the administration since the beginning," said an unnamed U.S. official traveling on Biden's plane.

Political paralysis

Thursday's trip, which was previously unannounced over security concerns, comes as the political turmoil in Iraq has paralyzed the country's government.

Followers of Iraq's Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr wave Iraqi flags during a protest demanding that parliament approve a long-delayed new cabinet, in Baghdad, Iraq, April 26, 2016.

Followers of Iraq's Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr wave Iraqi flags during a protest demanding that parliament approve a long-delayed new cabinet, in Baghdad, Iraq, April 26, 2016.


Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is trying to implement a longstanding pledge to reform his government while thousands of protesters loyal to Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have held nearly daily demonstrations demanding a new Cabinet composed of technocrats instead of political loyalists.

On Tuesday, Iraq's parliament approved a partial cabinet reshuffle proposed by the prime minister.

Abadi's planned reshuffle would hand key portfolios to independent technocrats in a bid to root out patronage and corruption that have hindered the provision of public services since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

VOA's Aru Pande contributed to this report.

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