Iraqi PM says he's 'making every effort' to keep the Middle East conflict from escalating

WASHINGTON — Iraq’s prime minister said on a visit to Washington that his country is “making every effort” to keep the Middle East conflict from spiraling after Iran rained down missiles on Israel over the weekend,

"We don't want to be part of this escalation,” Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said at a news conference Tuesday evening.

Iraq is in the unusual position of being an ally to both Iran and the U.S., and al-Sudani met with President Joe Biden this week to press his case for tamping down the conflict.

Al-Sudani was extremely critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his government’s response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack and a recent strike on Iran’s embassy complex in Syria that killed top commanders.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 15: Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani speaks alongside U.S. President Joe Biden in the Oval Office of the White House on April 15, 2024 in Washington, DC. Biden and al-Sudani intend to speak on Iran’s drone strike on Israel over the weekend. Al-Sudani’s visit to the U.S. was already arranged last month with the intention to also discuss a range of topics pertaining to economic, trade and energy issues. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 776132686 ORIG FILE ID: 2148735637

But the Iraqi leader said he told Biden on Monday that a wider war would be detrimental to Iraq’s security and stability and would not be in the interest of the region.

Al-Sudani said Iraq has tried to convince the Iranians “not to react and expand the conflict area.”

Iran used Iraqi airspace in its assault on Israel, and the U.S. Patriot missile system shot down a ballistic missile near Erbil, Iraq, during the attack. There were no reports of drones or missiles launched from Iraq.

“During the last attack, Iraq was not included, it was not a part of this operation, we tried to use diplomatic and legal channels, to protect our land” from an attack from either side, he said.

His visit to the U.S. comes at a "delicate and sensitive time” in the relationship, al-Sudani told reporters at the Tuesday evening news conference, “but it is much welcome, because the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Iraq needs it at this time, especially with everything going on in the region.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Iraqi PM: 'We don't want to be part of' escalating Middle East conflict