President Barack Obama will meet with top leaders of Iraq and Egypt on the sidelines of a United Nations gathering in New York this week as he tries to solidify a global coalition to battle the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the White House announced Monday afternoon.
Obama’s meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi Thursday is expected to be the first face-to-face meeting between the two men. Egypt has been pivotal in U.S. efforts to fight terrorism and rein in violence between Israel and Gaza, but the U.S. has objected to strong-arm tactics by al-Sisi’s government, such as the jailing of journalists and figures from the opposition Muslim Brotherhood.
The U.S. has repeatedly expressed concern about how al-Sisi seized power in a coup last year and then won an election in which most of his political opposition either was sidelined or chose to step aside. However, public criticism of the Egyptian leader by American officials has often been subdued as the U.S. prioritized garnering support from Cairo on American goals in the region.
Now, the U.S. wants Egyptian help in countering ISIL — a goal that’s Obama’s top agenda item in New York.
On Wednesday, Obama is scheduled to sit down with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Under intense pressure from Washington, al-Abadi recently assembled a new, more diverse Iraqi government to fight the threat posed by ISIL.
The White House also announced Monday that Obama will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on October 1 in Washington.
At the annual United National General Assembly session in New York, journalists and diplomats will be on the lookout for any interaction between Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Last year there was talk of a historic, face-to-face encounter, but ultimately Obama and Rouhani spoke only by telephone as the Iranian leader was leaving the country. As recently as Friday, U.S. officials said they did not expect an Obama-Rouhani meeting this week, and no formal meeting has been announced, though negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program remain a hot topic and are continuing in New York.