(ERBIL, Iraq) — The U.S. wants Iraq to show restraint as widespread anti-corruption protests in the country have killed more than 320 people in the past two months.
Vice President Mike Pence spoke by phone to Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi from Al-Asad Air Base on an unannounced trip to the region.
Pence expressed support for a free, sovereign and independent Iraq — a subtle warning against Iranian influence in the country, which has weakened cooperation between the U.S. and Iraq.
According to one official, Mahdi expressed regret for the violence and cast it as growing pains for the country and its security services, more used to war than democratic protest.
Pence spoke by phone with Mahdi after the Iraqi leader declined an invitation to meet with Pence at the air base after security concerns prevented Pence from traveling into Baghdad.