VP Biden's Address to US-Iraq Higher Coordinating Cmte

If I’m not mistaken, Mr. Prime Minister, it was your suggestion and a very good one that we increase -- we increase the interchange that this committee had, increase the areas of -- that this committee was going to cover. It was suggested that we talk about student visas. It was suggested that we expand and have a committee relating to trade and commerce, et cetera. It continued to grow. It continued to expand as the needs became apparent and the help was available.

Today, in this meeting, the Foreign Minister and our ambassador agreed that, well, we should have another committee -- another committee within this committee based on security.

The point I’m trying to make is both our people should understand that this is of the mutual benefit to each of us and to the region, and as it continues to grow, the opportunities -- we stand ready to the extent that you want assistance. We stand ready to be of assistance with expertise that we have. Had you not been under the thumb of Saddam Hussein for so long and the victim of terror for so long, you would not need this help. You all have the capacity. You all have the capacity to do everything that need be done here. But as one of you said today, you’re kind of starting from scratch. There has not been the availability of these institutions to have developed and changed and grown over the past half a century as they have in our country. We have no doubt that your capacity is as unlimited as your natural resources.

As was pointed out here today, already a great deal has been done. Most people in both -- I’ll speak for my country. Most people in our country think that bulk of what we’ve done relates to security. Well, as was pointed out by our colleagues today, the United States has completed nearly 1,800 projects in Iraq’s health sector valued at over $800 million -- close to $1 billion -- renovating 133 primary health care centers; providing critical emergency maternity care, along with medical and dental equipment. With the government of Iraq, we’ve jointly built, renovated and expanded hospitals in Basra, Baku [sic] and so on throughout this country. We’ve just launched a $74 million project to improve primary health care at 360 clinics in over 18 provinces. That has nothing to do with self-interest. It has to do with the needs of the people of Iraq because for you to reach your potential, you not only need an educated population but a healthy population. So I admit most of this is directed -- what I’m saying today -- toward my citizens.

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