Toward a New Partnership with Iraq

I witnessed that demand first hand during the lengthy government formation process. The embassy team and senior officials from Washington shuttled among the parties for months. The President and Vice President were deeply engaged. And when the deal was finally sealed, there were four people in the room: Prime Minister Maliki, Iraqiyya Leader Allawi, Kurdish Region President Barzani – and the United States ambassador to Iraq.

During the most recent political standoff, the United States remained the indispensable honest broker and the only one trusted by, and in regular communication with, all of the leading blocs.

Much of this engagement takes place quietly, unadvertised. But just because you don’t see it and we don’t say it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Every day, we cooperate on the security threats Iraq still faces; on boosting and protecting Iraq’s energy sector—the lifeblood of its economy and a key to the stability of global oil markets; and supporting Iraq’s emergence as a member of the international community in good standing and a responsible regional actor.

There is progress on these fronts as well.

Oil production is now about 2.7 million barrels per day, up from about 1.8 million barrels per day in 2005 and heading toward over 3 million barrels a day by the end of this year. Oil exports provided much-needed revenue that enabled lawmakers to pass a $100 billion budget in mid-February.

We’ve also seen unprecedented steps toward reintegrating Iraq with the region:

• The appointment of a Saudi Ambassador to Iraq for the first time since 1990;

• Visits by Iraq’s National Security Advisor and Ministers of Defense, Interior, and Justice to Riyadh;

• Visits to Baghdad by senior Emirati, Jordanian, and Turkish officials;

• Prime Minister Maliki’s visit to Kuwait City that settled a thorny dispute over Kuwaiti aircraft confiscated by Saddam Hussein;

• An agreement to settle Iraqi debts owed to Egyptian workers who fled Iraq during the Second Gulf War;

• And plans to host the Arab League Summit in Baghdad on March 29.

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