Given the country’s traumatic and recent past—more than 30 years of dictatorship, international conflict, economic isolation and sectarian violence just a few short years ago that nearly tore the country apart—discounting its progress toward a more normal political existence means turning a blind eye to the facts.
Going forward, we have the people and structures in place to deepen our engagement with Iraq.
Our Embassy— and strategically located consulates in Basra, Kirkuk and Irbil—will lead the effort to develop our strategic partnership with the Iraqi government under the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement, which, unlike our Security Agreement, continues.
To boost that effort, in December, Vice President Biden and Prime Minister Maliki co-chaired the first meeting since 2009 of the Higher Coordinating Committee, which oversees Joint Coordinating Committees led by senior officials from both countries, on Defense and Security, Energy, Trade and Investment, Education and Culture, Politics and Diplomacy, Law Enforcement and the Judiciary and Services, Technology, Environment and Transportation.
This work is well underway. To give just a few examples:
Through the Office of Security Cooperation, which is part of our embassy, we are helping the Iraqis acquire major weapons systems like F-16s, M1A1 Abrams tanks, helicopters and heavy artillery. Our goal is to enable Iraq to protect itself from external threats.
The Judicial Institute we helped the Iraqis establish has provided continuing legal education to more than 1,700 judges and judicial employees since 2010.
We funded the Iraqi government’s anti-corruption strategy and provide training to anti-corruption bodies like the Commission on Integrity, which has played a key role in repatriating Saddam-era funds.
We helped rebuild the Iraqi Museum and preserve the historic site of Babylon, and we continue to support the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage.
We expect to bring 3,000 students on Iraqi scholarships to study in the United States this year.
And this year, for the first time since 1988, we participated in the Baghdad International Trade Fair. The U.S. Pavilion featured 85 companies with combined annual revenues of more than $1 trillion – the largest single country presence.
If that sounds less like a war-footing and more like the type of programs we have in countries around the world—that is exactly the point.
Our goal is a close strategic partnership with Iraq.
But we also seek a more normal relationship, between two nations bound together by shared sacrifice, common interests and a deep commitment to a better future.
Simply put, while our war in Iraq is over, our work in Iraq, and with Iraq—a country that remains at the center of so many vital American endeavors—continues.
Thank you all for listening.