Joint Statement Affirms Strong U.S.-Iraq Partnership

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2011 — The Unit­ed States and Iraq are begin­ning a new phase of a part­ner­ship that reflects Iraq’s needs and includes a robust secu­ri­ty rela­tion­ship, Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden said today in Bagh­dad.

He and Iraq Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Mali­ki deliv­ered remarks before and after today’s meet­ing of the U.S.-Iraq High­er Coor­di­nat­ing Com­mit­tee, which issued a joint state­ment on the nations’ his­toric oppor­tu­ni­ty to build a rela­tion­ship through secu­ri­ty, trade, edu­ca­tion and cul­ture, law enforce­ment, envi­ron­ment and ener­gy.

The com­mit­tee is part of the Strate­gic Frame­work Agree­ment, signed in 2008 to affirm both nations’ desire to estab­lish long-term bonds of coop­er­a­tion and friend­ship.

“We are embark­ing on a new path togeth­er, a new phase in this rela­tion­ship,” Biden said. “That part­ner­ship includes a robust secu­ri­ty rela­tion­ship based on what you decide — what you decide — you think that rela­tion­ship should be.”

The vice pres­i­dent added, “We will con­tin­ue our dis­cus­sions with your gov­ern­ment over the sub­stance of our secu­ri­ty arrange­ments, includ­ing areas of train­ing, intel­li­gence and coun­tert­er­ror­ism.”

The meet­ing was held in a large room at the gov­ern­men­tal palace. Biden and al-Mali­ki sat next to each oth­er at the head of a long, rec­tan­gu­lar con­fer­ence table, joined by 20 mem­bers of the Iraqi del­e­ga­tion and 15 mem­bers of the U.S. del­e­ga­tion.

The U.S. del­e­ga­tion includ­ed Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, com­mand­ing gen­er­al of U.S. Forces Iraq; Antony J. Blinken, Biden’s advi­sor for nation­al secu­ri­ty pol­i­cy; Jef­frey D. Felt­man, assis­tant sec­re­tary of state for near east­ern affairs; and Deputy Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Daniel Pone­man.

“We’re going to start a new phase of friend­ship,” al-Mali­ki said after the meet­ing.

The U.S.-Iraq strate­gic frame­work “will estab­lish a rela­tion­ship based on mutu­al respect and bilat­er­al inter­ests,” he said, express­ing his hope that Iraq can, “be a broth­er, a friend for oth­er coun­tries in this area.”

Biden not­ed that al-Mali­ki pushed for the coor­di­nat­ing com­mit­tee to have a broad­er scope than secu­ri­ty.

Today, the vice pres­i­dent said, the two del­e­ga­tions pledged to cre­ate a sep­a­rate com­mit­tee for coor­di­nat­ing secu­ri­ty and defense coop­er­a­tion.

The Unit­ed States has com­plet­ed near­ly 1,800 projects in Iraq’s health sec­tor val­ued at $800 mil­lion, includ­ing the ren­o­va­tion of 133 pri­ma­ry health cen­ters, Biden said. The Unit­ed States, he added, also has invest­ed in Iraq’s trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture, air-traf­fic-con­trol net­work and rail­roads.

A lot of work remains to make such capac­i­ty build­ing a suc­cess, Biden said.

Iraq’s devel­op­ment, he added, “will bring sta­bil­i­ty to the region. That is our sole inter­est in Iraq.”

The committee’s joint state­ment, issued after the meet­ing, addressed coop­er­a­tion on a range of top­ics, includ­ing secu­ri­ty and defense, pol­i­tics and diplo­ma­cy, trade and finance, law enforce­ment, cul­ture and edu­ca­tion, tech­nol­o­gy and envi­ron­ment and trans­porta­tion.

As part of the new phase of the rela­tion­ship, U.S. mil­i­tary forces are draw­ing down, Biden not­ed. “There will still be secu­ri­ty con­cerns, but we are con­fi­dent your gov­ern­ment is ful­ly capa­ble of han­dling those inter­nal secu­ri­ty con­cerns,” he said.

To bol­ster mutu­al trade and finance, the Unit­ed States par­tic­i­pat­ed in the recent Bagh­dad Inter­na­tion­al Trade Fair for the first time since 1988. The fair show­cased 85 Amer­i­can busi­ness­es and orga­ni­za­tions and built on the suc­cess of the 2009 Busi­ness and Invest­ment Con­fer­ence held in Wash­ing­ton.

The Unit­ed States also sup­ports the Iraqi government’s efforts in the finan­cial sec­tor by pro­vid­ing tech­ni­cal exper­tise need­ed to devel­op pri­vate banks and micro­fi­nance insti­tu­tions.

U.S. assis­tance and pro­fes­sion­al sup­port is help­ing devel­op and pro­fes­sion­al­ize the Iraqi cor­rec­tions sys­tem through judi­cial train­ing pro­grams for Iraqis through the Judi­cial Devel­op­ment Insti­tute.

Through the Police Devel­op­ment Pro­gram, the Unit­ed States will con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing advi­so­ry and tech­ni­cal assis­tance to the Iraqi police, includ­ing an exchange pro­gram that will bring groups of Iraqi police here for lead­er­ship devel­op­ment over the next three years.

While in Iraq, Biden also plans to meet with Pres­i­dent Jalal Tal­a­bani, Speak­er Osama al-Nujaifi and oth­er Iraqi polit­i­cal lead­ers, and to offer remarks at an event to com­mem­o­rate the sac­ri­fices and accom­plish­ments of U.S. and Iraqi troops.

The vis­it, Biden’s eighth as vice pres­i­dent, comes as U.S. forces are com­plet­ing their draw­down in Iraq. All U.S. troops are slat­ed to leave by Dec. 31, in accor­dance with the 2008 secu­ri­ty agree­ment between the Unit­ed States and Iraq.

Rather than leav­ing Iraq, “the Unit­ed States is going to deep­en our engage­ment with you,” the vice pres­i­dent said, adding that he looks for­ward to al-Maliki’s vis­it to Wash­ing­ton in mid-Decem­ber.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)