Building a stable Iraq
We stand at the threshold of a monumental juncture in the Iraqi-American relationship. A great many sacrifices by the Iraqi and the American people have enabled Iraq to discard the squalid regime of Saddam Hussein and establish a free and democratic society. As American troops depart in accordance with the Troops Withdrawal Agreement of 2008, we begin a new chapter based, as President Obama noted, on “mutual interests and mutual respect.” The decision to implement the agreement came after negotiations held with respect for each side’s sovereign and political decisions.
Solidifying a durable relationship between our two countries is vital. In the coming months, we must mutually focus on economic growth as well as culture, education and the sciences. Iraq has progressed to the stage of state building. We are building more than a million homes for low-income families, and I look forward to seeing construction cranes and high-rises dotting the Baghdad skyline. The struggle for reconstruction is no less daunting than the struggle for security. We are working to breach barriers that impede investment so this vision can become a reality. I am working diligently with our Investment Commission to ensure the rights of foreign investors and to create an environment conducive to investment.
While we have strived to put Iraq’s new democracy on the right path, challenges remain. The political process and relationships between the various political parties continue to develop. Fundamental disputes still surround the political composition of the Iraqi state. I believe these can be solved by combining and expanding the powers of the provinces while adhering to the unity of the state. Disputes concerning our constitution need to be solved through political means.
A solution to the debates surrounding hydrocarbon is paramount to Iraq’s economic growth. I have supported legislation, which has been sent to the Council of Representatives, that would regulate this vital industry and resources commensurate with national partnership and the equitable distribution of wealth. We held three rounds of bidding last year and are preparing for a fourth.
The stability of Iraq after the withdrawal of American forces has been a major concern of both our nations. I believe in the capabilities of our security forces and in the necessity of U.S. assistance.
There are still some who seek the destruction of our country. The Baath Party, which is prohibited by the constitution, believes in coups and conspiracies; indeed, these have been its modus operandi since the party’s inception. The Baathists seek to destroy Iraq’s democratic process. Hundreds of suspected Baathists recently were arrested; some of those detained have been released while others are awaiting trial. Those still in custody will receive due process and equitable treatment under Iraqi law. These detainees come from all over Iraq, and I refute characterizations that the detentions were a sectarian action based on political motives. These steps were taken to protect Iraq’s democracy.