On September 15, 2009, American Vice President Joe Biden conducted a three-day official visit to Iraq. During the visit, he renewed Washington’s support for Baghdad in combating terrorism and supporting national reconciliation projects. The visit also revealed that the United States is continuing in its efforts, which aim to solve outstanding issues between the central government and the Kurdish region.
Although the United States is keen to ensure the departure of its forces from Iraq by the end of 2011 at the latest, Biden’s visit revealed to the international public opinion that the Iraqi-American strategic alliance is not confined to a specific time period and that the strong political relations between the two countries continue in their best form.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki met Biden on his second day in Iraq. During the meeting, discussion focused on developing relations between the two countries in economic fields through the Iraq-US Strategic Framework Agreement and following the success of the Security Agreement.
A governmental statement, of which Mawtani obtained a copy, indicated that during the meeting, Al-Maliki stated that improvements in the international economic conditions will serve the implementation of the Iraq-US Strategic Framework Agreement and will push the building and reconstruction process in Iraq forward. Al-Maliki added that the investment conference that will be held in Washington next month will provide new opportunities for international companies to participate in the building, reconstruction, and investment processes.
For his part, Biden expressed his satisfaction with security and political developments in Iraq. He also renewed his country’s support for the Iraqi government and the political process. Biden indicated that the United States is committed to the implementation of the agreement governing the departure of the American forces and the Iraq-US Strategic Framework Agreement.
Biden stressed the importance of joint efforts to combat terrorism and the United States’ commitment to working with the Iraqi government and providing various types of assistance in this regard. He also underscored the importance of the investment conference, which will be held in Washington next month, to economic conditions in Iraq.
While in Baghdad, Biden also met with Eyad Al-Samaraie, the speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, and Vice Presidents Adil Abd Al-Mahdi and Tariq Al-Hashimi. He discussed with them ways to support national reconciliation projects in the country.
On the third day of his visit, Biden headed to the Kurdish region, where he was received by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in the city of Erbil on the afternoon of Thursday, September 17.
During the meeting, Talabani talked about the importance of the upcoming elections in Iraq, which he considered to be crucial to the whole political process and its future directions, a reference to the ongoing heated discussions and meetings between the various Iraqi coalitions and forces, in preparation for the country’s upcoming democratic experience.
Regarding news and analyses pertaining to a state of tension and hostility in Kurdish-Arab relations in disputed areas, Talabani explained that this news lacks reality and added that Arab-Kurdish relations are deep-rooted. He stressed that the presence of different points of view is healthy and democratic in a democratic country such as Iraq and that these differences can be resolved through the Iraqi constitution.
During the meeting, opinions were exchanged on the oil and gas law and the issue of Kirkuk. President Talabani explained to the American vice president the obstacles impeding the passage of this law.
For his part, Biden underscored the importance of the upcoming elections in Iraq and described them as crucial, in order for political opponents to raise acceptable solutions for outstanding issues in Iraq. He stressed the need for a successful national reconciliation and accord.
Biden renewed the commitment of the United States of America to supporting Iraq. He confirmed that his country supports the political process in Iraq and indicated that the security and stability of Iraq are subjects of importance to the United States of America. He indicated that the departure of American forces does not mean an absence of diplomatic American support.
Following this, Biden met with Masoud Barazani, President of the Kurdish region. He expressed his admiration for the construction developments witnessed in the city of Erbil. Meanwhile, he confirmed that the changes that have occurred in the region since 1992 are positive ones.
In addition, Biden indicated that America’s role in resolving internal problems in Iraq demonstrates its goodwill efforts. He explained that his country understands and recognizes that Iraq is a sovereign state and noted that America is prepared to make real efforts to resolve problems.
Biden’s visit represents another confirmation that bilateral relations between Baghdad and Washington have become an important foundation to help Iraq to solve its domestic crises, amidst continuous unwavering American support. This support will not stop, even if American forces depart from Iraq.