U.S. proud to be partnered with Iraq in meeting challenges: Blinken

Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein (L) and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department in Washington, 23 July, 2021. (Reuters photo)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken said the United States is proud to be partnered with Iraq in meeting challenges, as the two countries has begun the fourth round of U.S.-Iraq strategic dialogue in Washington.

On Friday, Blinken met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein who leads a high-level delegation to Washington to hold the fourth round of U.S.-Iraq strategic dialogue, started last year under former president Donald Trump administration.

Before the meeting, Blinken said the United States and Iraq were “the closest partners” in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS).

“But I think what today is demonstrating is that the partnership between the United States and Iraq is much broader and deeper than even the common fight against ISIS,” Blinken said.

“The United States is proud to be partnered with Iraq in meeting some of the most important challenges of our time, whether it’s the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, dealing with climate change and making investments in renewable energy,” he added.

“Whether it is as the leading provider of humanitarian assistance to Iraq, and building opportunity for Iraqis, this partnership has tremendous breadth as well as tremendous depth.”

The top U.S. diplomat further said the two countries were proceeding together in partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interests.

The Iraqi foreign minister, for his part, hoped the outcome of the dialogue between the U.S. and Iraq would serve the interest of the two countries and people.

Hussein added that the foundations of the dialogue included joint cooperation, mutual respect, and cooperation in various fields such as military, security, economy, trade, energy, gas, fuel, electricity, and health.

He continued to say the relationships between Iraq and the U.S. were not only military, but they were “vast and broad relationships”.

“In the future, we will have a much broader cooperation in all the fields that were mentioned, the strategic dialogues that depend and relies on pushing forward these efforts to improve the lives of people and to improve the future of Iraq,” he noted.

Iraq and the United States began their strategic dialogue in June 2020 under former U.S. President Donald Trump administration.

In the third round of talks in April, the United States agreed to remove remaining combat forces deployed to fight ISIS militants in Iraq.

A senior U.S. defense official said on Thursday that the U.S. and Iraq were expected to formalize the end of Washington’s combat mission in Iraq by the end of the year and continue the transition toward training and advising Iraqi forces, according to Reuters.

There are currently 2,500 U.S. troops in Iraq focusing on countering the remnants of ISIS.

But the announcement, set to come after President Joe Biden meets his Iraqi counterpart in Washington on Monday, will be at a politically delicate time for the Iraqi government and could be seen as a victory domestically in Baghdad.

“The key point that you’re going to hear conveyed and I think is just incredibly important, is that the Biden administration wants to stay in Iraq because the Iraqi government has invited us and requested that we continue to do so,” the official said.

The official said there would be a focus on logistics, maintenance of equipment and helping Iraqi forces further develop their intelligence and surveillance capabilities.

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