White House affirms Biden’s ‘strong commitment to Iraq’

US President Joe Biden speaks about the ongoing evacuation of Afghanistan from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Aug. 24, 2021. (Photo: AFP)
US President Joe Biden speaks about the ongoing evacuation of Afghanistan from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Aug. 24, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke by telephone with Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Fuad Hussein, on Friday.

Sullivan “conveyed President [Joe] Biden’s strong commitment to Iraq and to its people and to further strengthening our enduring bilateral relationship under the Strategic Framework Agreement,” Emily Horne, a spokesperson for the National Security Council (NSC) explained.

The Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) between Iraq and the US was concluded in November 2008, as the end of the George W. Bush administration neared. The SFA provides the legal justification for the current US military presence in Iraq, as the US ambassador in Iraq, Matthew Tueller, recently told a roundtable of journalists in Erbil.

The discussion between Hussein and Sullivan occurred as just days remain before the US concludes its 20-year long war in Afghanistan, amid a hasty withdrawal that has troubled even the White House, particularly after Thursday’s terrorist attack at Kabul airport that killed at least 170 people, including 13 US troops.

Read More: Biden vows retribution against ISIS-K; will continue Taliban coordination, as well as evacuation mission

The chaos in Kabul has raised concerns about the US commitment to its smaller partners in both Erbil and Baghdad, and Sullivan’s discussion with Hussein appeared intended to address those concerns.

The two officials “further committed to a continued security partnership consistent with the recent Strategic Dialogue held last month in Washington to ensure that ISIS can never resurge in Iraq” and “allow communities recovering from terror to rebuild with dignity,” Horne said in summarizing their discussion.

Read More: US affirms broad support for Iraq in Strategic Dialogue, including continued fight against ISIS

Amb. Tueller was the first US official to address those concerns publicly, when two weeks ago, he spoke to a roundtable of journalists in Erbil.

We are committed to Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region, “for the long haul,” Tueller said, stressing that Biden “understands the importance of Iraq.”

Read More: US Envoy: We are committed to Iraq 'for the long haul

Sullivan expressed a similar view in his discussion with Hussein—as that key message was conveyed from a senior US official directly to a senior Iraqi official.

“They discussed the important role of Iraq in the region and the significant diplomatic efforts, led by the Government of Iraq, to bring countries together and deescalate tensions wherever possible,” the NSC spokesperson said.

On Saturday, Iraq will host a meeting, which it calls the Conference of Countries Neighboring Iraq, that is intended to reduce regional tensions and promote economic integration

Read More: Iraqi PM arrives in Kuwait ahead of regional Baghdad summit

Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the UAE are expected to attend. Observers from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the Group of 20, and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) will attend as observers.

French President Emmanuel Macron will also attend the meeting in Baghdad. Afterwards, he will visit Erbil, where he is expected to meet President Masoud Barzani and other members of the Kurdish leadership.

Read More: Erbil prepares to welcome France’s Macron

Erbil is clearly looking forward to Macron’s visit, as the city is already bedecked with French flags, as well as a billboard: “Bienvenue Monsieur le President MACRON.”

Editing by John J. Catherine