US takes no position on future Iraqi government: Outgoing US Ambassador
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – During a roundtable discussion with journalists, outgoing US Ambassador to Iraq Matthew H. Tueller underlined that the US government takes no position on whether Iraq's next government should be majority or consensus-based.
Since the October parliamentary elections, Iraqi political factions have not been able to form a government.
US needs government partner
"As you well know, for the last seven months after an election that was held last October, the parties that participated in the election have not yet been able to negotiate a formula whereby they would share power in forming a new government," Tueller said. "And that's concerning to us because of the type of things that we as the United States need to do to advance our interests. We need a government partner. We need a government we can work with."
The Sadrist Movement, led by Muqtada al-Sadr, together with the leading Kurdish party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and two leading Sunni blocs, Progress and Azm, has sought to form a national majority government.
However, their opponents, the Shiite Coordination Framework backed by Iran, are pushing for yet another consensus government. So far, both sides have not been able to muster a majority to form a new government.
Responding to a question from the Assistant Director of the Kurdistan 24 newsroom Hawar Ali about the US position on the delayed government formation process in Iraq, Tueller underlined that the US doesn't take a view "on whether this should be a consensus government or majority government."
"What we do believe, however, is every political actor should have a stake in an outcome that they feel that their rights and their voices have been heard and respected," he said.
He added that the election results of last October "produced a formula that has made it particularly difficult (to form a government), but our approach is to encourage all sides to continue to pursue peaceful means in trying to find a way to form a government."
"The United States doesn't take positions on particular winners or losers, political parties, personalities," Tueller said. "Our principles are that elections matter, that political processes should matter, that respect for law, respect for inclusion, and that ultimately, our political differences should be resolved through peaceful means and not through resort to violence."
He added that he thinks that "many Iraqis would share those views as well and do not want to see militias, armed groups or others determining outcomes."
"It's frustrating, of course, to see the amount of time it takes to reach the government formation, and this is not the first time that's happened in Iraq."
Pressure on Kurds
Tueller noted there are illegitimate means, such as terrorist attacks on the Kurdistan Region, to pressure Kurdish parties over Iraqi government formation.
"We've seen resort of illegitimate means, terrorist attacks conducted by groups against oil and gas facilities in the Kurdish region and an open attack claimed by the Iranian IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) against a compound in the Kurdish region," he said.
"All of this we see clearly as part of the context of what's happening in terms of the regional competition and the internal competition," he added. "And so our message is very clear: that there should be no resort to violence. There should be no armed militias. There should be no attacks from neighboring states (against the Kurdistan Region)."
"We uphold the rights of all political parties, all people to live peacefully and in a secure situation."
Tueller also underlined that Washington hopes the Kurdistan Region's parliamentary elections, scheduled for Oct. 1, are held "with a full respect for the process of holding an election that it's transparent and held in accordance with the law and the constitution."
"I think it is important to see how the proposed elections for this year play out," he said. "We will be encouraging both parties to commit to trying to hold an election that will be seen in the eyes of the Kurdish people and as legitimate."
"That is the extent of the message that we convey to our Kurdish partners."
Supreme Court decision
Tueller said he could not comment on the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court's Feb. 15 ruling against the Kurdistan Region's oil and gas law.
He highlighted the fact that Iraq has failed to implement "an important part of the constitution" by not passing a hydrocarbon and revenue sharing law in the past.
"So, I think ultimately, the resolution to this issue that's been created by the court decision lies in a dialogue between both sides and taking that dialogue towards a legislative solution, a law that will clearly meet the needs of the constitution, of how Iraq's energy resources should be matched between the federal region and the Kurdish region, and then how revenues are shared," he said.
Tueller also said recent Baghdad-Erbil tensions over oil can be addressed through the "formation of a government where all sides, including the Kurdish parties, are part of the government so that those issues can be resolved by a government and not by political parties trying to advance their interest in government formation."
Tueller underlined the close relationship with the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
"We have worked closely with our partners in the Peshmerga because, of course, they have been very strong and loyal partners in defeating ISIS," he said.
"The Peshmerga has suffered very, very high casualties in the fight against ISIS," he added. "It's been a force that has been able to provide security and stability in the long term. We have promoted a reform of the Peshmerga to bring all of the units of the Peshmerga under the authority of the (Kurdistan) Regional Government."
"And we provide security assistance and stipends and other things and training and integration that is working towards that end," he continued. "Again, we understand that we need to be patient, we need to understand that these things can't happen overnight, but we definitely have an idea of where it needs to come out in the end."
Long-term US-KRG relationship
The US Ambassador also underlined the long-term nature of the Kurdistan Region-US relationship.
"The fact that we just recently marked the 10th year anniversary of our Consulate General here in Erbil, and we are in the process of completing construction of a new Consulate General building that will be the largest US consular facility in the world (...) I think it's a demonstration of the fact that the US views this as a relationship that is long term and strategic," he said.
"We're not going anywhere. We want to be here working alongside Iraqi Kurdish partners to build a better future for the Iraqi people."