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Diplomacy in Action

Background Briefing on U.S.-Iraq Political and Diplomatic JCC Meeting and the U.S.-Iraq Bilateral Relationship Under the Strategic Framework Agreement


Special Briefing
Senior Administration Official
Washington, DC
August 15, 2013

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MODERATOR: Hi, everyone. We have – are you here for the backgrounder on Iraq? Yes. So many of you know [Senior Administration Official]. He’s going to be on background as a Senior Administration Official. He’ll give a few opening remarks, reading out today’s meeting here, talk a little bit about our overall policy on where we are in Iraq, and then we’re happy to take some questions. He does, just for everyone’s knowledge, have to leave a little after 3:00 to get to the White House, so keep your questions short, and he will endeavor to answer as many as he can.

Thanks, guys.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks. I thought I would just give a quick kind of readout of the – or at least overview of what was discussed today, and then also give a brief synopsis of our policy in Iraq and what we’re trying to accomplish.

Today was the fourth meeting under the Strategic Framework Agreement, the Joint Coordinating Committee, in which we coordinate diplomatic and political issues. And the political issues is important because it’s not just diplomatic engagement. The SFA also gives us – it obligates us to help the Iraqis through their very difficult internal political dynamic, so we discussed that today.

So on the agenda of the meeting today was Iraq’s overall regional integration as it grows and increases its oil export and production export potential, and also as the region is under this rapid transformation the role that Iraq can play, and also mitigating the risk to Iraq’s stability given all these crosscurrents that are crossing through its territory.

Second, we talked specifically about the situation in Syria. Iraq was a primary participant in the first Geneva 1 talks, and so the Secretary went through the kind of thinking on Geneva 2 and the role that Iraq might be able to play should we eventually get to that point, and we hope that we will.

Also on Syria was the broader theme in the region of trying to bolster moderate forces and isolate extremists. There was a very candid and frank exchange about the fact that throughout the region, particularly in Iraq, a young generation of Iraqis are being radicalized by things they’re seeing on YouTube and on the internet across the Sunni and Shia divide. And you have clerics like Sheikh Qaradawi on Al Jazeera calling for all able-bodied Sunni Muslim males to come into Syria and fight a jihad. And then you have, on the other side, Hassan Nasrallah calling on his followers to go into Syria and do the same thing. Iraqis are increasingly being caught up in this – a young generation of Iraqis – and we want to try to keep them out of it. So there was a focus on how can we work together to bolster moderate forces and isolate these extremes.

There was also a discussion of the President’s decision earlier this year to protect – extend extraordinary protections for Iraq’s Development Fund for Iraq. That’s Iraq’s sovereign assets, which are in New York and which are given extraordinary protections from legal liability. That will expire in May of next year, and we have to talk about how to make sure Iraq can settle its Saddam-era claims in a way that is – protects its assets so it can use it for its very dire infrastructure needs.

We talked about things like our education programs. Iraqis studying here in the United States have increased by about 31 percent over the last year. We have about 800 now. And this is something that is very important to the Iraqi side and also to us.

So that was the overall kind of theme of the meeting. It was from the very general to the very specific, and as these meetings go, they’re kind of benchmarks to take a temperature of where we are and what we need to focus on until we get together again at this level.

I want to just discuss briefly kind of our overall policy focus in Iraq. Our policy efforts here are focused on – we look at what our national interests are, and we have five real pillars to direct our efforts. First is maintaining a unified and federal Iraq as defined under the Iraqi constitution, and a lot of that is focused on the relationships between Baghdad and Erbil, and various tensions in the disputed border areas. And we’ve actually seen tremendous progress in that area over the last six months or so.

Second is maintaining the production – the increases in the production and export of Iraq’s energy resources. That’s very important for Iraq, it’s very important for us, it’s important for the entire global economy. By prudent estimates under the International Energy Agency, Iraq is on track to be a six-to-ten million barrel a day energy producer over the next decade, but it’ll have to do a number of things to get there. We have a very clear vision of Iraq’s overall strategic infrastructure with three redundant export routes – one through the Straits of Hormuz, one to Aqaba through Jordan, and one from Basra to Ceyhan in Turkey – plus making sure the oil in the north is also getting on to global markets consistent with that overall national strategic vision. So that’s a common topic of our discussions.

Third is checking the – making sure that al-Qaida in Iraq cannot – the ascendancy of AQ in Iraq and making sure that the sanctuaries in Iraq that they had back in the 2005, 2006, 2007 timeframe cannot be reestablished. And that’s something that is – we have an awful lot of work to do, and I’m happy to talk about that in some specific detail.

Fourth is the overall strategic orientation of Iraq. We recognize the difficulty it faces in the region, the fact that it’s going to remain independent for many of the disputes going on in the region. We also recognize that Iraq looks to be globally economically integrated, and we’re doing an awful lot of work there in terms of U.S. companies. They just trade – passed the trade and investment act through the Iraqi parliament, which helps us in a number of ways in this area. And also diplomatically, we settled a number of disputes going all the way back to the ’91 – 1991 Gulf War between Iraq and Kuwait. Those were settled just a couple months ago before the United Nations Security Council, which was the fruition of literally years of work from diplomats on our side and also the Kuwaitis and the Iraqis.

Finally is Iraq’s overall democratic institutions and democratic trajectory. We’re very focused on ensuring that the Iraqis are able to hold regular elections, that those elections are genuine and credible. It just completed a series of elections of provincial councils. Two of those elections were delayed. As the Secretary said when he was last in Iraq in March, we found the decision to delay the provincial elections in Nineveh and Anbar troubling. That decision was reversed, those elections went forward, and those provinces now have provincial councils. And Iraq will face national elections in the first quarter of 2014. That’ll be a really pivotal moment for the overall future trajectory of Iraq. We want to make sure those elections happen, they happen on time, and that they are independently monitored and lead to a genuine and credible result.

So that is the overall framework of our efforts. And some things in that overall five pillars we’ve made tremendous progress on, I think, over the last six months, and some things we actually have a lot more work to do, which was the topic of our discussions today.

So with that, I’ll turn it over.

MODERATOR: I’ll go ahead and take the questions. For those who came in late, again, this is on background as a Senior Administration Official, just making sure everyone knew the ground rules.

Yes, Michael. We’ll start with you.

QUESTION: In the comments that Secretary Kerry made upstairs, he flagged and identified one problem, which is the flow of weapons from Iran through Iraqi airspace to Syria. And when Secretary Kerry was in Baghdad in March, we had a similar briefing from a Senior Administration Official who made the point that at that juncture, the Iraqis, I think, had inspected only two Iranian flights, and one was on its way back from Damascus to Tehran.

Given that officials have talked with some specificity about this problem in the past, can you tell us, in recent months, how many inspections the Iraqis have carried out of Iranian flights and how frequent these Iranian weapons flights to Syria are these days? Because the Secretary identified it as an area in which some progress had been made, but there was still some – a lot of work to do.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right. The Secretary identified two problems which Iraq is caught in: One is the flow of weapons and extremist fighters coming from Syria into Iraq, which is increasingly a very serious problem; and second is the flow of weapons and illicit cargo flying over Iraq into Syria.

Between September and March before the Secretary went, as you said, the inspection – there were hardly any inspections. From March until now, the record has been quite different, and we have seen a disruption in the flow of what we suspect is cargo going from Iran to Syria. The level of these discussions – it’s important to understand what – it’s not like we have a specific flight, a specific time, we go to the Iraqis and say, “Here, you’ve got to stop this flight.” That’s not what this is. It’s trying to help them develop an inspection regime that will be foolproof.

And all I can say is there’s been progress in this area, but it’s not perfect, as I think the Secretary said. The Iraqis today came very forcefully with the fact that they have a hard time monitoring and controlling their overall airspace and guarding their sovereignty above their – in their skies. We just notified to Congress a sale of an integrated air defense system, which will help the Iraqis with that problem, but that system will not really be up and running for some time as we train the Iraqis on it and get it into place. So that was a significant development, but all I can say, Michael, is this remains a very difficult and ongoing problem.

QUESTION: My name is Said Arikat --

MODERATOR: Go ahead, Said. Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you. Yeah, I wanted to address one of the points that you raised as one of five points, which is the 6 to 10 million barrels of oil that are expected, yet Iraq has failed to put together a hydrocarbon law in place. What are you doing in terms of – how much progress has been made in that area?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. So 6 to 10 million barrels a day is an estimate of where they --

QUESTION: An estimate --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- could be in 10 years and that they have a lot of things they have to do to get there. But the potential is definitely there.

So for example, when the Secretary was in Iraq in March, the President of the Kurdistan Region, President Barzani and Prime Minister Maliki had not seen each other face to face in two and half years. Since the Secretary’s visit until now, they have both traded visits. Prime Minister Maliki went up to Erbil, and President Barzani came down to Baghdad. In terms of where this relationship has gone over the last two years, that’s – this was a hugely significant development. It was brokered largely by Iraqis, and Hoshyar Zebari had a very strong role in that, but we also did what we could to encourage both sides to come together and focus on a concrete agenda.

In those meetings, they agreed on a seven-point roadmap with a number of issues that are still outstanding between Baghdad and Erbil, one of which is revenue sharing and a hydrocarbon law. They also agreed to committees on those seven issues and who would be on the committees, and Hoshyar told me yesterday that the committee on revenue sharing will meet very shortly.

This is very significant. So you went from no engagement, zero, just everything going the wrong direction, to a coming together, a meeting of the minds on issues to resolve and framework for resolving them. Are we going to get over the hurdle on this? I wouldn’t make predictions on that. All I can say is we now have traction. All sides recognize that we need to find a way forward on this. And for the first time really in years, we have a very serious, concerted effort to try to get these issues done. You can break them down into baskets: the revenue sharing, hydrocarbon law are really two separate issues, and they’re going to try to tackle them.

MODERATOR: Go ahead, yes.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hi. How are you?

QUESTION: Good. One of your five pillars, you mentioned the democracy piece of this, and you mentioned the parliamentary elections next year. I have a quick question related to that and then a larger question on Iraq and stability in the region. But on the democracy piece, did you all talk to the delegation today or have you been talking about the efforts to term limit the presidencies to two terms, which I think would include Prime Minister Maliki, who has gone back and forth on this issue several times. Has that come up?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That was not a topic of discussion, at least in these meetings.

QUESTION: Do you know where they stand on that? I mean, do you think that Maliki is going to not try to seek a third term?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think this will really heat up, I think, in the fall as coalition building starts, and that’s when we’ll know a little more. I think right now, and what we’re trying to do with the Iraqis is say before you really get into the heat of the political season, the silly season that we also have here every four years, let’s take the next three – two to three months to focus on getting some concrete things done, and one of them was revenue sharing, for example. And that’s really where we’re trying to focus the efforts before we get into the 2014 election season.

QUESTION: Okay. And then secondly, you talked a little bit about Iraq and the region, and I mean, you know better than many people I would think that just the area is just a mess right now – you’ve got Syria, you’ve got Egypt, you’ve got Jordan, all sorts of things. Can you kind of lay out for us where Iraq sits in terms of trying to engage and to do new things and to prioritize kind of all of things that are kind of blowing up in the region?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I was – I mean, I got – very honest, as you know well from living there for long, I mean, Iraq is the cross-current of all of these very regional pressures, and there’s centrifugal forces tearing at Iraq every day. And what we’re trying to do is engage in an ongoing conversation with Iraqi leaders of all political persuasions, of all political blocs, local leaders and national leaders, to look to ways to mitigate those risks and to focus the Iraqis on building their state to be able to mitigate this.

In terms of their overall regional efforts, they have some tools that a lot of countries around the world don’t have, and one of them in particular is the energy resources. So right now all of Iraq’s southern – the oil from the south in those Basra fields – those giant super fields – all of it goes through the Straits of Hormuz. Over the last six months, the Iraqis have engaged in very serious discussions with the Jordanians to build a pipeline from Basra to Haditha in Anbar province and then to Aqaba. That’s a very significant strategic infrastructure development project. And as I mentioned, getting – having a pipeline from Basra to Haditha to Baiji to Ceyhan would also link those southern fields through Turkey, and Turkey has very serious energy needs.

So these are the kinds of things that we try to – these are long-term projects that we try to work with the Iraqis on and with the regional neighbors on, on using strategic infrastructure to change these very difficult geostrategic realities. And we have some experience in this.

Last year, Iraqis cut the ribbon on these floating terminals in Basra. Each one increases their export potential by about 900,000 barrels a day. That was a – I remember very well General Petraeus and Ryan Crocker coming to the Iraqis saying this is something that would really help you. It’s going to be very difficult; these are mine-infested waters. It’s going to be expensive. And actually, from an engineering perspective it looked almost impossible at the time. But the Iraqis took ownership of that project, we helped them a little bit in the early days, but then it finally came online five years later. And when you see the increase in Iraqi export numbers it’s because of that project.

So that’s the kind of thing we work with the Iraqis very quietly on. You’re not going to see a dramatic change overnight. It’s something that takes years. But if Iraq does develop its overall strategic export infrastructure and its energy resources, it’ll harness itself and align mutual interests with a number of different states in the region. So it’s the kind of thing that we’re talking about.

QUESTION: But what you’re describing is something that the Iraqis are doing or that Iraq is doing with its, kind of, regional partners, and less so with American help or guidance or oversight, as it was, for the last decade. So, I mean, I guess what I’m trying to get to is how much of a hand does the United States have on Iraq’s situation at this point, and how much guidance is it giving, how much time does it eat up in terms of the overall regional strategy?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would just say if I were to go through the last six months of engagement, I think you’d be amazed. I mean, we do this very quietly, but it has been constant ongoing engagement. And we have had a number of quiet meetings throughout the region – trilateral meetings, ourselves, the Jordanians, the Iraqis, meetings with the Turks, the Iraqis, meetings with the Emiratis – to try to focus on these very serious, mutual, concrete interests.

There’s all sorts of political differences, and you can argue political differences all day and night, but very concrete – steel, nuts and bolts, dollars and cents – of how mutual interests can align. We have been very actively engaged in this, particularly since the Secretary’s visit in March, until now.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MODERATOR: Indira.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Indira Lakshmanan from Bloomberg News. I wanted to follow up on Michael’s question, because when we were told about that only two planes had been inspected, we were also told by that official that it appeared that the Iranian authorities had advanced notice of that and that there was nothing but humanitarian supplies in those two shipments.

So what I want to know is: You said there’s been significant improvement since March. Can you tell us how many planes have been inspected, has anything been intercepted, or are they still just plain old humanitarian shipments? And if the latter is the case, then what reason do we have to believe that things are being transshipped? The Foreign Minister himself pledged in his public remarks today that Iraq is not the transshipment point for either arms or jihadists to Syria. So I’m sure there was a discussion about that. Can you tell us, does the U.S. disagree with that statement he made? And give us a little more detail.

Plus, I missed what you said that there was – that you had informed Congress about some piece of equipment that you’re going to give them to help them with the air – monitoring their air. Could you say what that was again?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah. I’ll break it down. I think there are kind of three points to your question.

QUESTION: Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: First is the – it’s an integrated air defense system. It’s a $2.6 billion integrated air defense system which will allow Iraq, really for the next 30 years, to maintain full sovereign control of its skies. Also, they are going to get a shipment of F-16s in the fall of next year. That’s already been done. Their pilots are in training. In fact, their pilots just graduated our basic F-16 training school. So this is all part of allowing the Iraqis to maintain full sovereign control over their skies.

In terms of fighters, there’s no question Iraqis – Sunni, Shia, and even some Kurds – are making their way into Syria to fight on various sides of this ongoing conflict. The question the Foreign Minister was answering was: Is there any government support for this? Frankly, we have not seen any. And so we work with the Iraqis very closely on this in trying to monitor the frequency in which people are traveling to Syria. But it’s very, very difficult when our forces are being targeted by 70, 80 suicide bombers a month – all of whom are coming in from Syria – and we had 160,000 troops there. It’s very hard for us to police the borders and figure out what was happening. It’s a very difficult, complicated situation.

In terms of the flights, I will try to get you numbers on inspections. And I don’t think I said there’s been a dramatic improvement. I said there’s been a – I tried – there’s been a disruption in the overall frequency and number of what we suspect is illicit cargo. But – so there’s been a disruption from March until now, but I – we have a lot of work to do on this issue. And it has to do with constant, daily conversations with the Iraqis and figuring out how we can share information appropriately.

QUESTION: So it sounds like the cargo has been intercepted, then.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. No – no. None has been intercepted.

QUESTION: Did you agree on anything for the – on short-term help to help the capabilities of the government to fight al-Qaida and to decrease these terrorist attacks?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This is important, and let me just – on the – but on the weapons, again, also from our own experience how difficult this is when our young men and women were being attacked by EFPs and weapons that we knew were manufactured in Iran, we never found a shipment coming in despite our best efforts. It’s very difficult. But the Iraqis have an obligation here. They recommitted to us again, and it – I think it gives us a new platform to push even harder than we have.

In terms of AQI, you saw our statement on Saturday, which I think was very clear about how we see this network and where we see the leadership of the network. The Secretary said today we see the leadership of AQI – many of them are now in Syria. They are flush with jihadi recruits which are coming into Syria, and we think they are sending a number of them into Iraq. So if you look at the number of suicide bombers, for example, which we look at – we try to be very empirical in trying to understand the situation, which remains very complicated. But suicide bombers is a very empirical data set.

Over the last two years, we’ve had an average of about 5 to 10 suicide bombers a month, in 2011 and 2012. We had – our assumption had been that’s going to be a low-level, steady state of violence probably for the next 5 to 10 years, because once you get into a low-boil-type insurgency, historically speaking, they take about a decade or so to peter out. We’ve seen over the last 90 days the suicide bomber numbers approach about 30 a month, and we still suspect most of those are coming in from Syria.

So what that shows is a fairly sophisticated al-Qaida network, and what we want to help the Iraqis do is have the information to be able to map the network, to get at its financing, and to be very precise in its targeting, because Iraqi forces are under threat and they’re liable to make mistakes such as going at the threat in a symmetrical way, rounding up too many people, targeting the wrong person, which makes the whole problem worse. So we are working this at the diplomatic level, our military-to-military ties, saying we face a real problem here, it’s a mutual interest of ours to get after it, and don’t make the same mistake we made in some years, in which we would treat this very asymmetrical threat with symmetrical means.

And the Secretary also really stressed in the meeting today, we’re going to help you with this problem, we’re going to help with information sharing and intelligence sharing, but long term, this can only be addressed both with security and intelligence but also with political outreach, which is critical, and with economic outreach.

So all I would say is the discussion today was coming up and focusing with the Iraqis on a joint plan for getting after this very serious problem.

QUESTION: (Off-mike) Egyptian daily newspaper. You mentioned the extremist fighters and – as an issue. How big is this issue? I mean, it was raised by Secretary Kerry, American side, or the Iraqi side? Second, and related to it, you mentioned some components – you mentioned the radicalized youth, and then you mention Sheikh Qaradawi. I mean, how you make – brew them together to have, from your understanding, a extremist fighter? And this is a threat to the Syria or other region, too?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It’s a threat to the whole – I mean, here’s what we see. When I’m in Iraq and talking to the Iraqi leaders, but also civil society leaders, and just regular Iraqis, our sense of it is just within the ferment of this society, you have a very youthful population, you have an underemployed population, and they are watching this conflict unfold through Facebook and Twitter and the internet and YouTube. And depending on where they are, they’re seeing two totally parallel conflicts.

So Sunnis say, “Did you see this video of a SCUD missile collapsing a building and babies were being pulled out?” And they can all cite with specificity these terrible images on YouTube. Young Shia I’ve talked to talk about, “Have you seen the beheading videos?” And they all have seen the same things. And it has the potential to really radicalize this very young population. We know the Marji’iya in Najaf is a real moderate pillar of Shia Islam and is trying to keep some of this in check, and also the Sunni leadership both locally and nationally in Iraq is trying to keep this in check.

But it’s a very serious problem, and so part of the conversation today was about bolstering overall moderate forces, and the Secretary talked – spoke fairly eloquently about what we’re trying to do in Syria to bolster moderate forces of the opposition, both to put pressure on the Assad regime, and also to put pressure on the extremist groups within the opposition.

QUESTION: But my question is more – to be more specific: Is this something brewing, or just it’s already there are people who are taking the arms and going?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, but (inaudible).

QUESTION: And the number? You have a certain number? Big? Thousands? Hundreds?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not thousands.

QUESTION: Hundreds?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hundreds.

MODERATOR: Hold on, let’s go to people who haven’t gotten a question. (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Paul Eckert of Reuters News Agency. You touched on the political component, the political outreach component of that, and many would see Sunni discontent at certain policies of the government. How much was that covered today and what sort of things are you recommending under the guise of – under the rubric of political outreach?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It was discussed, and as I said, under the framework of the SFA, political issues are part of the jurisdiction. So it’s part of our bilateral agreement to work with the Iraqis on this issue. And the Secretary explained in some detail, as I think I mentioned, we’ll help with the intelligence-sharing and trying to map this very dangerous al-Qaida network, but the long term, and we know from our own experience, we were relentlessly kinetic in terms of our special forces, what they were doing back in those days, but it was also a lot of local political outreach. And so you drain the environment in which these groups can operate.

And so the Iraqis have a lot of work to do, both on the national level – we talked about, for example, a package of – the protest movement that’s been going on in Iraq for the last six months, one development of it has been a package of laws which were developed to address some of the protester demands, which passed the Iraqi cabinet and they’re now sitting in the parliament. So part of the conversation was to say, well, how can we now broker a political deal to get these agreement – these laws actually passed before the election season heats up in a couple months.

But it’s very important, I believe. If the Sunni population in Iraq feels totally discontented, then there’s an environment for extremists to take advantage. The local elections in Anbar and Nineveh were very important. I think if you look at the election results very closely, you can kind of see how the trends break down in those provinces, and we’re encouraged that there now are provincial councils in those two provinces, and that gives a central – a connection with the central government and distributing resources to just try to drain the environment from these extremist networks. But this is very hard work.

MODERATOR: Who hasn’t had a question yet? We’ll go – oh, Ros. Go ahead. Yeah.

QUESTION: Hi. Ros Jordan, Al Jazeera. When you talk about the very young population and efforts to improve education, and when you also talk about the need to further develop the energy sector, is there a risk of having a type of vacuum economically if you don’t have a broad-based economy, not just an energy-centered economy, which could lead to the possibility of corruption or political dissatisfaction? Did that come up at all, just that long-term vision for a vibrant Iraqi economy?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It’s a really – it’s an excellent question. It did not come up today, but there is an economic committee which meets under the Strategic Framework Agreement, and the fact that we are very focused on ensuring and helping the Iraqis think through how to make sure that they don’t have an economy which is totally dominated by oil revenues, in which you get a very bloated public sector and you get a very un-dynamic – especially when you have a very youthful population. So that’s one reason we’re trying to – we’ve – we’re working with them very closely on just their overall market environment and forming a company.

I mean, I have a statistic – it’s not at the top of my head – but Iraq 18 months ago was ranked almost at the bottom of the World Bank survey of what it takes to form a company. We worked with them to pass a number of regulations, and they moved – they’ve moved, like, way up the charts to the top 20 or something like that. I’d have to get the specific numbers. So just to answer your question: Again, these are long-term --

QUESTION: Right.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- things to focus on. Iraq, 10 years ago, went through a total change in terms of how it was running, and so this is still very much something that we work with them every day. But making sure that as oil revenues increase, that they don’t simply look to a very bloated public sector to solve every problem is an ongoing, constant part of our dialogue.

QUESTION: And a quick follow-up because I know that you have to go. Does this also help with also the long-term goal of trying to prevent the broad-based radicalization of the youth of Iraq?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. Without economic opportunities, just, these extremists are able to prey on these kids. I mean, there was a somewhat poignant exchange today about the fact that all of our efforts – I mean, Beth Jones has known Hoshyar Zebari for decades, when Hoshyar was in the opposition. We’ve been working on this and working with these guys for decades. And all of that work, and all those who have known people who served in Iraq, known people who lost their lives in Iraq, it’s about giving a new generation a better chance, and a better chance to actually live in the global economy and be a part of it. That is why the fact, when you see foreign elements coming in and recruiting young Iraqis to go fight in a foreign war and becoming cannon fodder, it is something that is not only heartbreaking to the Iraqis but also to us. And so we want to try to help them to get after this problem. But without economic opportunities, educational opportunities, it becomes a lot harder. I think we issued a document today on all the things we’re doing with Iraq which are – these are just the day-to-day, but educational programs – it’s very difficult to get these programs with a new state really, which Iraq is, off the ground – to get visas working, to get Iraqis to understand how to apply to our universities, to get accepted into our universities. We’ve increased over the last year by about 31 percent the number of Iraqis studying in U.S. colleges and universities. There’s about 800 now.

So this is an ongoing work in progress, but your question is a very good one and we’re focused on it as much as we can.

MODERATOR: Okay, last question and it needs to be a quick one.

QUESTION: Yes. Will they be getting anything in the short term to increase their capability to do the inspection, as what you are asking for?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We’re going to be doing everything we can to share as much information to try to --

QUESTION: Oh, the information.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- to try to --

QUESTION: Okay.

MODERATOR: Thank you guys so much. I really appreciate it. Again, Senior Administration Official. Let me know if you have any follow-ups or other questions.



PRN: 2013/1009



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