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Diplomacy in Action

Meeting With Embassy Baghdad Staff


Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Embassy Baghdad
Baghdad, Iraq
June 23, 2014

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SECRETARY KERRY: Maybe I was (inaudible) this was for? (Laughter.) Anyway. Well, I want you to know I just came in from Amman, and I can report to you that they are not lounging by the pool and relaxing. They’re working hard because they’ve got a lot of spillover from Syria and now from Iraq. So everybody’s feeling the pressure that you are continually.

And I’ll say a word about that in a minute, but first I want to thank this fellow. He is one of the most outstanding ambassadors we have in the entire diplomatic service. This is his third year out here; pretty extraordinary. He’s been in Amman. He’s been in Damascus. He’s been elsewhere, but his service here has been absolutely exemplary, and I hope you will join me in saying a special thank you to (inaudible). (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: I can’t tell you how many times I see him and it’s six o’clock at night in the White House (inaudible) SVTC, and obviously therefore here. It’s one in the morning, two in the morning, whatever it is depending on when we get around to doing it. And he is gracious in sitting there in good spirits, and most importantly (inaudible). So we’re continually grateful for that.

I want to thank John (inaudible). Where is John? Somewhere over here. Anyway – but John, thank you for your (inaudible). (Applause.)

And I want to – absolutely, President Obama asked me to say this to you: A profound thank you to every single one of you for your service to your country, and I bring you the greetings of everybody. I wish they all knew how hard you’re working and what you’re doing and the difficulties. We know that the air team up here and Embassy (inaudible) has done an amazing job of helping a couple thousand people to be able to move to other locations because of what’s going on, in order to lighten the load here. And you did an extraordinary job of that. And I know our security folks, our local RSO, and so forth, have done an amazing job of guaranteeing that you know what’s happening and security is taken care of. And I can guarantee you that every single morning meeting that I have at 8:30 in the morning, the first report comes from Pat Kennedy, the Under Secretary for Management – and he tells us what’s happening at our embassies and what the status is, and how well equipped we are to deal with whatever it is we might have to deal with. Your safety and security comes first. I can guarantee you that. And we’re, I think, way ahead of the game, and I thank you for taking on more responsibility as we’ve had to lighten the presence here in Baghdad for the time being.

This is a critical moment. We’ve been at this for quite a while here, since 2003 in a full-fledged war, and a lot of servicemen gave their lives and a lot more were grievously wounded. And we came here to give the people of Iraq an opportunity to be able, ultimately – well, yeah, it’s not why we came originally, but we turned it into an effort to provide a new start, a new democracy. And they’ve seized that. Fourteen million people voted on April 30th. That’s a great percentage of the eligible voters in this country. It matches ours, or a lot of other countries, if not more. And they decided that they wanted to move forward and they made a statement about democracy.

Along comes ISIL crossing the border from Syria. Marauding, pillaging, destroying, killing, executing, massacring, in order that they could order people to live the way they tell them to and conduct jihad against their targets of opportunity. They’ve already talked about moving that to the West, the United States and elsewhere.

There isn’t one country in this region that supports what ISIL is doing. And what we need to do is to make certain that the people of Iraq have an opportunity now, notwithstanding the difficulties that were faced in the first days here, to be able to push back. And what I made clear to the leaders here today is it’s not just a military operation. It requires political decision making. It requires courage on the part of the leaders to get over their sectarian differences, put the country above their personal choices, and make things work for everybody. They need a government that represents all of the people of Iraq regardless of background or sectarian – family, whatever the old grudge is. And we need to fight to try to help make that happen. But in the end, they are the ones who have to decide whether it happens or not.

President Obama has made it clear he is prepared to provide help to push back against ISIL, because ISIL represents a threat to our interests – the national security of the region, our allies, our partners. And if they’re moving with no borders left in certain places, that’s a threat to any country in the region, and believe me, they’ve made clear their willingness to make it so.

So we’re going to try to do this. We’re not (inaudible) where we were. The President’s made it clear we’re not putting combat troops here and into combat. We’re not going backwards. We’re going to try to help them rescue their own country from this moment through diplomacy and through some military assistance in order to give them the ability to push back.

You all are going to be central to helping keep the wheels of the machinery in this operation moving so we can be effective, so the ambassador and the others who are out there working with the leadership of the Iraqi Government can do what they need to do in order to try to make our efforts as effective as possible.

I’ll tell you, the – the building back in Washington where I’m privileged to have my office as Secretary is (inaudible) Harry Truman – HST building, it’s the Harry Truman building. And Harry Truman once said that America was not built on fear, America was built on courage, on imagination, and on the extraordinary willingness to see the job through, to get the job done. That’s what you’re doing here. You’re showing courage by being here, many of you without family – obviously without family unless you happen to be married – spouses here – separated; enormous effort. You’re obviously showing imagination to believe in the possibilities of what Iraq can be and the opportunities they have. And you’re clearly showing the grit and determination needed to try to get the job done.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am for everyone in our country that we have people like you. And you’re privileged in a sense to get up every morning and go out there and try to make a difference in the lives of other people. There are a lot of folks who never get that kind of a shot. It’s a very special job. And to all of you who are local employees – can the local employees raise their hands? Do we have them over here? We thank you because we know we can’t do this without you. And we know sometimes probably someone says, “What the heck are you doing working for them?” And they probably challenge you, but you’re here, you’re part of this effort, you’re part of the family, and we’re here to help you to have the country that you believe in and you want.

So thank you, everybody. God bless. Keep the faith. This is not the last you’ll see of me or us from the State Department. I promise you we’ll be out here and we’re going to keep working together to get the job done. Take care and God speed. Thank you. (Applause.)



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