ASSISTANT SECRETARY SCHENKER: Good afternoon, everyone. I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving. So I’ve got a statement for you. We’ve been closely monitoring developments in Iraq. The Iraqi people are calling for genuine reform and for trustworthy leaders that will put Iraq’s national interests first. As I said last week, the Iraqis are fed up with economic stagnation, endemic corruption, and mismanagement. They want better from their leaders. Iraq’s increase – Iraqis increasingly view Iran as having – Iraqis increasingly view Iran as having coopted and exploited Iraq’s political system, its economy, and its security at the expense of the Iraqi people, and this has clearly made Iran nervous, so nervous that, once again, Qods Force commander and the Iranian regime’s chief shadow diplomat is once again in Baghdad interfering in Iraqi politics. We must acknowledge and respect the fact that what is occurring in Iraq is indigenous to Iraq and reflects its citizens’ needs and desires. Those needs deserve to be addressed without resort to violence or suppression.
As Iraqi leaders consider options over the coming days to address the current crisis, their foremost consideration should be meeting the needs of the Iraqi people and rejecting and – the distorting influence Iran has exerted on the political process. The use of excessive force over the weekend in Nasiriyah was shocking and abhorrent. I believe that to date over 400 Iraqis have been killed. We call on the Government of Iraq to respect the rights of the Iraqi people and urge the government to investigate and hold accountable those who attempt to brutally silence peaceful protesters. As our embassy in Baghdad said last week, the closing of nine television channels are not consistent with the Iraqi Government’s duty to uphold freedom of expression. Harassment and intimidation of journalists and activists must end now. The U.S. Government continues to support Iraq’s security, stability, and sovereignty.