Iraqi Ambassador Seeks US Support, Paints Hopeful Picture

Jude Abeler Contributor
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It is in the national security interest of the United States to help combat the immediate ISIS threat in Iraq and not give up on the country’s dream of surviving as a democratic entity, according to Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily.

“Help us to help you in the fight against international terrorism,” Faily said Tuesday at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. “We have an urgency now that we want you to help us with.”

“The whole project is about hope,” he said.

While there are a myriad complex challenges facing Iraq, he finds hope in the midst of the “earthquake” that has happened there, and even said that people in Baghdad feel they are now at “the safest point they have been for a long time.”

He said the people want to move as far away from a dictatorship as possible, and he’s here to share that project with Americans — which starts with reclaiming Iraqi soil from ISIS and properly governing it through Baghdad.

The ambassador’s statements come one week before Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is expected to visit Washington on April 14 for the first time since becoming prime minister last August.

“The prime minister’s visit underscores the strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq and the strong U.S. commitment to political and military cooperation with Iraq in the joint fight against ISIL,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement. “The president and prime minister will discuss a range of issues, including continued U.S. support to Iraq to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.”

The United States is already currently engaged in airstrike campaigns against ISIS, as well as intelligence sharing with Iraq, but the Iraqi military still remains in bad shape despite the US having sent a whopping $26 billion in military aid between 2003 and 2012, according to a report by the Special Investigator General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).

Iraq has not done many things that would have made life easier for themselves, and they bear much of the blame for the poor shape they are in, according to Abbas Kadhim, Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at SAIS.

He said the Iraqi military currently has 10 divisions functioning at only 50 percent capacity, and they essentially need to “redo” it so that it has the arms, air force, and logistics that are required to hold Iraq and deter future attacks.

More details of what the prime minister is looking for exactly will be provided during his visit, but some have estimated that the operation against ISIS could cost $15-20 billion per year.

Kadhim indicated that the prime minister’s visit will be the first of many, and made it clear that even after Iraq’s territory has been reclaimed, there is still much to do in terms of reconstructing the country.

“We are talking about not just the reconstruction of what was destroyed by the war,” he said, but “reconstruction of the political infrastructure, the economic infrastructure, the social infrastructure, a reconstruction of a nation that can function into the future and doesn’t fall again with the next challenge into the same trouble that we are coming out of.”

Ambassador Faily concluded by acknowledging that Iraq “may not say thank you enough” when it comes to getting help.

“That’s part of our culture unfortunately, but we do need and want to have that relationship with the United States.”