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As Last Troops Depart, U.S. and Iraq Foresee Equal Partnership

By Stephen Kaufman | Staff Writer | 12 December 2011
President Obama and Prime Minister Maliki at large wreath in Arlington National Cemetery (AP Images)

Obama and Maliki lay a wreath in Arlington Cemetery. As the U.S. military presence in Iraq ends, “our commitment to Iraq's success is going to be enduring," Obama said.

Washington — By the end of December, the last American troops will have departed from a “sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq,” President Obama said, and both countries are moving forward on a postwar relationship that he said is one “based on Iraqi sovereignty and one based on equal partnerships, mutual interests and mutual respect.”

Obama met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Washington December 12 and declared that “after nearly nine years, our war in Iraq ends this month,” and Iraq is assuming its rightful place in the international community.

“People throughout the region will see a new Iraq that’s determining its own destiny, a country in which people from different religious sects and ethnicities can resolve their differences peacefully through the democratic process,” Obama said.

Maliki said the relationship between Iraq and the United States “will not end with the departure of the last American soldier.” While Iraq has successfully proven its ability to be self-reliant in meeting its security challenges, he said, it wants to continue its security cooperation with the United States, as well as cooperation in the economic, educational, cultural and judicial fields.

“Iraq today has a lot of wealth, and it needs experience and expertise and American and foreign expertise to help Iraq [exploit] its own wealth in an ideal way,” Maliki said, adding, “We hope that the American companies will have the largest role in increasing our wealth in the area of oil and other aspects as well.”

The prime minister also called for a wide range of educational reforms and welcomed agreements that will bring hundreds of Iraqi college graduates to pursue advanced degrees in American universities.

Obama said that the United States will continue to support Iraq and that he wants to see a comprehensive relationship develop so that as cooperation on trade, science, development and security expand, “there is a constant communication between our governments … there are deep and rich exchanges between our two governments and between our peoples.”

After nearly nine years, the United States has made “an enormous investment of blood and treasure in Iraq,” he said, and even as the U.S. military presence in the country comes to an end, both countries should understand that “our commitment to Iraq’s success is going to be enduring.”

“What’s happened over the last several years has linked the United States and Iraq in a way that is potentially powerful and could end up benefiting not only America and Iraq, but also the entire region and the entire world,” Obama said.

With its diverse population and its potential for economic prosperity, an Iraq that is inclusive and brings together all of its people to build and share in its success can be “a model for others that are aspiring to create democracy in the region,” he said.

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html)