Kerry Calls for Swift Confirmation of Beecroft as Ambassador to Iraq
Washington, DC – This morning, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) delivered the following statement on the nomination of the Honorable Robert Stephen Beecroft, of California, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Iraq.
“Our Embassy in Baghdad, the consulates in Basra and Erbil and other offices supporting the Embassy and Office of Security Cooperation still number about 14,000 people, and that makes it our largest Mission in the world. We are going to need someone with Ambassador Beecroft’s demonstrated management skills to right-size the mission and ensure that all the appropriate security measures are in place to keep our staff safe and secure,” said Sen. Kerry. “There is no substitute for having a confirmed Ambassador in place and ready to hit the ground running, especially at this critical moment in the region. It’s my hope to move this nomination as rapidly as we can in the next 48 hours because we must have a confirmed Ambassador and it would be a dereliction of the Congress’ responsibility were we to leave here for the next six weeks and not have done so.”
The full text of Chairman Kerry’s hearing statement, as delivered, is below:
I want to thank everybody for coming. I am very, very pleased to welcome Robert Stephen Beecroft, who is a career Foreign Service officer nominated by President Obama to be our Ambassador to Iraq.
I think all of us on the Committee are pleased that the President has nominated somebody of high caliber, great experience, who has already been serving as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Baghdad for the past year and previously served as Ambassador to Jordan and executive assistant to Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.
While America’s war has ended in Iraq, the struggle for Iraq’s future, obviously, has not ended. Violence is down, but al Qaeda in Iraq remains a very deadly foe and Iraq may not capture the day-to-day headlines, but no one should make the mistake to somehow come to a conclusion that Iraq doesn’t present extraordinary challenges. This Administration has worked tirelessly to assure that it doesn’t become a forgotten front.
Through the Strategic Framework Agreement, we put in place a roadmap to expand our relations with Iraq on a broad spectrum of issues—political, economic, cultural, educational, scientific, and, military. Our bilateral partnership has the potential to contribute, we believe, to the stability in the Middle East. But Iraqi leaders have to decide for themselves what kind of country they hope to create. And as they do, we need to devote the diplomatic energy and the civilian resources necessary to help them succeed.
Ambassador Beecroft, all of your skills, considerable skills, are going to be called on in Iraq. And among the many challenges that you’ll face, there are four that I would personally, particularly like to just call to your attention:
As we mourn the tragic deaths last week of Ambassador Chris Stevens and his three colleagues in Benghazi, we are reminded that our diplomats all around the world serve on the frontlines of the world’s most dangerous places, and they do so at great risk to themselves and at great personal sacrifice for their families. Our Embassy in Baghdad, the consulates in Basra and Erbil and other offices supporting the Embassy and Office of Security Cooperation still number about 14,000 people, and that makes it our largest Mission in the world. We are going to need someone with Ambassador Beecroft’s demonstrated management skills to right-size the mission and ensure that all the appropriate security measures are in place to keep our staff safe and secure.
Iraq’s leaders have a rare opportunity to consolidate their democracy and build a strong, durable institutions, or set of institutions, that can hold their country together. But more will be required from the Iraqi government. Questions remain about whether Iraqi leaders, including the Prime Minister, aspire to represent a unified Iraq in all of its diversity or whether they seek to govern narrowly according to ethnic and sectarian constituencies. To ensure that parliamentary elections in 2014 are free and fair, Iraq’s electoral commission must be professional, transparent and impartial. Iraqi leaders across the political spectrum must also be willing to make tough compromises and put national priorities over personal ambitions. It is no secret that we are at a moment of heightened sectarian tensions in the Middle East, Iraqi leaders should understand that the best way to insulate themselves from the horrific violence in Syria is through meaningful political compromise in Iraq.
As Iraq’s leaders work to establish a more stable political order, they need to redouble efforts to reach agreement on disputed boundaries, on oil and on Kirkuk’s final status. If progress is not made in defusing tensions, the window for a peaceful resolution of Kirkuk and other disputed territories may well close. Baghdad and Erbil must resolve their differences on the Kurdish region’s authority to enter into oil exploration and production contracts. To their credit, the Iraqis have made efforts to resolve issues related to revenue sharing, but the country still lacks an overarching legal framework for its oil industry. Without this agreement, Iraq will be unable to unleash the full potential of its oil sector.
For years, Iraq has focused on its internal politics, but it now must also begin to look outwards. It is not surprising that Iraq seeks neighborly relations with Iran. But the reports of Iran using Iraqi airspace to resupply Assad’s ruthless regime are troubling. Just this week, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps acknowledged that Iran is providing assistance and training to groups inside Syria, begging the question of how else Iranian materiel might get into Syria. This is a problem, and it will only grow worse if not addressed.
Iraq’s response to the situation in Syria will also be an important test case. The Maliki government should play a constructive role in supporting initiatives that bring about a peaceful transition in Syria. At a minimum, it should avoid fanning the flames of violence. It will also be incumbent on other countries in the region, particularly the Gulf Cooperation Council, to recognize Iraq as something other than an Iranian proxy and work more proactively to normalize relations. I continue to believe that Iraq has an opportunity to chart its own course as an alternative to the Iranian model, and demonstrate the vibrant potential of a truly multi-ethnic, Shia-majority democracy.
Let me just close by reiterating that our Embassy in Baghdad is one of our most important today and what happens there is critical to our bilateral relationship but also to all of our work in the Middle East. This is not a time for delay. There is no substitute for having a confirmed Ambassador in place and ready to hit the ground running, especially at this critical moment in the region. It’s my hope to move this nomination as rapidly as we can in the next 48 hours because we must have a confirmed Ambassador and it would be a dereliction of the Congress’ responsibility were we to leave here for the next six weeks and not have done so. I strongly support Ambassador Beecroft’s nomination and intend to work for that swift confirmation.
Ambassador Beecroft, we welcome you today, thanks for coming on short notice, I know we appreciate it and look forward to hearing your thoughts on the way forward in Iraq.
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Jodi Seth, 202-224-4159
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