March 20, 2017

Senators Urge Continued U.S. Support for Unity, Stability in Iraq

WASHINGTON – As Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi visits Washington, U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led a bipartisan letter to President Donald J. Trump urging continued U.S. support to foster unity and stability in Iraq. In addition to Corker and Cardin, the letter was signed by Senators Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), James E. Risch (R-Idaho), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio). 

Text of the letter is included below.

Dear President Trump:

We write to you united in our desire to see the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi people seize the opportunity of the forthcoming defeat of ISIS on the battlefield. The Iraqi Security Forces, with American support, have performed admirably. We believe the Iraqis’ success in liberating their own country presents them with an opportunity to commit to a reform agenda that stabilizes the country and creates enduring security. We should be ready to support Prime Minister Al-Abadi as he moves forward with a plan to reassure all Iraqis of their inclusion in a unified, federal Iraq.  In order to provide this assurance, we should be prepared to assist Iraq in a program of decentralization, reconciliation, and security sector reform. 

Iraqi leaders now have the opportunity to reject the divisive agenda that disenfranchised the Sunni community, antagonized Iraq’s Kurds, isolated Iraq’s minority communities, and alienated the many Shia Iraqis who desire a democratic, inclusive, and pluralistic vision for their country. These political grievances produced the fertile ground for ISIS’ rapid expansion and brutal assault on the Iraqi people, and aggravated fractures in Iraqi society that pushed the country into civil war. Pushing ISIS out of Iraq has united its people around a common cause. Now, that sense of unity must turn to rebuilding the country.

We urge you to continue working with Iraq’s leaders to preserve their country’s unity and ensure its stability. This requires a plan for decentralizing some functions of the government, disbanding Iranian-aligned militias, addressing the humanitarian needs of Iraq’s community, and committing to a program of reconciliation. 

As Prime Minister Al-Abadi visits Washington, we stand ready to work with you on the following steps.

First, the Prime Minister’s visit is an opportunity to reengage with the American people about the continuing strategic importance of Iraq. The United States has an enduring national security interest in the development of an inclusive and stable Iraq that can secure its own citizens and territory. We therefore urge you to take the lead in building greater public support for our strategic objectives in Iraq.

Second, it is in our national security interest to continue supporting Iraq’s security forces so that they can partner with U.S. forces on counterterrorism. We support the train, equip, and advise mission that has enabled Iraqi Security Forces, Kurdish Peshmerga forces, and Sunni tribal forces to push ISIS out of Iraq.  Going forward, U.S. commitment to continuing this mission must be part of a comprehensive Iraqi strategy to manage and sustain support for local forces who will be at the front lines combatting future terrorist actions.

Third, Iraq’s long-term stability is dependent on the government’s commitment to civilian security. Iraq will remain vulnerable to the next ISIS if immediate steps are not taken to respond to the humanitarian crisis. Iraq’s leaders should continue to prioritize partnerships with the United Nations and other assistance providers to ensure that aid is reaching the most vulnerable. The Government must also commit significant energy and resources to stabilize and secure areas liberated from ISIS, and assist Iraq’s displaced communities in returning to their homes.  If the Iraqi government cannot improve the lives of these communities, the threat from extremist groups will continue to challenge the country.

Finally, and most importantly, we urge you to continue working with Prime Minister Al-Abadi on governance and reconciliation efforts. Iraq’s challenges will not be solved when ISIS is defeated on the battlefield. The United States should be ready to support Al-Abadi and his government as it takes the steps necessary to implement a real post-ISIS governance plan. This plan must give Sunni Iraqis a greater share of national power and revenue, formulate a true reconciliation process across ethno-sectarian lines, include a pathway towards a sustainable and mutually supportive agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government, embrace greater federalism and regional autonomy as appropriate, and ensure that Iraqis who answered the call to defend their country can return home to economic opportunities. It should include a clear commitment that the elections scheduled for 2018 in Iraq will happen freely, fairly, and inclusively in all parts of the country, without outside interference.

If Prime Minister Al-Abadi commits to lead Iraq along these lines after ISIS’ defeat, he should have our full support in this endeavor.

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