Obama & al-Maliki discuss U.S. & Iraq post-war relations

With less than three weeks before the U.S. completes its troop withdrawal from Iraq, President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met at the White House yesterday to discuss the two nations’ post-war relations. 

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki shakes hands with President Barack Obama at a joint press conference on Dec. 12, 2011. IMAGE SOURCE: WhiteHouse.gov (Lawrence Jackson)

The drawdown of 150,000 U.S. troops will finish on Dec. 31, 2011, ending nearly nine years of war that have killed 4,500 American troops and countless Iraqis, wounded tens of thousands, and cost the United States at least $806 billion since 2003.

“We’re here to mark the end of this war, to honor the sacrifices of all those who made this day possible, and to turn the page to begin a new chapter in the history between our countries – a normal relationship between sovereign nations, an equal partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect,” said Obama.

At a joint press conference, Obama reassured the Iraqi prime minister that the United States remains committed to helping Iraq under the terms outlined in the Strategic Framework Agreement, which was signed in 2008 during the Bush administration.

“Mr. Prime Minister, as we end this war and as Iraq faces its future, the Iraqi people must know that you will not stand alone. You have a strong and enduring partner in the United States of America,” said Obama.

Under the SFA, the United States has agreed to continue to support Iraq’s economic development, oil productions, democratic institutions, law enforcement and security efforts, and public infrastructures (including utilities, energy, transportation, agriculture, and health care) following the withdrawal of American troops.

“I am very happy, every time we meet with the American side, I find determination and a strong will to activate the Strategic Framework Agreement.  And I will say, frankly, this is necessary and it serves the interests of Iraq, as it is necessary and serves the interests of the United States of America,” said al-Maliki.

Although the U.S. will no longer maintain military bases in Iraq, the United States will continue to provide Iraqis with military training and equipments to maintain security and deter terrorist organizations or hostile neighboring states – such as Iran and Syria – from exploiting Iraq’s vulnerabilities while the country tries to rebuild.

“We’ll partner for our shared security,” said Obama. “Our strong presence in the Middle East endures, and the United States will never waver in defense of our allies, our partners, or our interests.”

Despite the war’s conclusion, the U.S. still has many strategic economic, security, and geopolitical interests that depend on Iraq’s well-being.

Consider this: Iraq holds 115 billion barrels of the world’s petroleum reserves, ranking fourth behind Saudi Arabia (266.7 billion barrels), Canada (178.1 billion barrels), and Iran (136.2 billion barrels). Given that the U.S. consumes 20% of the world’s petroleum but holds less than 2% of the global oil reserves, the United States may one day have to rely on Iraq’s oil exports to meet its energy needs.

Finally, a stable and secure Iraq may, in theory, help counter the emerging threats posed by terrorist organizations as well as countries like Iran and Syria against the United States and its allies in the Middle East.

“We’ve got an enormous investment of blood and treasure in Iraq, and we want to make sure that, even as we bring the last troops out, that it’s well understood both in Iraq and here in the United States that our commitment to Iraq’s success is going to be enduring,” said Obama.

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