Senior US policy makers visited Iraq in mid-January and met with leaders in Baghdad and Erbil. They offered their support to the new government in Baghdad and urged the leaders in Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) to both support Baghdad and get over their internal divisions. However, the political environment in Iraq and the KRI is increasingly complex and progress can be challenging.
To debate these issues, the Middle East Research Institute (MERI) organised a special policy debate, on Wednesday 31 January, between a selected group of local policy-makers, academic, journalists and diplomats from the US Consulate in Erbil (see list of participants below). The discussions were conducted under Chatham House Rules.
On several occasions, including at MERI Forum 2022 (1-3 November), several US senior diplomats referred to President Biden policy statements where he emphasised that “the US is here to stay” in the Middle East, including Iraq. This commitment was also the essence of the US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue that encompasses a number of confidence-building initiatives and mutually rewarding investment opportunities.
The US partnership has been and will continue to be critical for Iraq and the KRI. Despite all the problems and concerns, the KRI-US relationship remained unshakable and likely to continue. Over the recent years, reforming the Peshmarge forces became a major focus of the US-KRI partnership. In September 2022, the US Department of Defence and the KRG Ministry of Peshmerga signed a historic, four-year Memorandum of Understanding. This was considered by participants as a clear demonstration of the US commitment to the special relationship and its determination to stay in the country.
Ano Jawhar, Minister of Transportation, KRG
Bakhtyar Mohammed, Secretary General, Ministry of Peshmerga
Chinar Saad, Member of the KDP Leadership
Dara Khailani, Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister, KRG
Dlawer Ala’Aldeen, President of MERI
Fuad Smail, HR Director, MERI
Hajar Omer Ismail, Ministry of Peshmerga
Joshua Lewis, Political Economic Officer, US Consulate General
Kamal Rauf, Editor in Chief, Shar Press
Kamaran Palani, Research Fellow, MERI
Nahro Zagros, Academic & Policy Researcher
Nashat Mahmood, Advisor, Kurdistan Parliament
Othman Laylani, Academic & Think Tanker (TASK)
Saadi Pira, Polit Bureau Member, PUK
Stam Saeed, Member of Gorran Leadership
Talar Noori, Media & Civil Society Activist
Tanya Gilli-Khaliani, Former MP and Civil Society activist
Zahra Bell, the US Deputy Consul General in Erbil