Posted on 19 January 2013. Tags: 'Your Country' - United States
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By Stephen Beecroft, US Ambassador to Iraq.
Last month marked the one-year anniversary of the U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq and the beginning of a new chapter in our bilateral relationship. Over the past year, Iraq has assumed an increasingly prominent place in the region politically and economically.
For example, Iraq hosted an Arab League Summit as well as “P5+1” negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. It now produces more oil than at any time in the last 30 years and is projected to be the fastest growing economy in the world in 2013.
The United States welcomes Iraq’s success and will continue to strive to support all the Iraqi people, through the Strategic Framework Agreement that governs our bilateral relationship, in safeguarding the constitutional rights of all citizens, providing essential services to the people, developing its economy, and establishing a modern military to defend its sovereignty.
For the United States, a top priority is to expand American investment and commercial ties with Iraq, especially since bolstering the private sector here is critical to growing the economy, reaching full employment, and raising the standard of living.
As a matter of fact, the U.S. Pavilion at the Baghdad International Fair in November featured a broad range of leading American companies eager to do business in Iraq. Iraqi exports to the United States rose 40 percent in 2011 while U.S. exports to Iraq rose 47 percent. Iraq recently took possession of an American-built Boeing 777 passenger aircraft, which can carry more passengers and cargo farther than any other jetliner today. Iraq also is scheduled to begin taking delivery of 30 Next-Generation Boeing 737s in mid-2013.
The United States government has demonstrated its commitment to Iraq’s development by investing nearly $8.8 billion since 2003 on infrastructure and projects promoting civil society, democracy, and economic growth, as well as projects focused on humanitarian assistance, education, health, and the environment.
For example, the U.S. Agency for International development’s Community Action Program helped local communities from Dohuk to Al Anbar to Basrah complete 10,000 local projects, such as building schools, health clinics, roads, and water networks.
Even though U.S. troops departed over a year ago, we continue to work with Iraq to rebuild its military into a more professional and effective defense force that contributes to peace and security in the region. Through the Embassy’s Office of Security Cooperation, we are equipping Iraq with aircraft and naval vessels to help it protect its borders and meet its legitimate defense needs in the coming years. Our important military leadership, human rights, and technical training programs for Iraqi military personnel are part of a close and productive security relationship which we expect will grow and evolve for years to come.
The overall relationship between the United States and Iraq goes beyond politics, economics, and security. We are particularly proud of the people-to-people connections. We are supporting programs in the arts, sciences, and education and are partnering with universities throughout the country to institutionalize the educational linkages that are vital to both countries.
An increasing number of Iraqis are studying in the United States (up 31 per cent from last year) and benefitting from the best higher education system in the world. The Embassy sends hundreds of other young people for exchange visits to the United States, as well. We are also enhancing the bilateral cultural relationship by bringing musical acts, poets, filmmakers, and authors to share their perspectives with Iraqi audiences.
Over one thousand disadvantaged Iraqi youths are among those who have enrolled in our immensely popular English language programs, and our prestigious Fulbright Scholarship program funds more Iraqis to continue their graduate studies in the United States than students from any other country in the region. Americans and Iraqis are meeting, learning and working together in unprecedented numbers to help both our countries share a vibrant, prosperous, and democratic future.
The United States will continue to be a true friend to Iraq. We will help as friends do, be honest as friends are, and work together toward common goals as friends must. This is my government’s commitment and my personal promise.
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