Apr 10, 2012

Iraqi Kurdistan: US Support For Kurdistan

During the visit of Kurdistan’s President to the United States, Massoud Barzani met with top US Officials, including US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who assured their commitment and support for Kurdistan and its people. 

Below is an article published by the Kurdish Globe:

Obama says his country is committed to their close and historic relationship with Kurdistan and the Kurdish people.

Kurdistan Region's President Massoud Barzani met with top U.S. officials during a visit to Washington last week. He met with U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the White House on April 4 [2012]. During the meeting, Obama and Biden reiterated their commitment toward relations between their country and Kurdistan Region.

President Obama and Vice President Biden also encouraged President Barzani to continue to play the "vital role" he has been playing in the Iraqi political process.

The White House's official website reads: "The two leaders discussed a range of issues related to Iraq and the region and steps the U.S. would take to expand services offered at Consulate Irbil. They also expressed support for continued high-level consultations between U.S. officials and representatives of the Kurdistan Regional Government."

During a working lunch hosted by Vice President Biden, he discussed the current Iraqi situations with Barzani and the U.S. plans for expanding the activities and services offered by the U.S. Consulate in Erbil.

The meetings came a day after Obama called Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to congratulate him on the Arab Summit held last week and to stress his support for a unified Iraq, reported AFP.

The report also read: "The U.S. leader also told Maliki that he backed Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's call for a national conference this week to bridge sharp differences between rival political blocs in the country from which U.S. troops withdrew last year at the end of a nearly nine-year-long war."

"It was extremely important to hear from the U.S. president and vice president again their country's commitment to a democratic, federal and pluralistic Iraq and commitment to Kurdistan and the Kurdish nation," stated Barzani in an interview with Al-Hurra TV on Thursday, April 5 [2012]. "It was very important for me to hear about their actual opinions, and especially after the withdrawal of their army from Iraq. There is definitely a new situation and I heard what I was hoping from the U.S. officials."

Barzani informed President Obama and Vice President Biden about the current political crisis in Iraq and Maliki's "disrespect" to the articles of the Erbil Agreement and the Iraqi Constitution. He warned that if a solution is not found urgently, there is a threat that the country is headed toward dictatorship.

"Maliki is the absolute power in Iraq," reiterated Barzani in the interview with Al-Hurra. "We are not guests in Baghdad, we are part of the government. No one is allowed to click us out of Baghdad."

Barzani also added that they should try to solve the issue all together. If this fails, they will turn to the Kurdish nation for a final decision.

President Barzani also met with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, according to the Pentagon. Neither the White House nor the Pentagon released further details on the talks.

Barzani addressed the Washington Institute for Near East Policy during his U.S. visit, where he also shed light about the political crisis in Iraq and possible consequences.

"Speaking in his only public remarks while on an official visit to Washington, His Excellency, Masoud Barzani, said that if a solution to the increasing centralization of power in the prime minister's hands cannot be negotiated, he may ask the Kurdish Region's Parliament to consider a referendum to determine the way forward," read a report about the address on the official website of the Institute on April 5 [2012].

President Barzani also met with other U.S. officials and businesspersons, including the CEO of Exxon Mobil, Rex Tillerson, who stated that his company would continue its operations in Kurdistan Region.

Tillerson praised President Barzani's efforts toward the developments in Kurdistan Region and described Kurdistan Region as a strong partner of Exxon Mobil. He reemphasized his company's commitment to oil exploration and production contracts it has signed with both the Kurdistan Region and the Iraqi government. Barzani promised to offer all support and assistance for the company's operations in Kurdistan Region.

While in the U.S., President Barzani also met with the chairman and members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Friday, April 6 [2012]. He briefed those attending on the current political, economic and social situations of Kurdistan, and described the Region as a fast-developing and booming region. He encouraged American businesses and investors to move into this new and high-potential market and invest their capital there.

The American businessmen and businesswomen attending the meeting described Kurdistan as an attractive market for U.S. businesses, especially due to the high level of security and stability the region enjoys, which is key to attracting investors.

Other issues discussed during the meeting were the legal framework for commercial and business activities as well as the opportunities currently available for U.S. companies and investors in Kurdistan.

Barzani also participated in the launch on Friday, April 6 [2012], of the America-Kurdistan Business Council, which consists of American companies investing and operating in Kurdistan Region.

"The USKBC will be the principal organization focused on promoting business and investment in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and helping American companies succeed in Kurdistan," Alex Lari, principal of the Claremont Group, an investment firm and founding member of the USKBC, said.

"We are delighted that there is now an official trade association in Washington that will help facilitate investment that benefits U.S. business as well as this thriving region in Iraq," said David Tafuri, a U.S. lawyer and advisor to the USKBC. Tafuri stated that the factor behind the establishment of USKBC is the economic and business development in the Kurdish Region.

Barzani also described the establishment of the USKBC as the opening of another door between Erbil and Washington.

Jane James, a retired U.S. General, was appointed as the Executive Chairman of the Council. During the meeting, she promised to actively participate in the economic and business development of the Region through USKBC.