Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Remarks Welcoming Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani to the Pentagon

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Mr. Prime Minister, thanks for being here. It’s great to be able to host you at the Pentagon. It’s important that we’re meeting today. The United States has demonstrated once again in recent days that we are deeply committed to the security of your region and that we stand by our partners.

Mr. Prime Minister, I am very grateful for our continued partnership with Iraq, which has only strengthened under your leadership. While this weekend’s events are at the top of everyone’s mind, I also want to spend some time today on our bilateral relationship.

I am mindful that this year marks 10 years of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh. I’m proud to have been a part of that fight, and in 2019, thanks to the courage and sacrifices of the Iraqi Security Forces and our partners in Operation Inherent Resolve, together we achieved the territorial defeat of Daesh, but Daesh remains a threat to your citizens and to ours. And we remain committed to supporting Iraq’s work to protect its people and to ensure the lasting defeat of Daesh.

In the face of tension and conflict across the region, our partnership remains more important than ever and so does security and stability in Iraq. Mr. Prime Minister, we also agree on the need to transition to an enduring bilateral security relationship between the United States and Iraq.

As a part of this transition, we agreed that the inaugural U.S.-Iraq Joint Security Cooperation Dialogue in Washington last August to launch the Higher Military Commission. In that commission, our military leaders are conducting joint assessments of key factors to help inform our discussions on the upcoming transition.

Now, these are deep and respectful discussions between partners, which reflect the deep U.S. commitment to regional stability and Iraqi sovereignty, and they show how the U.S.-Iraq relationship is evolving.

Our bilateral defense relationship is broad, Mr. Prime Minister, and it spans a wide range of activities, including on security cooperation. On Saturday, your Minister of Defense signed a letter of request for the pricing and availability of counter-UAS systems from the United States, and that reflects many months of work. And the signing came at an extremely important moment.

Mr. Prime Minister, I’m eager to discuss ways for us to continue to build upon our strategic partnership under the Strategic Framework Agreement. So thanks again for being here, and I look forward to a great discussion.

PRIME MINISTER MOHAMMED SHIA AL-SUDANI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Thank you, Your Excellency. I’d like to express my happiness to visit the Pentagon and to make this meeting in one of the oldest maybe military institutions in the world.

And this meeting shows a keenness of the Iraqi government to promote the relations between the United States and Iraq. And as you mentioned, now it’s 10 years since the establishment of our national coalition against ISIS.

The Iraqi people really appreciate the efforts of the international community to support and to really fight ISIS and all terrorism on its territory. Iraqi people really gave lots of victims (inaudible). And we highly appreciate the efforts of the international coalition also, even countries outside this coalition, to help us and support us to really defeat this terrorism.

And of course, that our security forces are very ready and efficient to really keep the stability and security of Iraq. That’s why we started with the spirit of partnership the dialogue at the HMC, to evaluate the military situation and the operations against Daesh and all the other logistics, and also the efficiency and the capabilities of the Security Forces, in order to reach some suggestions about having a timetable for the withdrawal of the coalition.

At the same time, we are working together within the Security Committee of the combined security (inaudible). This committee will hold its second meeting in the next July of this year to set the right basis for the bilateral security cooperation, according to the texts of the Iraqi Constitution and the Strategic Framework Agreement.

We are interested to get the experience also to arm our forces with the (inaudible). That’s why we started to ask for the UAS systems and also the helicopters. Today, the representative from the Ministry of Defense will sign a Memorandum of Understanding to get this helicopter.

Of course, everyone is keen to keep this security partnership, especially under such circumstances that’s going on in the region. We are together in keeping the stability and security in the region and to prevent any escalation that would result in the instability of a very critical and sensitive region of the world.

We appreciate all the efforts exerted at the Pentagon with our partners at the Security Forces, and we are confident that this partnership will continue between those two countries.

Thank you.

SEC. AUSTIN: Thanks, everybody.

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