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News | April 15, 2015

Vice President Joe Biden Gives Address on Iraq at National Defense University

By Sam Marrero

On Thursday April 9th, the National Defense University hosted Vice President Joe Biden who made a speech on Iraq policy one week prior to a visit from Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to Washington.

Vice President Biden spoke in Lincoln Hall Auditorium before NDU military and civilian students, NDU faculty and staff, national press, and foreign dignitaries among whom was Iraqi Ambassador to the United States, Lukman Faily.

Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, praised Prime Minister Al-Abadi for his work negotiating a budget, the successful completion of an oil deal between Baghdad and Erbil, establishing foreign relations with regional neighbors across sects, and working to build a “functioning federalism” in Iraq.

Vice President Biden referenced the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) sweeping through Iraq last year and capturing Mosul in Northern Iraq, after which the United States was quick to provide assistance and military support in Iraq. He said that ISIL’s momentum has been halted and reports that a feeble Iraqi government yielding to Iranian dominance in the fight against ISIL “do not reflect the circumstances on the ground.” Biden argued that ISIL actually serves as a uniting force against which Iraqi factions have coalesced.

Equally important, he said, is that Iraq is to credit for this progress, not Iran – and this is due to the work of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Vice President Biden told a story having recently taken place in Tikrit, where military forces backed by Iran were leading the fight against ISIL. Iranian Quds Force commander Major General Qasem Soleimani had been making personal appearances to imply that Iran, not the Iraqi Government, was in charge.

“Then something changed,” said Vice President Biden, “Prime Minister al-Abadi stepped up, making it absolutely clear he, as commander in chief, was in charge of this operation.” Political and religious voices across the Iraqi political spectrum echoed the call that the Iraqi government should be in the lead, not Iran’s. Prime Minister al-Abadi then made it clear that he wanted the United States assistance engaged “all over Iraq” and specifically in Tikrit. “They (Iraqi’s) don’t want to be puppets dangling on the string of anyone’s puppeteering in the region. Don’t underestimate the power of Iraqi national pride, independence and sovereignty.”

"We want what Iraqis want: a united, federal and democratic Iraq ... where power is shared among all Iraqi communities.”