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Washington warns of Iraq's slide into violence

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An American statement reveals details of Barbara Leaf's meetings in Iraq

Baghdad - people  

On Friday, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf revealed the details of her meetings with a group of journalists in the Kurdistan region, and the files that were discussed during them, including the recent events in the capital, Baghdad.  




A US statement, received by "NASS" (September 9, 2022), stated that "the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Barbara Leaf, met with a group of journalists in the Kurdistan region of Iraq to inform them of her recent meetings with political leaders in Baghdad and Erbil."  


Leaf discussed, "the recent violence in Baghdad, the United States' support for Iraq's sovereignty, stability, and security, the national oil and gas law, and a political settlement, all on the basis of a meaningful settlement and dialogue."  


She also strongly encouraged all Iraqis, including the people of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, to vote at every opportunity, noting that "this is the best way for citizens to control their government."  


"The climate in which journalists exercise their responsibility to the public is eroding, and he told media representatives that we raise this issue frequently in our meetings with government officials," Leaf noted.  

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Will Iraq be part of the "nuclear deal" deal between Washington and Tehran?

Analysts: The United States is tied to Iran's arms in Mesopotamia and is committed to neutrality in order to preserve "fragile stability"


Ahmed Al-Suhail correspondent @aalsuhail8  Saturday 10 September 2022 15:09



The US foreign positions on Iraq are still governed by the policy of "crisis anesthesia" (AFP)


With the acceleration of events on the Iraqi arena during the last period, the question remains about the role of the United States of America regarding the Iraqi crisis, especially after the escalation of the conflict between the "Sadr movement" on the one hand and groups loyal to Iran on the other.


The answer to this question appears subject to several factors, most notably the discrepancy between Washington's handling of the Iranian file during the rule of former US President Donald Trump and the current period led by Joe Biden .


Perhaps the most prominent differences between the two eras are that the previous administration used the policy of "maximum pressure" in dealing with Tehran and its arms in the region, which Biden's policy does not follow and is looking, according to observers, for new mechanisms to "contain Tehran" and reactivate the nuclear file again. .

Observers believe that attempts to contain Tehran and its allies in the region may represent the main path for the possibility of reactivating the Iranian-American consensus on Iraq, which gives the Iraqi parties loyal to Iran a new comfort space to restore their situation inside Iraq.


Throughout the period from the announcement of the election results until now, and the accompanying crises, the US administration did not pursue any escalation against Iran's arms, as the statements of US officials focused on the need for all political parties to sit at a dialogue table to resolve the crisis and expedite the formation of the next government.


A position in harmony with Tehran


In the midst of the events that took place in Baghdad at the end of last August and the armed conflict between the "Sadr movement" and militias loyal to Iran, observers believe that the position of the US State Department is largely in harmony with the Iranian position, perhaps indicating a kind of possible settlement at the level of Iraq.

Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs Barbara Leaf said that "the recent political conflict between the political elites can only be resolved at the negotiating table and dialogue."


She pointed out in a press statement that "the Green Zone clashes have made Iraq on the edge of the abyss and may lead to a civil war."


Perhaps what reinforces the belief that decision-makers in Washington may try to push all parties, including parties and militias loyal to Iran, to enter into a consensus once again is to support the dialogue sponsored by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi between the “coordinating framework” on the one hand and the “Sadr movement” on the one hand. On the other hand, Leaf pointed out that it represents "the right path to move forward in resolving the crisis, and we do not expect to resolve matters in one and two sessions."


The dialogue session launched by Al-Kazemi witnessed the presence of the parties to the "coordinating framework" loyal to Tehran, and the absence of the "Sadr movement" for the second time.


Washington is out of the "conspiracy"


The Biden administration's insistence on reactivating the nuclear agreement with Tehran may raise the possibility that any new agreement with reduced terms on Iran would be an outlet for the state parties in Iraq to exploit to rearrange the scenario of an American-Iranian consensus regarding the next government.


On April 22, months before the escalation of events in the country, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran Jennifer Gavito urged Iraqi politicians to expedite the formation of the government, citing the need to "save the country in chaos."

The American talk about the necessity of dialogue and the urgency of forming a government prompts many researchers to say that it includes a push for "consensus between the different."




At the same time, it seems that there is an internal political movement that aspires to reactivate this scenario, as the militia parties and political arms loyal to Iran have not stopped courting Washington and decreasing the level of escalation in general against American interests in the country during the past months.


Several statements by the head of the "State of Law" coalition, Nuri al-Maliki, since Biden came to power, give an impression of the path of courtship with the "state" parties of the new administration in Washington, in addition to the signs of relief shown by Tehran regarding the possibility of reactivating the nuclear agreement again.


On April 28, al-Maliki excluded Washington from what he called “the conspiracy led by the tripartite alliance against the largest component,” and while he indicated that it was “not satisfied” with this project, he made it clear that the Biden administration was “afraid of the failure of the project and its relapse with consequences and damage.” .


Crisis sedation policy.


In this context, Munqith Dagher, head of the Middle East region at Gallup International, says that the US position on Iraq "has not reached a stage of stability since the occupation until now," justifying this by "the changes in successive administrations regarding foreign policy toward Iraq."


Dagher confirms in an interview with "The Independent Arabic" that the US foreign policy towards Iraq is still governed by the policy of "anaesthesia of crises", noting that the sensitivity of the situation with Iran in the current period that is witnessing attempts to conclude a nuclear deal makes Washington "restricted regarding the Iraqi issue and the file of Tehran's arms in it." ".


Dagher describes the US political moves in Iraq during the current period as "like walking in a minefield," at a time when Washington is trying "to maintain a balance with Iran, and it also does not want to allow the militias to take over Iraq."


He concludes that there is a loss of confidence within Washington in the "Sadr movement", which puts decision makers in the White House in a position to "manage contradictions for fear that the situation will erupt in a way that may create a crisis that hinders their projects regarding the Middle East."


Attempts to "Contain Tehran"


Observers believe that what prompts the pro-Iranian parties to believe in the possibility of reactivating the (Washington-Tehran) scenario in Iraq is the similarity of the current US political atmosphere to some extent with the atmosphere of the formation of Iraqi governments during the rule of former US President Barack Obama, which witnessed the activation of this consensual scenario.


The head of the Iraqi-Australian Center for Studies, Ahmed al-Yasiri, talks about a strategic shift in US policy after Biden's arrival at the White House, as he points out that decision makers in Washington have returned the Iranian arms file in the region to being "part of the understandings with Tehran."


Perhaps this shift falls within the "policy of containing Tehran" that the new administration wants to pursue instead of the policy of "maximum pressure" practiced by the administration of former President Donald Trump, according to al-Yasiri, who adds to "The Independent Arabia", that what confirms the changes in US foreign policy is "The similar position of the American and Iranian Foreign Affairs regarding the recent events in Iraq," noting that this policy coincides with "a clear retreat from the Iranian arms regarding escalation towards Washington and targeting its interests in the country."


Perhaps the Biden era can be described as similar to the Obama period, especially with regard to Middle East files, as Al-Yasiri expresses, adding that "this similarity is what prompted the Biden administration to leave the file of Iranian arms to local and regional interactions with relative attempts not to allow them to be empowered more." .


Al-Yasiri attributes Washington's neutral stance regarding the conflict between the "Sadr movement" and the arms of Tahrat to "the fears that the southern region of the country will turn into an open conflict space," noting that this matter contributed to some extent in "unifying the views between Washington and Tehran in dealing with the crisis." Last".


In addition to the fears that the situation will slip, Al-Yasiri believes that the Democratic administration in Washington "desires to put pressure on Iranian influence to obtain gains in the negotiations of the nuclear program, and not to open a direct front with its tools in the region."


He concludes that Biden's policy made it possible for Tehran's arms to "reactivate the consensus scenario again, especially with the failure of al-Sadr's efforts to form a political majority government."

To maintain "fragile stability"


There was a belief during the period prior to the resignation of the "Sadr bloc" deputies that it was possible to break this consensus equation through the continued cohesion of the "triple alliance" and its imposition by a majority political government, but the current atmosphere gives the impression that a return to consensus is very possible.


The head of the Calwadha Center for Studies, Basil Hussein, believes that the American attitudes in recent years seem to be directly affected by the continuation of the crises in Iraq for nearly two decades, which has caused Washington to "exhaust up this file."


Hussein adds to "The Independent Arabia", that the Biden administration's preoccupation with several files, including the Iranian nuclear file and the repercussions of the Ukrainian crisis and others, pushed the Iraqi file "outside the priorities of decision-makers in Washington."


The American interest in the Iraqi file focuses on two points, according to Hussein, which are "preserving the fragile stability that ensures that there are no sharp changes in the political system that it contributed to, and preventing the escalation of the dispute to internal fighting in order to preserve stability."


The Iraqi arena represents "the ideal platform for Washington and Tehran," as Hussein expresses, pointing out that it is still an arena for "sending messages exchanged between the two parties during periods of escalation or settlement."


Concerns in the current period seem to revolve around the possibility of Iraq being part of the US-Iranian settlement deals in the context of attempts to reach a new nuclear agreement, as Hussein points out that "such a deal will contribute to further amplifying the roles of Iran's arms in Iraq."


half turn


The head of the Center for Political Thinking, Ihsan Al-Shammari, believes that the visit of the Assistant Foreign Minister to the country, following the recent events, represents a “half of a turn” towards the Iraqi file again, especially with the Biden administration’s great fears of “the explosion of the security situation and the possibility of an escalation of Iranian expansion further in the country.” Orienting Baghdad's political compass.


Al-Shammari believes that the general pattern of US policy in Iraq currently is "attempts to control the pace of differences within the Iraqi political system in a way that does not achieve a complete victory for Iran, and at the same time does not give the various parties a perception that Washington has completely left the Iraqi file."


Perhaps what raises questions about the role of the international community in the successive Iraqi crises, according to Al-Shammari, is “the Iraqi society’s reliance in general on international forces,” noting that the motives for Iraqis anticipating international intervention are related to “the failure of internal means to resolve problems, especially with confronting all protest movements with great violence.


Al-Shammari continues that the Iraqis' anticipation of an international intervention exited from the waiting space of a "military force" to enter into attempts to push the international community to "put pressure on the political system and issue resolutions by the Security Council to compel the regime to carry out reforms."


Al-Shammari rules out that the purpose of the Biden administration's political movement in Iraq is linked to "sending messages of reassurance to Tehran," adding that "Iraq is not the most prominent card to impose conditions on Iran."

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Barbara Leaf emphasises resolving disputes between Iraq and Kurds on regional trip

US assistant secretary of state is in Iraq after period of violent political instability


Barbara Leaf meets with Iraq's Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi in Baghdad. Photo: Iraqi Prime Minister's Office

Barbara Leaf meets with Iraq's Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi in Baghdad. Photo: Iraqi Prime Minister's Office



Sep 07, 2022
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Barbara Leaf, the US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, expressed the “urgency” of resolving the political impasse in Iraq and the importance of unity among Kurdish parties in meetings with local political leaders, the State Department said on Wednesday.

Ms Leaf is in Iraq this week on the tailend of a regional trip that has also included Tunisia, Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.

Vedant Patel, the State Department's deputy spokesman, confirmed to reporters that Ms Leaf had reiterated US President Joe Biden's calls for a peaceful resolution to disputes between Iraq and the Kurdish region, and added that energy issues between Baghdad and Erbil were also discussed.


Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government have been engaged in escalating disputes over natural resources, made worse by violent political infighting in Baghdad.

A months-long political stalemate in Iraq culminated last month with influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr withdrawing members of his party from parliament. A group of his followers then stormed and occupied Baghdad's Green Zone, engaging in deadly clashes with security forces and rival militia groups after Mr Al Sadr announced his resignation from politics.


The ensuing violence killed at least 30 people.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi has threatened to resign if the political stand-off in the country is not resolved. Photo: Iraqi Prime Minister's Media Office

An aerial view of Yafa Street in Baghdad after Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr called on his supporters to withdraw from the Iraqi capital's heavily fortified Green Zone. AP

Plumes of smoke rise after small fires were lit near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Parliament in Baghdad. AP

Mr Al Sadr's followers heed his call to withdraw from the Green Zone after violent clashes in Baghdad. Reuters

A supporter of Mr Al Sadr helps to dismantle the encampment in Baghdad's high-security Green Zone. AFP

Supporters of Mr Al Sadr pack up belongings as they prepare to leave the Green Zone. AP

A supporter of Mr Al Sadr rolls up a mattress as their encampment in the Green Zone is dismantled. AFP

Municipality workers clean up while Iraqi army soldiers guard the entrance to the Green Zone. AFP

Mr Al Sadr addresses a news conference in Najaf, Iraq. Reuters

Iraqi Shiite gunmen clash with government forces in the Green Zone of central Baghdad. EPA

Smoke rises from a building in Baghdad. EPA

Armed members of Saraya Al Salam, the military wing affiliated with Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr. AFP

An armed member of Saraya Al Salam. AFP

A member of Saraya Al Salam takes aim. AFP

Armed members of the Peace Brigades militia in Baghdad's Green Zone. AFP

They are affiliated with Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr. AFP

Peace Brigades members clash with security forces in the Iraqi capital. AFP

The office of rival Shiite party the Badr Organisation, which was burnt by Sadrists. Reuters

Iraqi security armoured vehicles during clashes with the Peace Brigades in the Green Zone. AFP

Peace Brigades members carry weapons in the fortified zone. AFP

Smoke over Baghdad during an army-imposed curfew, a day after 23 Al Sadr supporters were shot dead. AFP

A Peace Brigades member leads a mass funeral in Najaf for Al Sadr supporters killed in the clashes in Baghdad's Green Zone. AFP

Tears during the mass funeral. AFP

Mourners pray in front of the coffins of Al Sadr supporters. Reuters

A coffin is carried at the funeral. AFP

The ceremony took place at a cemetery in Najaf, central Iraq. AFP

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi has threatened to resign if the political stand-off in the country is not resolved. Photo: Iraqi Prime Minister's Media Office

“We encourage the parties to determine a way forward that supports existing and future investment that advances the interest of the Iraqi people, including those in the Kurdistan region as well,” Mr Patel said.

“This includes working to advance the US Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement to support areas in which we can collaborate together, including energy, education and infrastructure.”

Mr Patel denied that the administration had raised Iraqi-Kurdish energy disputes in response to recent congressional calls for enhanced engagement on the matter.

Barbara Leaf, who previously served as US ambassador to the UAE, expresses her condolences to President Sheikh Mohamed after the death of Sheikh Khalifa. Photo: MOPA

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - March 07, 2016: Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States of America (C), tours Masdar City. Seen with HE Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber UAE Minister of State and Chairman of Masdar (R),  HE Barbara Leaf Ambassador of the United States of America to the UAE (L) and Dr Nawal Al Hosani (2nd L).

( Razan Al Zayani for Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi )
--- *** Local Caption ***  20160307RA_M2U1596.JPG

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - March 07, 2016: Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States of America (3rd R), speaks with HE Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber UAE Minister of State and Chairman of Masdar (2nd R) during a tour of Masdar City. Seen with Dr Nawal Al Hosany (2nd L) and HE Barbara Leaf Ambassador of the United States of America to the UAE (L). 

( Razan Al Zayani for Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi )
--- *** Local Caption ***  20160307RA_MG_9496.JPG

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - March 07, 2016: Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States of America (2nd L), visits the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Seen with HE Reem Ibrahim Al Hashemi Minister of State for International Cooperation (R), Ishaq Mohammed Al Mushairi, tour guide (2nd R) and HE Barbara Leaf, Ambassador of the United States of America to the UAE (L).

( Razan Al Zayani for Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi )
--- *** Local Caption ***  20160307RA_M2U1068.JPG

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - March 07, 2016: Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States of America (4th R), visits the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Seen with Yusef Al Obaidly, Director General of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre (L), Ishaq Mohammed Al Mushairi, tour guide (3rd R), HE Reem Ibrahim Al Hashemi Minister of State for International Cooperation (2nd R) and HE Barbara Leaf, Ambassador of the United States of America to the UAE (R). 

( Razan Al Zayani for Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi )
--- *** Local Caption ***  20160307RA_M2U1035.JPG

Ms Leaf meets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on June 11, 2022. Reuters

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 23 October 2017. USA Healthcare Symposium & Showcase: Nutrition, Obesity and Diabetes at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Academic Medical Center. Honorable Barbara A. Leaf, Ambassador of the United States Of America to the United Arab Emirates. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Shereena Al Nuwais. Section: National.

HE Barbara A. Leaf, Ambassador of the United States, reads from the Old Testament at St Andrew's Church Remembrance Day service.

(Photo by Reem Mohammed/The National)

Reporter: Roberta Pennington
Section: NA

Ms Leaf visits the kitchen at Ray's Grill, Abu Dhabi. Photo: US Embassy

ABU DHABI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , OCT 25   – 2017 :-  Barbara Leaf , US Ambassador to the UAE during the interview at the USA stand in the Najah Education Fair held at ADNEC in Abu Dhabi. (Pawan Singh / The National) Story by Roberta

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 23 October 2017. USA Healthcare Symposium & Showcase: Nutrition, Obesity and Diabetes at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Academic Medical Center. LtoR: Dr Amin Hussain Al Amiri, Assistant Undersecretary, Health Policy and License, Ministry of Health and Prevention, UAE, 
Honorable Barbara A. Leaf, Ambassador of the United States Of America to the United Arab Emirates and 
Dr Amer Ahmed Sharif, Vice Chancellor, Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Dubai. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Shereena Al Nuwais. Section: National.

Ms Leaf welcomes John Kerry, the US secretary of state at the time, to Abu Dhabi during her time as ambassador to the UAE. AP

Barbara A. Leaf, Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi , Vidhyaa for The National , ID 59297 *** Local Caption ***  1_Portrait of USA ambassador.jpg

Barbara Leaf, who previously served as US ambassador to the UAE, expresses her condolences to President Sheikh Mohamed after the death of Sheikh Khalifa. Photo: MOPA

Congressional Republicans wrote to Mr Biden is recent weeks, saying that the energy disputes endanger Washington's mission of “supporting a stable, sovereign and democratic Iraq free from malign foreign influence”.


Meanwhile, the State Department re-emphasised that Washington supports Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi's calls for peace, but views the unrest as Baghdad's responsibility.

“We don't view this as a US issue,” Mr Patel told reporters.

“It's an Iraqi issue and our posture has continued to be calling for calm and calling for peace amid some of the demonstrations and ultimately what we want to see is a strong, united, resilient and sovereign Iraqi state.”


Iraqi Prime Minister Al Kadhimi threatens to resign if political tension continues
Updated: September 07, 2022, 4:28 PM
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Washington warns of Iraq's slide into violence


Iraqi Peshmerga officers participate in a graduation ceremony in Erbil (AFP)

Washington confirmed that the recent outbreak of violence in Baghdad has been a source of great concern to the United States as well as to Iraq's international partners, calling on Iraq's political leaders to conduct a comprehensive dialogue and make necessary compromises to end the current Iraqi crisis represented by the formation of the government. 
Ambassador Barbara Leaf, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, said: "Iraqi leaders must refrain from any slide into violence as we witnessed 10 days ago, as it was very shocking." 
"We want them to engage in a comprehensive set of discussions, whether it is around the official national dialogue table or as part of separate efforts, they must take into account the hopes and aspirations of all target groups," Lev added, in a conference call attended by "Al-Ittihad" yesterday evening. ».
During the conference she held after a tour in the region that included Iraq, Jordan, Tunisia and Israel, the ambassador indicated that the leader of the "Sadr movement" Muqtada al-Sadr represents an important segment of the Iraqi electorate, and their voices must be heard, stressing the need for Iraqi political leaders to come together for a comprehensive dialogue and conduct Important settlements chart a way out of the current Iraqi crisis, represented by the formation of the government and the holding of early elections. 
She explained that when she talked about the subject of Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr, she meant that he was not part of the dialogue, which was hosted by Prime Minister Al-Kazemi, at least for the time being, and that he had moved away from participation. 
And she continued, "All the Iraqis I met told me that they consider this situation unsustainable because it represents an important segment of the Iraqi electorate and their voices must be heard." She stated that she conveyed this matter to the Iraqi political leaders in Baghdad and Erbil, stressing that the Iraqis themselves talked about the importance of hearing Muqtada al-Sadr's voice, and "I believe that political leaders are able to achieve this."
"Iraq's political leaders should make the decision about early elections," Leaf said. "We will not take any position in this regard."
She stated that, during her visit to Iraq, where she spent an entire week in Baghdad and Erbil, during which she met with a group of senior government officials and political party figures, as well as representatives of civil society, academic and religious leaders, young entrepreneurs, journalists and human rights defenders, she "stressed the approach of the Biden administration." towards Iraq. 
And she continued: "All our activities, programs and policies are directly framed to support Iraq's sovereignty, stability and security, and I also stressed that the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement remains a solid foundation for our bilateral relations."

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Washington calls on Iraqi political leaders to "dialogue and settlements that solve the crisis": the need is urgent


  •  14-09-2022, 18:37



Baghdad - IQ  

On Wednesday (September 14, 2022), the United States of America called on political leaders in Iraq to hold a "comprehensive dialogue and settlements" to resolve the crisis in the country since the last legislative elections last October. 

US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf said, "There is an urgent need for Iraqi political leaders to meet to conduct a comprehensive dialogue and settlements that would chart a way out of the crisis." 

And earlier this week, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs indicated that the Iraqi political scene is "on the edge of the abyss."

Barbara Leaf stressed, during a television interview, that "the stability and security of Iraq are among the priorities of the US administration," based on the fact that "the Iraqi political scene is on the edge of the abyss and we are following it closely."

She added, "The political conflict in Iraq can only be resolved through dialogue," noting that "the current dialogue, hosted by Al-Kazemi, is a correct path, and leaders should invest it."

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2022-09-16 | 08:32

After the fortieth visit, the armistice of the framework and the current expires, and there are fears of a re-escalation


Between an expected escalation and deferred talks.. Attention is turning to the scene after the end of the Arbaeen visit, amid questions about what the truce of the framework and the movement achieved during this period. It seems that the truce did not achieve convergent views between the opponents and the complexity is still hanging over the positions and statements of most of the blocs, which indicates that the crisis may start soon with a new chapter of maneuvers and the street is the pressure card that is intentionally or unintentionally thrown into the battlefield of politics and disputes.

With the approaching date of commemorating the October protests and the possibility of the Sadrist protests returning in conjunction with them, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran Jennifer Javito confirms that it is not the right of the United States government or any other entity to interfere in the formation of the Iraqi government, which explains that the American side until this moment has only invited To dialogue to avoid any slippage that might lead the country to more dangerous turns than what happened in the Green Zone.

And until the twenty-eighth of the current month of September, the Federal Court has changed the details of the scene with new details, especially as it set this date to consider the appeal to accept the resignation of the Sadrist bloc’s deputies, even though the leader of the Sadrist movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, cut off the road in advance to any possibility of returning, stressing that there is no return to Parliament .
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 2022-09-15 06:20

Shafaq News/ A US State Department official urged Iraq's leaders to engage in a comprehensive and constructive dialogue that includes all major political figures and blocs in an Iraqi-led process.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran and Iraq Jennifer Gavito told Al-Monitor in a wide-ranging interview, "What will happen after that, whether it is early elections or the formation of a government, is for the Iraqis to decide themselves."

She added that the US government is watching "closely" whether there is a resurgence of violence after the Arbaeen Shiite holiday, and the Iraqi parliament is likely to meet soon after.

"Iraqi leaders of all stripes need to make sure that all voices are included as part of any political settlement," Gavito said, adding, "If there are neglected voices, it generates problems and generates conflict."

She said Sadr, who is critical of US and Iranian interference in Iraq, represents "a very important group of voices in his country".

In response to a question about whether the comprehensive political solution also includes framework parties allied with Iran, Javito said the United States is ready to work with a government that "puts the needs of the Iraqi people and the sovereignty, stability and security of Iraq at the forefront of its agenda."

She continued by saying Washington would welcome Tehran's support for a comprehensive dialogue. "Iraq and Iran should have good and solid positive relations, but they should be positive in both directions," she said.

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  • 2 weeks later...


  • Barbara Leaf, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, provides a readout of her recent trip to Tunisia, Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, and Iraq, including meetings and discussions about shared priorities with government officials, civil society members, entrepreneurs and others.

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MODERATOR:  Greetings to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Dubai Regional Media Hub.  I would like to welcome our participants dialing in from the Middle East and around the world for this on-the-record briefing with Ambassador Barbara Leaf, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.  Assistant Secretary Leaf will provide a readout of her recent trip to Tunisia, Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, and Iraq, including meetings and discussions about our shared priorities with government officials, civil society members, entrepreneurs, and others.  Assistant Secretary Leaf will also take questions from participating journalists.

We are pleased to offer simultaneous interpretation for this briefing in Arabic.  We request that everyone keep this in mind and speak slowly.

I will now turn it over to Assistant Secretary Leaf for her opening remarks.  Ambassador Leaf, the floor is yours.

AMBASSADOR LEAF:  Thank you, Sam.  Good afternoon, everyone.  I’m really delighted to have the opportunity to talk to you today.  As Sam said, I want to give you a brief overview of my recent trip to the region, which was my first multi-country regional trip since becoming the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East in early June.

My visit between August 29th and September 9th allowed me to reinforce many of the same things that President Biden underscored during his trip this past July to the Middle East – that the administration has an affirmative framework for America’s engagement in the Middle East and North Africa, which includes de-escalating conflicts, enhancing our partnerships for regional security, and promoting regional integration on the way to addressing problems and issues that are global and regional in nature.

The first step – stop on my trip was Tunisia, where I met with Tunisian President Kais Saied and the ministers of foreign affairs, defense, and interior, as well as with leading Tunisian experts, civil society, and journalists, to hear a range of views on the serious political and economic challenges facing the country.  I reiterated U.S. suppor t for the Tunisian people and our commitment to a long-term partnership.  That partnership is strongest when anchored in a shared commitment to democratic principles and human rights.  I discussed in Tunis the importance of an inclusive and transparent political reform process that represents diverse Tunisian voices and protects fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression.

As Tunisians grapple with a range of economic shocks, including the food insecurity sparked by Russia’s war in Ukraine, I also stressed the importance of Tunisia moving forward with urgency in its negotiations with the IMF and undertaking meaningful economic reforms critical to arrest the ongoing economic crisis.  That package will help put Tunisia on a sounder fiscal footing and address key structural problems bedeviling the economy.

While in Tunisia, I also held discussions on Libya, including with Libyan Presidential Council President Mohamed al-Menfi and Central Bank of Libya Governor Sadiq al–Kabir.  I emphasized the urgent need for Libyan leaders to support a credible path to elections as soon as possible and underscored the importance of Libya’s economic institutions strengthening the transparent management of oil and gas revenues for the benefit of all Libyans.  I reiterated U.S. concerns about the diversion of public funds to militias and armed groups.

I next traveled to Israel and the West Bank, where I continued discussions on a range of critically important issues with Israeli and Palestinian officials.  I reiterated President Biden’s message, conveyed in his trip in July, that the U.S. remains unwavering in its ironclad commitment to Israel’s security and that we will work to strengthen all aspects of the U.S.-Israeli partnership.  In all my meetings with Israelis and Palestinians, I also stressed the administration’s commitment to keeping alive the vision of a future two-state solution so that Israelis and Palestinians can live safely and securely and enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, and prosperity.  That means working together collaboratively on key economic and security issues as well as reducing unilateral actions.

I also followed up on the range of projects agreed upon as part of the President’s visit to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, projects which will measurably contribute to economic growth and greater opportunities for Palestinians.  That includes extension of 4G cellular service for the West Bank and Gaza and expanding hours and capacity for travelers and goods at the Allenby Bridge.  It includes the $100 million the President approved, announced for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, subject to congressional approval.  USAID recently disbursed the first $14.5 million of that healthcare assistance so that we can see it becoming a reality.

During my stop in Amman, Jordan, I met with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and discussed the strategic U.S.-Jordan relationship and our shared efforts to promote regional stability and security.  And as you know, we will be signing a new seven-year bilateral memorandum of understanding with Jordan this Friday.  It was announced by President Biden following his July meeting with His Majesty King Abdullah II in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  This memorandum of understanding is the longest and largest ever agreed to with Jordan.  Under this MOU, the U.S. is committed to supporting Jordan’s economic reform efforts while strengthening its resilience, stability, and security.

My final stop was in Iraq, where I spent a full week in Baghdad and Erbil meeting with a range of senior government officials, political party figures, as well as civil society, academic, and faith leaders, young entrepreneurs, journalists, and human rights defenders.  I underscored the Biden administration’s approach towards Iraq.  All of our activities, programs, and policies are squarely framed to support Iraq’s sovereignty, stability, and security.  I also emphasized that the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement remains a solid foundation for our bilateral relationship.

Now, the recent outbreak of violence in Baghdad was a source of great concern to us here in Washington as well as to Iraq’s international partners.  In Baghdad, I delivered a straightforward message to a range of senior governmental leaders, including the prime minister, the president, the Council of Representatives speaker, saying that there is an urgent need for Iraq’s political leaders to come together for an inclusive dialogue to make important compromises that will chart a way out of Iraq’s current crisis over government formation.  This was a message that I shared with a full spectrum of Iraqi political leaders, including those outside of government.

I reiterated this message with political leaders in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region during my two-day visit to Erbil.  And while there, I also discussed human rights.  I emphasized the importance of respect for human rights and freedom of expression.  Journalists and activists have a vital role to play in a strong democracy.  We regard Iraq as a vital partner of the United States on so many levels – a partner with which we want to accomplish much, much more on global issues, including – and regional issues, including water security, climate change, and increasing trade and investment opportunities.

The grinding impasse over government formation which flared into violence 10 days ago unfortunately only underlined the degree to which such opportunities are being squandered, and the degree to which the acute need for basic services for Iraq’s people remain unaddressed.

I’ll stop there and I’m happy to take your questions.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Assistant Secretary Leaf.  We will now begin the question and answer portion of today’s call.  Questions submitted in advance, especially from our journalist friends over on the Arabic line of this call, have been incorporated into the question queue and I will start with one of those pre-submitted questions from Hala Yaghmour from Iraq’s Al Taghier TV.  And Hala asks: “Assistant Secretary Leaf, during your visit to Iraq you discussed with the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government bringing them together in order to resolve any conflicts between the two parties on energy issues and other issues.  Did you see any progress or promises made to achieve that goal?”  Over to you, Assistant Secretary Leaf.

AMBASSADOR LEAF:  Well, thank you for that very important question.  Look, I was very clear in sharing with all of Iraq’s leaders in Baghdad and in Erbil our concern that an emerging economic crisis was going to be over – was going to overlay what was already a very serious political crisis.  That is to say, the February decision by the Iraq supreme court invalidating Kurdish Regional Government arrangements for export of oil and gas was – and the enforcement of that was an issue on which the U.S., on the one hand, takes no legal position, no constitutional position, but on the other hand, pushing forward right now in the midst of an ongoing crisis over – political crisis over government formation simply would risk a widening kind of economic crisis, and that is the last thing that the Iraqi public needs.

So what I suggested was that Baghdad and Erbil discuss arrangements to take this into third-party negotiation or some other such venue such that, essentially, they could provide the space for discussions of a technical nature that on the other side of government formation could be taken up again to drive towards what everyone agrees is long overdue and quite necessary, which is a hydrocarbons law.  I think the message is well understood in both Baghdad and Erbil.  I’m quite confident that Iraq’s political leaders in both places can find a good instrument for discussing this, whether through formal mediation or directly themselves.

There’s no question that there’s a need for a larger hydrocarbons legal framework to resolve this, but in the meantime I’m quite concerned – Washington is quite concerned – that rushing forward and implementing this decision risks driving U.S. firms out of Iraq, other firms out of Iraq, which would be a terrible vote of no confidence in the business environment in Iraq and, frankly, could produce wider economic repercussions well beyond the Kurdish region of Iraq.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Assistant Secretary Leaf.  Our next question comes from the live queue, and it goes to Hiba Nasr from Asharq News.  Operator, please open the line.

OPERATOR:  Hiba, please go ahead.

QUESTION:  Good morning, Ambassador.  Thanks, Sam.  I know you told us to stick to what – to the topic, but I have two questions.  First on Tunisia, you met with the president and many officials as well.  What did you feel?  Are you really concerned that this experience – you know that Tunisia is where the Arab Spring start, and now everybody is concerned.  What message did you convey there and are you really concerned that given the economic situation, this could – this could be worse or better?

And my second question – I know it’s not related to the topic but I have to ask this question.  Any update on the F-35 deal with UAE?  Thank you.

AMBASSADOR LEAF:  Thanks very much, Hiba, for those two questions.  First, on the F-35s, I don’t – I don’t have any updates on that at the moment.

As for Tunisia, indeed, the situation – the economic situation is of immense concern for us, and I think it is a concern for many Tunisians, as I heard throughout my stay there.  I heard from civil society, from economic experts, from journalists growing anxiety about economic conditions in Tunisia.  Now, some of those are simply the shocks that many economies around the world have felt from essentially two sorts of shocks.  One, the pandemic – countries around the world are still struggling out of the aftereffects of the pandemic and what it did to economies, especially economies like Tunisia’s, which relied heavily on tourism as one part of their economic engine.  But the second one, of course, is the inflationary – or the inflationary shocks, the fuel shocks, and the food insecurity shocks arising out of Russia’s terrible war on Ukraine.

So those are the unlooked-for, unexpected, what we call “black swan” events that have – that have made Tunisia’s economy stagger, and many others in the region and globally.  But there are underlying structural issues to Tunisia’s economic stagnation and its looming fiscal crisis, and those, in our view, can and should be addressed through a mechanism like the IMF negotiations.  So I was – I was very honest with Tunisia’s leaders in our view that it makes great – it makes great sense to move briskly towards concluding those negotiations, and from the briefings that I’ve had on the sort of general outlines of the package, I think it will help Tunisia quite a bit to deal with issues which have dogged the economy for years.

So yes, we are concerned.  There are tools available to address these, and we do think it’s quite important that Tunisia’s leadership move briskly on these – on this issue.

MODERATOR:  Great, thank you, Assistant Secretary Leaf.  Our next question is also from the live queue and goes to Ali Younes from Arab News.  Operator, please open the line.

OPERATOR:  Ali Younes, your line is open.

QUESTION:  Yes, good morning, Assistant Secretary Leaf.  My question is on Jordan.  You said this Friday the United States will sign a memorandum of understanding with the Jordanian Government that’s the largest ever.  Can you tell us how much would that be?  And did you discuss while in Jordan the state of civil liberties and the perception that the Jordanian Government is arresting civil rights activists and journalists without due process?  And was that – was there any conditions on the Jordanians as far as the aid will be conditioned on improving the civil society and – or the civil liberties in Jordan?  Thank you.

AMBASSADOR LEAF:  Thanks for the question, Ali.  So what I can say is this: Those discussions on the human rights environment and the environment for freedom of expression and civil liberties and so forth, that is very much part and parcel of our ongoing discussions with Jordanian officials.  That’s number one.

Number two, the MOU is an expression of the U.S. commitment over time to provide assistance that will go very much in the direction of sustaining a Jordanian-driven economic reform program which will put it on a solid, stable ground for economic growth and dealing with things such as Jordan’s acute water shortages, which really strangle economic growth and are very concerning in their own right in the present.

So that is a commitment over time that is – it is to assist squarely the people of Jordan in seeing economic growth take off and stabilizing the future trajectory of that economic stability and eventual prosperity.

So I would just say that, going back to your first point, that set of issues is very much an ongoing discussion that we have.  We calibrate our approach such that we can do both things at once, if you follow me.  So advocate for strengthening the space, enlarging the space for civil liberties, whether they are everyday citizens or journalists practicing their trade, and at the same time doing what is within our ability to help Jordan get on a very stable economic path and deal with some structural problems that are dogging economic growth now and that would be a very worrying trend for their future if left unaddressed.

MODERATOR:  Great, thank you, Ambassador Leaf.  Our next question is also from the live queue, and I will just ask for patience and understanding from the many, many, many journalists that are in our live queue and submitted pre-submitted questions today.  We’ll try to get through as many as we can in the remaining time we have left.

Our next question is another question from the live queue and goes to Yuna Leibzon from Channel 12 News, Israel.  Operator, please open the line.

OPERATOR:  And please go ahead.

QUESTION:  Yes, hi and thank you for this.  So my question is about your recent trip to Israel and tensions that we see now in the West Bank.  Is that something that worries you?  Has that come up?  Was there any demand from Israel about the tensions?

AMBASSADOR LEAF:  Thanks for that question.  That’s a really important one.  So I would say that the conversations I had there with Israeli and Palestinian officials were sort of a face-to-face continuation of conversations that I’ve been having really going back to the beginning of the administration when I was over at the White House, at the National Security Council as senior director for the Middle East and North Africa.

The security – the security conditions on the West Bank, yes, do concern us greatly, but they also concern Israel and they also concern the Palestinian Authority.  Our part in this is to ensure that to the greatest degree possible those – that security cooperation is robust and continuing, but that other things are done around and outside that security cooperation that sustain it.  So, thus, I had a mix of discussions that also went very directly to the economic conditions on the West Bank and Gaza, because those can help and sustain improvement in security conditions.  And as you know, we have a three-star general out there leading the U.S. security cooperation office, which helps as well in an ongoing way in ensuring that that cooperation, training, and capacity building supports efforts on the West Bank and Gaza.

But yes, I am concerned.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Ambassador Leaf.  Our next question is another question from the live queue and goes to Ahmed Sawan from Masr 360/Al Bawaba.  Operator, please open the line.

OPERATOR:  And your line is open.

QUESTION:  Good morning.  (Inaudible.)  Thank you, Sam, for giving me this opportunity.  My question is about after you discussed with the Tunisian President Kais Saied.  So what the United States can do to push the democratic process – the democratic process in Tunisia?  Thank you.

AMBASSADOR LEAF:  Thanks, Ahmed.  Look, the issue of supporting and fostering the growth and the expansion of democratic space in a country like Tunisia is a constant process.  It has been since the Tunisian revolution.  And the U.S. has over time put a lot of money and training and support behind its programs and activities in Tunisia to support Tunisian voices – civil society, journalists, democracy advocates, and so forth.  Those – ultimately, we as a partner government, as a friendly government, as a friend of Tunisia, we’re going to be critical, we’re going to offer criticism where criticism is due.  And I was candid in my discussion with President Saied – and he was candid in return – about the current trajectory, political trajectory in Tunisia.  It is concerning to us.  We want to see Tunisia squarely back on a democratic path with fully functioning democratic institutions, which are so important to the development of democracy in any country.  But we want to support Tunisians to make those – to make those demands, and that was very much part and parcel of what I did on my trip.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Ambassador.  I believe we have time for just maybe a couple more questions, so we’ll again go to the live queue and we’ll go to Toni Mrad from Lebanon’s LBCI TV.  Operator, please open the line.

OPERATOR:  And Toni, please go ahead.

QUESTION:  Yes, hello.  So my question is Your Excellency said last week that Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr has followers and a large audience and his voice with other leaders must be heard.  Can we say that U.S. supports Muqtada al-Sadr?  And also, do you think that an early election is a solution to the political crisis in Iraq?  Thanks.

AMBASSADOR LEAF:  Thank you, Toni.  So just to be clear, we do not – we do not provide direction or guidance or our opinion on particular leaders as such.  This is very much an Iraqi-driven set of discussions that are ongoing in Iraq, and that’s the way it should be.  At this point in Iraq’s modern political development, it is quite important – going back to what I said earlier in my opening remarks, it is quite important as far as Washington is concerned that Iraqi political leaders and Iraqis themselves exercise agency, that they take upon themselves their own sovereign decisions.

When I spoke to the issue of Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr, it was more in the sense of the fact that, for the moment at least, he is not part of this ongoing dialogue that Prime Minister Kadhimi has hosted, and he has stepped away from engagement.  Every Iraqi I met told me that their belief was that that wasn’t a sustainable situation because he does represent an important slice of the Iraqi constituency, and their voices should be heard.

So what I was arguing for privately and publicly was that Iraqi leaders above all step away from any descent into violence, as we saw 10 days ago, which was quite shocking; that they engage in a wholly inclusive set of discussions, whether it’s around the formal national dialogue table or in separate efforts; that they take all constituencies’ hopes and aspirations into consideration.

So that was the sense of what I was conveying to Iraqi political leaders in Baghdad and in Erbil.  And I will just emphasize Iraqis themselves told me how important it was that Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr’s voice be heard, and that’s something I think the political leaders are quite capable of securing.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Ambassador.  We’ll take one final question.

AMBASSADOR LEAF:  Sorry.  Sam, I realized I didn’t address the last piece of Toni’s question.  Again, early elections —

MODERATOR:  Please go ahead.

AMBASSADOR LEAF:  — is an issue for the Iraqi political leaders to decide.  That’s – we don’t take a stance on that.

MODERATOR:  And now we’ll go to our final question, from Michel Ghandour from MBN/Al Hurra TV.  Operator, please open the line.

QUESTION:  Hi, thank you for doing this.  Madam Secretary, did you meet with Muqtada al-Sadr when you were in Baghdad?  If yes, why?  If not, why not?

On Lebanon, how do you view the Saudi-French meeting in Paris to discuss the presidential elections?  Why the U.S. did not attend, and what is the U.S. doing to achieve the presidential elections?  And do you expect any deal between Israel and Lebanon on the maritime border soon?  Thank you.

AMBASSADOR LEAF:  Wow.  Wow.  You got a lot of questions in there.  So, Michel, I – my – let me turn one of those questions back to you: What are the Lebanese doing to ensure elections go forward?  That would be my first question.  Because this – again, this is an issue for the Lebanese.  It’s a Lebanese responsibility to take upon themselves to ensure that there is a properly elected president.

On the issue of the maritime discussions, they are progressing.  Both parties are showing a good, constructive engagement.  Our envoy, Amos Hochstein, and I talk regularly, and he is very committed to bringing this to conclusion if the spirit is willing on both sides, and so far so good.  So those differences are narrowing.

And as to the Saudi-French meeting, well, that was a bilateral discussion, but I certainly will see my Saudi and French colleagues next week in New York and we’ll continue the discussion that we’ve been having all along.

Did I leave out one of your questions?

QUESTION:  No, that’s it.  I think it’s fine.  But on the first – on the question that you asked me, I think the Lebanese people need help from the international community to press —


QUESTION:  — the parliament to elect a new president.

AMBASSADOR LEAF:  Yes.  Yes.  Well, you can be sure that we will be encouraging Lebanese political leaders, pressing them to do their duty.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Great, thank you, Assistant Secretary Leaf.  And now, if you have any closing remarks, Assistant Secretary Leaf, I’ll turn it back over to you.

AMBASSADOR LEAF:  Thanks, Sam.  So, listen.  I was really happy to have this opportunity to talk to you all across the airwaves.  I look forward throughout the fall and winter to doing more travel to the region and engaging with you in person, and we’ll – I will definitely look forward to another opportunity to do a call like this courtesy of the Dubai Media Hub.

But in the meantime, I would just underline that the trip I made these last two weeks was very much part and parcel of the Biden administration’s approach to the region.  We are working very hard.  You don’t always see our actions because many of them are, like all good diplomacy, done behind the scenes, not necessarily out in public.  But we are working assiduously to help regional partners de-escalate, mitigate conflict; address ongoing stalemates such as we see in Libya and in Iraq; help to continue the truce in Yemen.

So doing what we can in every direction to bank the fires of conflict and then, hopefully, to resolve some of them while keeping a steady eye on all the opportunities that are out there to work on a very affirmative agenda with regional partners on issues which I know are very much on the minds of the publics out there: jobs, dealing with the effects of climate change, food insecurity, water insecurity, grooming the next generation of young leaders in the region, generating the work skills for a 21st century economy among the youth in the region.

So thank you very much for this opportunity.

MODERATOR:  That concludes today’s call.  I would like to thank Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Ambassador Barbara Leaf for joining us, and thank all of our callers for participating.  Apologies to the many of you that were on the line and wanted to ask a question that we couldn’t get to, and to the many who submitted pre-submitted questions we couldn’t get to, but we certainly hope to have Ambassador Leaf join us again in the future.

If you have any questions about today’s call, you can contact the Dubai Regional Media Hub at  Information on how to access the English recoding of this call will be provided by AT&T shortly.  Thank you and have a great day.

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