Thursday 26 April 2018

Senior KRG delegation meet with White House, US Administration and Congressional officials

WASHINGTON, DC, USA ( - Senior officials from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) are in the United States to meet with American Administration officials, members of Congress, the think tank community, and diplomats in Washington, DC and New York.

Dr. Fuad Hussein, Chief of Staff to the Kurdistan Region Presidency, and Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the Department of Foreign Relations, are joined by KRG Representative to the US Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman for a two-week visit.

Today, they met Michael Bell, Special Assistant to President Trump on National Security Affairs, to discuss the diverse political and security challenges facing Kurdistan, Iraq, and the Middle East.

The delegation also met with a number of senior State Department officials this week and the last to discuss a range of issues including relations between Erbil and Baghdad, the upcoming Iraq elections, the fight against ISIS terrorism, the humanitarian crisis, support for ethnic and religious minority groups, among others. They met separately with Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy for the Counter-ISIS Coalition; Andrew Peek, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran and Iraq; Sam Brownback, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Office of International Religious Freedom; Carolyn Thompson O'Connell, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration; Ambassador Michael Kozak, Senior Advisor in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; Ambassador Tina Kaidanow, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs; Jonathan R. Cohen, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs; Ethan Goldrich, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Syria; and Peter Shea, Director for Iraq Affairs.

Robert Karem, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, received Dr Hussein, Minister Bakir, and Representative Abdul Rahman at the Pentagon. The KRG delegation thanked the US for providing critical assistance to the Peshmerga and discussed regional issues. Since July 2016 the US Department of Defense has provided stipends to some Peshmerga units, and continues to provide training and equipment to the Peshmerga as a whole.

The delegation met with Republican and Democratic members of Congress. In addition to a roundtable lunch discussion with Congress members hosted by co-Chair of the Kurdish-American Congressional Caucus Representative Ralph Abraham. During the visit, Dr Hussein, Minister Bakir, and Representative Abdul Rahman met with Congressman Will Hurd, Senator Bob Menendez, Congressman Ron DeSantis, and Jeff Dressler who serves as the National Security Advisor to House Speaker Paul Ryan. The delegation also held separate briefing sessions for staff members from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, House Armed Services Committee, and Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Middle East Maria Longi received the delegation at USAID headquarters to discuss US support for the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. The US is the largest donor to the United Nations, which provides the bulk of international humanitarian aid to the 1.4 million Syrians and Iraqis that have found shelter in Kurdistan.

The US Institute of Peace, a think tank funded by Congress and engaged on peace-building efforts in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, hosted the delegation for a roundtable discussion with diplomats and Administration officials. Dr. Hussein, Minister Bakir, and Representative Abdul Rahman also had the opportunity to brief members of the think tank community at separate briefings at the Atlantic Council and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Iraqi Ambassador Fareed Yasseen hosted the delegation for lunch this week where they discussed the importance of the diaspora voting in the forthcoming parliamentary elections.

Dr Hussein and Minister Bakir also traveled to Sedona, Arizona to attend the Sedona Forum, an annual high-level gathering of national and international leaders hosted by the McCain Institute. The forum was attended by US
Secretary of Defense James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo; U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, Dan Sullivan, Amy Klobuchar, Ben Sasse, Heidi Heitkamp, Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham; and many leaders from around the world.

The delegation traveled to New York City on Wednesday.