US President Barack Obama met with his Iraqi counterpart, Nouri al Maliki, Friday to discuss a wide range of bilateral issues. “Much of our discussion centered on the fact that although Iraq has made significant progress in areas like oil production and a range of other reforms that have taken place, unfortunately, al Qaeda has still been active and has grown more active recently,” said Obama following their meeting at the White House. He added that the growth of al Qaeda in Iraq poses threats that extend far beyond Iraq’s borders. Maliki said, “What we want is for Iraq and the region to be able to work together. And we are working in Iraq at the security level, intelligence level, social level -- at all the levels we are mobilizing our people in order to fight al-Qaida because it's good for Iraq and the Middle East.” According to a joint statement from the meeting provided by the White House, “The Iraqi delegation stressed its desire to purchase US equipment as a means of strengthening long-term institutional ties with the United States, and confirmed its commitment to ensure strict compliance with US laws and regulations on the use of such equipment.” The US has provided Iraq with more than $14 billion in military assistance since 2005. In addition, the US President said he appreciated the work that Maliki has done to ensure that all Iraqis “feel that they have a voice in their government.” He also commended the Iraqi Premier on his efforts to build stronger relationships with Ankara, Kuwait City and other Gulf countries.
Both Obama and Maliki pointed to the spiraling conflict in Syria as a source of concern, and maintained that the conflict should be ended through a political solution.
“We agreed that it's in the interest of both countries to try to bring about a political settlement, a political transition inside of Syria that allows the Syrian people to make decisions about their own lives while at the same time isolating extremist factions that could end up not only threatening people inside of Syria, but throughout the region as well,” said Obama.
Maliki commented that he was in “total agreement” with Obama on the matter, and that “we are very supportive of Geneva II.”
The Geneva II conference is planned for November 23, but it is uncertain whether or not that date will be met as Syria’s deep divisions leave many in the Syrian opposition weary of sitting at a table with their adversaries.