Iraq’s Speaker of Parliament Salim al-Jabouri is visiting Washington, D.C. this week accompanied by a delegation from Baghdad, having received an invitation from Vice President Joe Biden. This marks the Speaker’s first visit to the U.S. capital and the first visit of an Iraqi Parliament Speaker since January 2014 when his predecessor and political coalition leader Usama al-Nujayfi visited.
The current situation in Iraq differs significantly from when al-Nujayfi visited the White House. Then, Iraq’s provinces of Anbar, Nineveh and Salahudin did not have ISIS-controlled towns. During that time, Usama’s brother Atheel al-Nujayfi was governor of Nineveh and accepting of Ba’athists and ISIS establishing a safe-haven in the provincial capital Mosul, to say the least. Usama Al-Nujayfi claimed that the Iraqi government should not punish the whole western Iraqi region for the presence of ISIS but today these provinces are under ISIS control and need to be dealt with urgently. Today, al-Jabouri’s trip comes almost a year after the formation of an inclusive national unity government and not at the end of an inclusive national unity government stained by ethno-sectarian tension between al-Nujayfi, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and others. Al-Jabouri arrives in Washington having no personal conflict with current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi or any specific faction in parliament.
The changing of the guard in both the premiership and parliament speaker roles comes with a much-needed sense of relief from the previous poisonous relationships as their resentment stalled political development. These men represent a final attempt at an inclusive Iraqi government for all Iraqis to feel a part of and defeat any sense of disenfranchisement or marginalization. At the same time, this inclusive government is going down the path of reconciliation between Iraq’s different factions to come together in the face of terrorism and defeat the foreign occupation of ISIS in cities like Mosul and Fallujah.
Almost a year into this inclusive government, much of the reconciliation efforts have come from the Shiite Prime Minister al-Abadi. He has shown leadership and consideration for all Iraqis, whether Shiite, Sunni or Kurdish. He has made diplomatic visits to the United Nations, and attended various world summits, most recently a trip to Washington D.C. and an anti-ISIS summit in Paris. The Prime Minister has yet to show or express the concerns of one specific Iraqi group but rather all Iraqis, including the Kurds who have their own regional leadership that represents them and voices the concerns of Iraq’s Kurds exclusively. The U.S. State Department was clear that the Prime Minister represented all of Iraq during his visit to Paris in response to Kurdish criticism with the lack of Kurdistan Regional Government’s presence for the second time in a row at the anti-ISIS summit that was reserved for ministerial-level representatives. Meanwhile, all trips by al-Abadi which allow delegates to accompany him have included Sunnis and Kurds.