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Dedication Ceremony for New U.S. Embassy in Baghdad

John D. Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State
Ryan C. Crocker, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq; Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq
Baghdad, Iraq
January 5, 2009

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AMBASSADOR CROCKER:  Ladies and gentlemen, good morning, and welcome to the American Embassy in Baghdad.  This is a historic occasion, and we are delighted that His Excellency, the President of Iraq is with us today to preside over this ceremony.

We also welcome their Excellencies, the Deputy Prime Ministers, Ministers, the Chief Justice, the Generals of the Iraqi Armed Forces, and our coalition partners.

Our first speaker this morning will be the man who made this embassy possible, the first American Ambassador to a free Iraq, and the current Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte.


DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE:  Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.  And thank you, President Talabani, for joining us today.  Your presence and the presence of other -- Iraq's other national leaders at today's ceremony means a great deal to me, personally, to President Bush, and to Secretary Rice, and to the people and government of the United States.

Mr. President, you are a friend of freedom, and a friend of the United States.  And I can think of no more fitting partner with whom to share this historic dedication than you, Sir.  You have dedicated your life as a fighter and a statesman to a free, sovereign, and united Iraq.

And it is thanks, in large measure, to your courage and vision and steadfastness that today America and Iraq stand shoulder to shoulder as strong and confident equals, working together in friendship and common purpose.

I mentioned President Bush and Secretary Rice.  And they both regret that they are not able to be here with us today.  But I can think of no two individuals in our government who have been more dedicated to the freedom and the prosperity and the security of Iraq. 
And let me say also, although he is a very modest man, that the United States owes a debt of gratitude to our ambassador to Iraq, Ambassador Ryan Crocker. 


It is thanks to his patience and tireless dedication and hard work with his Iraqi counterparts that the basis has been laid for the bilateral relationship going forward into future years, through the Status of Forces Agreement and the Strategic Framework Agreement.  And it is from this embassy whose flag we are about to raise that the work of supporting and promoting the bilateral relationship will be done.

It is from here that the men and women, civilian and military, will help build the new Iraq.  And it is from the embassy that you see before you that we will continue the tradition of friendship, cooperation, and support begun by the many dedicated Americans who have worked in Iraq since 2003.

As Ambassador Crocker mentioned, it was during my tenure as the United States’ first Ambassador to a free Iraq that we negotiated the agreement for the land on which this embassy has been built.  I also had the great honor and privilege of working hand in hand with our coalition allies, yourself, and Iraq's other leaders to implement a successful election in 2005.  This was Iraq's first, but certainly not last, step on the path of democratic governance.

Almost eight-and-a-half million Iraqis defied the car bombers and the assassins to cast their ballots.  And the world watched in awe as jubilant Iraqis danced in the streets, and held ink-stained fingers, and celebrated their freedom.  A second set of elections occurred a year later, and brought the current government to power.  And 2009 marks Iraq's third series of national elections, and the peaceful transition of power that will follow.

For me, today's dedication ceremony is cause for both pride and humility.  Pride at what our two nations have been able to accomplish.  The return of the Republican Palace to the Government of Iraq last Thursday and the raising of the flag over a new embassy four days later are potent symbols of this record of achievement.

As one looks at the photographs and documents and other historical memorabilia in the building next to us, one cannot help but feel humbled as we continue a long and distinguished tradition of consular and diplomatic engagement with the people of Iraq going back as far as 1889.  Our diplomatic relations began in 1931.

Looking out on this wonderful gathering and this magnificent new embassy, I look with great confidence to the future of United States-Iraq relations.  Today marks the beginning of a new page in those relations, one that will build on and benefit from the legacy of those consular and diplomatic officers who have gone before us.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, and friends, we have a duty to honor this legacy.  As we dedicate this new embassy, we also rededicate ourselves to the purpose for which it was built, and to the mission we serve, and that is to unite our two nations through ties of democracy, commerce, trade, education, culture, science, the rule of law, and security, and to help build in this great land a partnership of generations.

Thank you again, Mr. President, and all of our distinguished guests, for having joined us in this very important ceremony today.  Thank you.


AMBASSADOR CROCKER:  Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the Republic of Iraq.


PRESIDENT TALABANI:  (Via interpreter.)  In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate, your Excellencies, Secretary Negroponte, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, the generals, and all our beloved American friends here today, and honored guests.  I am pleased to be part of this dedication ceremony for the new embassy of the United States, a friendly nation to the new democratic, parliamentarian, federal, and independent, and united Iraq.

This landmark edifice could not have been built, nor could this democratic, federal, and independent Iraq have been possible without the courageous and historic decision by His Excellency, President George W. Bush, to liberate Iraq, to liberate Iraq from the most reprehensible form of dictatorship in the history of our people:  one that led to futile, destructive wars, and mass graves for hundreds to thousands of citizens; one that squandered immense amounts of Iraq's wealth; and that destroyed generations of its men and women.

Therefore, due to their venerable civilization and their high moral and human values, the Iraqi people will never forget the assistance of our American friends, and will always be grateful for the sacrifices of your fallen ones. 

The Iraqis are thankful and gracious people who highly value friendship, particularly since these sacrifices were part of a glorious tradition of such sacrifices made by the great American people to ward off aggression and oppression during the first and second world wars and in the Pacific, as well as in Afghanistan, Kurdistan, and Iraq.

This edifice that you have built is not only a part of this embassy, but a symbol of the deep and great affinity between the American and the Iraqi peoples. 

Therefore, we have great hopes that this embassy will assume its anticipated and promising role in the strengthening, advancing, improving, and expanding American-Iraqi relations in political, economic, oil, military, cultural, technological, and all other aspects.  Those who are working here at this embassy will find all available help and support from the Presidency Council in order to realize these lofty goals. 

Allow me to express our firm belief that America's history will have a most favorable view of the liberation of Iraq, and the creation of a democratic, federal, and independent Iraq, which will serve as a model to be emulated by other peoples of the Eastern world, as well as a significant factor for stability, security, peace, and coexistence among the countries of this region.

As you know, Iraq is rich in its people, in its human resources, culture, civilization, and abundant resources.  And, as such, it is qualified to assume the leading and promising role expected of it. 

My dear American friends, on behalf of Iraq, I congratulate you on the completion of this landmark edifice, and on dedicating your new embassy to serve as a mission, as an emissary of friendship and cooperation in every respect.  May God's peace, mercy, and blessings be upon you.


AMBASSADOR CROCKER:  Mr. President, Mr. Secretary, thank you for those inspiring words.

As you noted, there is a lot of history between the United States and Iraq.  The first American consul arrived in Baghdad 120 years ago this month.  We have had many important moments throughout that history, for better or for worse.  No period has been more intense, more challenging, and more promising than that since April 2003.  And of that period, perhaps no single week has been more important than this past one.

On December 31st, we left the Republican Palace.  At midnight that night, the last United Nations Chapter 7 Resolution declaring Iraq a threat to international peace and security expired.  Iraq has now assumed the lead for all security operations.  Our bilateral relationship, going forward, will now be guided by two bilateral agreements:  a Security Agreement, and our Strategic Framework Agreement.  Today we raise the flag over a new United States embassy. 

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, Iraq is in a new era, and so is the Iraqi-United States relationship.  This day is possible because of the commitment, achievements, and the sacrifice of Iraqis, Americans, and coalition partners.  Today we remember them.

Today is about more than raising a flag and dedicating an embassy.  It is about new directions and a new future.  In the Security Agreement, we have made commitments, and we will fulfill those commitments while continuing to assist Iraqi forces in maintaining security.  We were all reminded of the growing capability of those Iraqi forces in yesterday's impressive Army Day celebration. 

The Strategic Framework Agreement will shape and define our bilateral relations in every aspect.  In doing so, it recalls our history that is captured in the exhibition in this embassy:  the 1938 Treaty of Commerce and Navigation; the 1945 Aid and Defense Agreement; the 1951 Educational Exchange Agreement; and the 1961 Cultural Agreement.

In the days ahead, the U.S. and Iraq will establish joint coordinating committees to guide our cooperation in the fields of culture, science, education, economy and energy, services and information technology, and law enforcement and the rule of law.  This is our agenda for the future, as we forge a new relationship, a relationship between equal sovereign nations.

Iraq has a great and rich history.  It is the cradle of civilization.  It gave the world writing and laws and culture.  And a democratic, federal, and secure Iraq will have an even greater future.  From this new embassy in the years to come, we look forward to building our partnership, and contributing to that future.

On December 31st, a flag was lowered, and a chapter in U.S.-Iraqi history came to a close.  Today, a flag is raised, and a new era begins.

Ladies and gentlemen, could I ask you to please stand for the rendition of the American and Iraqi national anthems.

(Anthem of Iraq is played.)

(Anthem of the United States of America is sung.)

# # #

Released on January 7, 2009

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