About the Author: Michael Corbin serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.
The Obama Administration is committed to a bright future for Iraq, and to the transition from a military to a civilian-led relationship fostering a broader partnership in all areas. The March 7 parliamentary election will bring another step in Iraq's democratic progress, and I am optimistic that Iraqi leaders will support a transparent, peaceful election and that the country's transition to a new government will be inclusive and represent the interests of the Iraqi people.
This is the key message I conveyed when I traveled to California last week to meet with Iraqi-American communities, World Affairs Councils, students, non-profit organizations and U.S. Marines. On February 23, I arrived in San Diego to meet with prominent members of the Chaldean community. I traveled to Camp Pendleton to talk to the First Marine Expeditionary Force, which helped to turn around the key province of Anbar through their heroism and sacrifice. The relationships the Marines forged with tribal leaders were vital to the Sons of Iraq turning against extremists. I thanked the Marines for their service and briefed them on our civilian planning to ensure that their effort pays off in a strong, successful, and sustained Iraqi-American partnership. With the Chaldean business community, I acknowledged the accomplishments of Iraqi-Americans and listened to ideas about the future of Iraq's economy.space And, in conjunction with the International Rescue Committee, I met over 300 Iraqi-Americans to talk about the role of minorities in Iraq and the status of Iraqi refugees.
On February 24, I headed to El Cajon, California, where I had the pleasure of visiting the Chaldean and Middle Eastern Social Service office and learned about their work with Iraqi refugees and the Iraqi-American community. I rounded out my visit to San Diego with a fascinating give-and-take with the San Diego World Affairs Council and a meeting with religious and senior community leaders. I spent the final days of my trip in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, meeting with the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, students at Pepperdine University, attending an Iraqi-American community event, and addressing the Santa Barbara Channel City Club.
From there I traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska as the guest of Congressman Jeff Fortenberry. Congressman Fortenberry closely follows Iraqi issues and is particularly concerned about the plight of Iraq's minorities. I joined the Congressman in briefings for his constituents in Lincoln, talked with students and faculty at the University of Nebraska, and we co-chaired a meeting with Nebraska's sizable Iraqi-American community.
Throughout my trip, I was inspired by the common hope for a peaceful democratic process in Iraq. Leaders of all minority groups have called on citizens to vote. I, too, encouraged the Iraqi-Americans I met to participate in the elections so that all Iraqi citizens are represented in the next government, whether they do so in Iraq or in one of the 16 countries -- including the United States -- slated for out-of-country voting.
As Secretary Clinton said in Doha on February 14, Iraq's journey to democracy has not been easy. She is right to note that every young democracy passes through moments of peril. But we believe that Iraq will pass through these moments and emerge as an important force for regional stability and prosperity.
Related Content: Briefing On Upcoming Iraqi Elections and U.S.-Iraqi Relations