by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Iraqi Defence University
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: … [inaudible], generals, officers, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure for me to be here today. Thank you for that kind introduction, it’s really a pleasure to be back in Iraq. And to be together with you here today is to be together with military and civilian leaders who play a vital role in ensuring Iraq’s democratic future. Yesterday I visited the Military Communications School in Taji and that was really interesting, a very promising visit. And lastly I met with Iraqi officers and instructors in Besmaya, at the Iraqi Bomb Disposal School where the NATO Mission is providing trainers. They have been learning to counter improvised explosive devices, remove mines and dispose of explosive ordinance. I’m always humbled by the dedication of your troops, your determination to protect the Iraqi people, and to bring stability back to your homeland and region.
With the support of the Global Coalition, including all NATO Allies, Iraq has been at the forefront of the fight against Daesh. You have fought bravely, and you have successfully broken the grip of terrorism, liberating all of your country, freeing millions of people from oppression and allowing Iraqi citizens to return back home. This victory makes Iraq safer, it makes the region safer, and it makes NATO Allies safer too.
Daesh itself proclaimed the caliphate is over, but the fight against terrorism is not. And we must ensure that Daesh can never return and that we can not only win the war, but also win the peace.
And that is why NATO is providing a Non-Combat Training Mission in Iraq, at the request of your government. And I’m really pleased to see that this mission is progressing well. Hundreds of trainers and support staff from NATO Allies and partners, including Australia, Finland and Sweden are now in Iraq, working under the command of Major General Dany Fortin. And now I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved.
Our Mission in Iraq, it provides strategic advice and practical support and training to both civilian and military leaders, multiplying the effectiveness and maximising cooperation between all involved. We are working with the Prime Minister’s National Operation Centre, the Ministry of Defence, and the Office of the National Security Adviser. We are cooperating with Iraq’s highest military education institutions; this includes the National Defence College and the War College, and we are supporting the network of military schools and academies in the Baghdad area, Basmaya and Taji.
These schools are training Iraqi soldiers in areas like military medicine and engineering and intelligence, communications and countering improvised explosive devices. Our support is helping develop a core group of instructors and trainers and a network of highly professional, effective military schools.
Ultimately, this is about creating a cadre of committed Iraqi instructors, training Iraqi soldiers and educating Iraqi leaders, so you can build the forces you need for the future. And experience has shown us that training national forces is one of the best weapons we have in the global fight against terrorism, and in support of open, free and democratic societies.
NATO’s role in Iraq is based on partnership and inclusiveness, with full respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. Our Mission here is part of a wider international effort to help Iraq to eradicate terrorism, and we will continue to coordinate closely with the Global Coalition, the United Nations and the European Union, to ensure our support is as effective as possible.
Iraq’s efforts, in turn, are part of the broader fight against global terrorism. It is in all our interests to ensure regional stability, and to address the shared challenges and threats we face.
NATO is playing its role as an active member of the Global Coalition Against Daesh, helping to build national capacity in Jordan and Tunisia, and providing training, advice and assistance to the Afghan Security Forces. Together we can continue to root out terrorism wherever it exists, with determination and solidarity.
Today Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi and I also discussed the security situation in the region. I condemn the attacks against civilian oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. Any disruption of global energy supplies is clearly of concern to all NATO Allies. We are monitoring developments carefully and with concern. I urge all parties to prevent further such incidents which pose a serious threat to regional security.
Ladies and gentlemen, today Iraq is more stable and secure than it has been for years. You can count on NATO’s continued support and partnership, as you continue to rebuild your homeland. In return, I know that we can count on you to lead Iraq to a brighter, more peaceful future. Thank you so much, and with that, I’m happy also to answer your questions. Thank you.
Question: [In Arabic]
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Well, the future strategy of NATO in Iraq is to help you to help yourself. It’s to enable you to fight terrorism, to stabilise your own country. And the best way we can do that is to train, assist, advise, and to train your trainers … [inaudible] military schools. And, of course, all NATO Allies participated in the fight against Daesh, because all NATO Allies are members of the Global Coalition, and NATO is also a member. So, as you know, the Iraqi soldiers, they were at the forefront and they showed and demonstrated courage, bravery in the fight against Daesh, and they were liberating the territory, but we supported you. And also NATO provided AWACS surveillance planes to support the air operations. And, of course, NATO Allies, as the United States, the United Kingdom and France and many others, Germany, participated and still provide support to your forces.
But as I said in my introduction, I strongly believe that, in the long run, it is better that we enable you to strengthen your capacity to fight terrorism, instead of we having to engage in combat operations in Iraq. So that’s the reason why we’re helping to build military academies, military schools, so you can educate your own soldiers, your own officers and also help you to strengthen your defence and security institutions, as we do, so you can create sustainable, inclusive and effective security forces and institutions. So, in short, NATO’s strategy for the future of Iraq is to strengthen Iraq.
Question: [In Arabic]
Jens Stoltenberg: Yes, this is a very important issue for NATO, because what you are referring to is the INF Treaty that was signed in, as you said, in 1987, banning all intermediate-range land-based weapons system. And that convention or treaty that was signed by President Reagan and Gorbachev in 87 led to the destruction of close to 3,000 missiles on both sides. And this has been extremely important for the stability, the security of Europe, but also the rest of the world.
And NATO supported and participated in the development of this treaty, the banning of the medium-range weapons in 87. And we have supported the treaty ever since then.
The problem is that, some years ago, Russia started to develop and deploy intermediate-range nuclear-capable missiles in Europe. And these missiles are mobile, they are hard to detect, they lower the warning time for any use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict and therefore the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons. And it was the Obama administration that first raised the concern with Russia about the Russian violations of the INF Treaty.
And then last year, all NATO Allies supported the United States when the United States announced that if Russia didn’t come back into compliance, they will withdraw from the treaty. But Russia has not come back into compliance, they continue to develop and deploy these new weapons, in violation of the treaty. And this is something that not only the United States states, but it is also supported by all the NATO Allies, based on independent intelligence.
So on the 2nd August this year, the INF Treaty ceased to exist. But NATO will continue to work for arms control, because we believe that arms control is in the interest of all of us. But, of course, an arms control agreement which is only respected by one side doesn’t provide any security.
Question: [In Arabic]
Jens Stoltenberg: First of all, we very much welcome the partnership we are building between Iraq and NATO, which is also reflected then in the NATO Training Mission here, and the support many NATO Allies provide to Iraq.
As you said, NATO was established in 1949, and then we had 12 members. Today we are 29, but we will soon become 30, as you mentioned, because North Macedonia will join in the coming months.
In NATO’s founding treaty, the Washington Treaty, which was signed in 1949, it is clearly stated that NATO is for the United States, Canada and Europe. So I have to admit that, based on our founding treaty, there is no way we can open up for countries outside Europe. But I think we can do much more together. We can work together, we can support each other, and NATO has many partners, which have also contributed to different NATO missions and operations. So we can have very close partnership, as for instance now with countries in Europe like Sweden, Finland, Austria, Switzerland. They are not NATO members, but there are many close partners.
So, I suggest that we focus on that, and NATO will respect sovereignty and territorial integrity, and your right to decide your own path. So I welcome the partnership and I really hope that we do even more in the future together.
Question: [In Arabic]
Jens Stoltenberg: First, when it comes to NATO’s presence in Iraq, that’s about training, building your capacities, your capabilities, building military schools, building military institutions. We don’t have any mandate when it comes to protecting your airspace. And, of course, NATO is a member of the Global Coalition, but I will be careful of speaking on behalf of the Global Coalition, but I know that the Global Coalition, they don’t have a mandate to protect the airspace, they have a mandate to fight Daesh.
So by providing support to you, you have been able to fight Daesh, and we all recognise the importance and the sacrifices you have made in that fight.
So, I can just conclude with my main message for today, and that is that the best way we can help you, also when it comes to protecting your airspace, is to help you build capabilities, train your instructors, build military institutions, so you can uphold the sovereignty and the territorial integrity, including airspace of your own country yourselves.
Then I have to say, thank you so much, it has been a really great pleasure and an honour to be here, and to be able to speak to you, but also to listen to your questions. And next time I must stay much longer, so then I can answer many more questions, but thank you so much.