WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism, on Tuesday delivered the following remarks at a subcommittee hearing on U.S. Iraq policy featuring U.S. Department of State Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Joan Polaschik and U.S. Department of Defense Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East Michael P. Mulroy:

“Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I was grateful to join you in visiting the region [and] grateful for our hearing today. As you've noted, more than a year and a half since the Iraqi government declared victory over ISIS, a number of challenges still remain.

“The first is obvious, ISIS is not fully defeated. It has lost control over territory. That is a very important step. But, the group has gone underground to regroup, and they still periodically mount insurgency style attacks in the country. The threat they pose in Iraq remains.

“Of course, there can't be any enduring victory over ISIS in Iraq without political stability. The Iraqi government will need to rebuild decimated cities and help millions of civilians that are displaced. The Iraqi government will need to resolve territorial and resource disputes with the Kurdistan Regional Government. They need to tackle corruption, improve service delivery, diversify the economy, integrate militia groups. If this sounds like a familiar prescription for success, it's because it is.

“The political mission inside Iraq is the one that America has unfortunately failed at over and over. The military successes, they come a little bit easier. We’ve spent a lot of money in Iraq, averaging about $1.2 billion annually in recent years to train and equip Iraqi security forces and billions more in economic assistance, humanitarian aid, and lines of credit.

“But, looking back on the trends of U.S. assistance to Iraq, there's a pattern. Huge spikes in military and non-military assistance levels in response to outbreaks of violence in the country. And then dramatic drop-offs once victory is declared, only to see this cycle repeat.

“There has to be a better way to play the long game here, to signal a longer term multiyear level of commitment in ways that don't require us to dramatically ramp up and ramp down funding in response to crises.

“When we were in Iraq in April, I heard from many Iraqis who told me that they worry that the United States is just going to move on and forget about them.

“Listen, I opposed the Iraq war. But I also understand that we have a moral obligation as a country to help fix a nation that we played a leading role in breaking. So we need to reassure the Iraqis that we're invested in their long term stability and success.

“Unfortunately, it seems some of the moves by this administration are signaling the opposite. Today, the bulk of our assistance to Iraq is military assistance. And because it's parceled out on a year to year basis, it seems that many of our representatives in Baghdad are spending their time just trying to buy as much stuff as quickly as possible for the Iraqis.

“One of the folks we talked to, there, said that they would rather have $100 million dollars over 10 years than have to spend $100 million dollars in one year. The balance of our assistance, military to civilian, seems badly askew.

“Last September, we also closed our consulate in Basra and withdrew our diplomats. Over the weekend, new reports emerged that the diplomatic drawdown from our embassy in Baghdad has left less than 15 State Department officials working directly on our core diplomatic functions.

“From an outside perspective, it is hard to reconcile the withdrawal of our diplomats now, when we were able to maintain a diplomatic presence in Baghdad and Basra through even the most dangerous years in Iraq in the mid-2000s. How can we hope to have any influence in Iraq without sufficient diplomatic personnel in place? How can we accomplish our goals when we have no one on the field?

“And lastly, the administration's backward policy towards Iran is making our job much, much harder. I hope to ask you some questions about the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization.

“We have put our troops at risk of attack and we cut off much of our ability to talk to any of the Iraqi militia groups that have relationships with Tehran. The cost of this new hastily planned, hard line with Iran is to make our job of political reconciliation a lot harder in Iraq.

“Grateful for the hearing. There's a lot to discuss, and I look forward to hearing from both of our witnesses. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”