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Thanks Obama: Former US Prisoner Now Top Iraqi Official

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In 2007, Qasim al-Araji was being held by U.S. forces for charges of smuggling arms used to attack U.S. troops and involvement in an assassination cell during the height of the Iraq War. Now, al-Araji is the Iraqi minister of the interior, the Associated Press reports.

In an interview with the AP Saturday, al-Araji laughed off questions regarding his relationship with the U.S., saying of his time as a prisoner, “that’s life. I was their prisoner and now I meet with their ambassador.”

Al-Araji has continuously reaffirmed his commitment to the U.S. and coalition forces fighting to retake Mosul. His office has confirmed a meeting with the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, where al-Araji asserted his belief in a continued relationship between the two countries.

The U.S. is working closely with al-Araji as well. Iraqi border security and the federal police are just some of the national forces that are being funded, armed and trained by the U.S. and also fall under the interior ministry’s command.

“My most important goal is to bring security to Iraq, and (to achieve that) Iraq is in need of the friendship of the Americans,” he said.

In a rare stance for Iraqi politicians, al-Araji supported the airstrikes conducted by the U.S. Even the March 17 airstrike carried out by U.S. forces that killed more than 100 civilians, al-Araji supported it vehemently on the floor of parliament.

Al-Araji has been detained twice by the U.S. Once in 2003, for allegedly commanding militia forces, and three years later in 2007. Both he believes have made him a better person.

“I believe every difficult stage leaves something inside a human being,” al-Araji said. “Being a prisoner taught me patience, it made me stronger.”

Frank Baker, the British ambassador to Iraq, told the Associated Press that he speaks regularly with al-Araji, describing the Minister as “an Iraqi patriot” who “faces many challenges but is doing a very good job for Iraq and the Iraqi people.”

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