U.S. Ambassador: Success In Iraq Can Be Achieved
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2006 Success can be achieved in Iraq, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq said today, as the U.S. and its allies adapt tactics while continuing to work with the new Iraqi government to suppress violence and rebuild the country.
“Despite the difficult challenges we face, success in Iraq is possible and can be achieved on a realistic timetable,” Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters at a Baghdad press conference.
Khalilzad and Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, spoke to reporters about the way ahead in Iraq.
The veteran diplomat said it was essential for success that Iraqi leaders step up to achieve key political and security milestones that they’ve agreed to. “As they take these steps, we can produce success and bring about Iraqi self-reliance, (but) we must continue to support them.”
Iraq is located in the heart of the Middle East and is strategically vital to U.S. security interests, Khalilzad pointed out. Yet, more than the security of Iraq is at stake if the country succumbs to terrorist domination, he said.
“The broader Middle East is the source of most of the world’s security problems,” Khalilzad noted. The struggle for power in today’s Middle East is between moderates and extremist political forces, he said.
“The outcome in Iraq will profoundly shape this wider struggle and, in turn, the security of the world,” the diplomat said.
Extremists from Iran, Syria and al Qaeda are now working to thwart U.S, coalition and Iraqi efforts to establish a free and democratic Iraq, Khalilzad said.
These disruptive forces “fear Iraq’s success,” he said. They want to undermine American resolve in Iraq by prolonging the conflict, inflicting casualties and creating the perception that Iraq cannot be stabilized.
“The enemies of the American people believe that their will is stronger than ours and that they can win by outlasting us,” Khalilzad said. He added that the daily violence seen in Iraq is the work of the extremists.
Since Iraq was liberated in April 2003, various sects and religious groups across the country have competed to attain political supremacy, Khalilzad noted. “It is on this terrain that the battle for stability and progress in Iraq has been waged,” he said. “Iraq’s people are the principal victims of this war. They want it to end.”
The United States and its allies have worked tirelessly to bridge ethnic or religious divides among Iraq’s populace and improve the lives of the Iraqi people, Khalilzad said. Politically, Iraqis were united when they voted for a new democratic government and a constitution, he added.
Iraq’s leaders effected historic compromise among diverse elements when the country’s first government of national unity was established in April, Khalilzad said.
“These accomplishments were a beacon for the entire Middle East,” the senior diplomat pointed out. In addition, Iraq’s citizens are realizing quality-of-life gains every day, he said, noting that’s a story that’s being underreported.
“Cell phones and satellite dishes, once forbidden, are now common,” Khalilzad pointed out, noting the spread of consumer-accessed technology among the people of the new Iraq. Agricultural production is rising dramatically, he added, while Iraq’s overall economy and consumer sector continues to expand.
“While a few provinces experience great violence, there is stability and progress in many others,” Khalilzad said.
Yet, this progress is being undercut by extremists’ efforts in “tearing the Iraqi people apart” by inflaming religious and sectarian rivalries, Khalilzad said. Unfortunately, he said, extremists’ actions have had a negative effect on political and economic development across Iraq.
Today, the chief source of violence in Iraq is caused by sectarian killings involving al Qaeda operatives, illegal militias and death squads, in addition to other-insurgent-led mayhem, the diplomat said.
“Iran and Syria are providing support to the groups involved,” Khalilzad said.
America “should not acquiesce” to the terrorists, Khalilzad emphasized. Instead, he said, the U.S. should “make adjustments in our strategy” and “redouble our effort to succeed.”
The U.S. and the Iraqi government are pursuing a strategy to reduce the sources of violence in Iraq, to defeat extremists that are stirring up sectarian strife, to increase Iraq’s capability to provide for its own security, and to increase the international community’s support for Iraq, Khalilzad said.
“This is not easy and cannot proceed without occasional setbacks and necessary adjustments,” he said.
A three-prong strategy is being employed to effect stability across Iraq.
First, Iraqi tribal, religious and political leaders across Baghdad are being asked by the government to agree to stop the sectarian violence, Khalilzad said.
Second, Iraqi leaders are working to complete a national compact that unites Iraq’s various groups and includes enactment of a national oil resource law that would share petroleum profits among all Iraqis. Another part of the compact involves passing a constitutional amendment that guarantees democratic rights for all Iraqis. The de-Baathification commission would be reformed and transformed into a national reconciliation program, Khalilzad explained.
Another facet of the Iraq stability plan address illegal militias and death squads, as well as setting dates for provincial elections and increasing the credibility and capability of Iraq security forces, Khalilzad said.
“Iraqi leaders have agreed to a timeline for making the hard decisions needed to resolve these issues,” he said, noting that Iraqi President Jalal Talibani has publicly committed to the plan.
The United States and its coalition partners will also support Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “and other (Iraqi) leaders in their effort to meet these benchmarks,” Khalilzad said.
The third element of the Iraq stability plan involves persuading Sunnis to stop fighting and to accept national reconciliation, Khalilzad said. Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan have been asked to use their influence to encourage Iraq’s Sunni Arab population to lay down their arms and quit fighting.
“These countries have promised to be helpful,” Khalilzad said, noting U.S., coalition and Iraqi military operations would continue against al Qaeda operatives and death squads in Iraq.
U.S. officials have also been coordinating with Maliki and other Iraqi government officials to develop a plan for the eventual transfer of security responsibilities to Iraqi forces.
“This plan will be ready before the end of the year,” Khalilzad said.