Attacks Won't Stop Iraqi Elections, Rice Says
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2004 Many other milestone events have taken place in Iraq despite violence in the country, and this winter's scheduled elections are "entirely possible," the president's national security adviser said today.
Condoleezza Rice, appearing on "CBS' Face the Nation," told host Bob Schieffer that despite instability, Iraq has not missed a step in its progress.
"I just want to remind people, we weren't going to be able to transfer sovereignty, we weren't going to be able to get an Iraqi government, we weren't going to be able to have a national conference, and a national council," Rice said. "All of those things have happened. There will undoubtedly be violence up until the elections, and probably even during the elections. But, it is entirely possible to hold these elections." All along, she said, insurgents have tried to stop the process, and all along they have failed.
"I don't think there is any doubt that the insurgents are trying hard to make certain that the process that is underway, the political process that's underway, wouldn't take place," she said. "But, in fact, they're not going to win. The Iraqi people are moving toward elections in December and January, they've established their interim government. We've transferred sovereignty. They've had their national conference, which people said could not take place. They have now a national council, and the Iraqis are moving right along."
Iraqi security forces are becoming increasingly effective, Rice said, even as the insurgents continue their attacks. "Now, yes, there are some people who want to take Iraq back to the days of mass graves and torture chambers, and seeking weapons of mass destructions and threatening its neighbors," she said. "It's not going to happen. The Iraqi security forces are being built, and built quickly. They performed very well in Najaf -- one of the real successes for them recently has been that the situation in Najaf was resolved without anyone having to storm the shrines there, but rather Iraqi forces are now in control in that city."
Rice acknowledged that since Saddam Hussein was ousted, insurgent violence has periodically picked up, slowed down and picked back up again. "But the important point," she added, "is that we now have an Iraqi government, which is fighting this fight. We have Iraqis signing up in droves to become part of the security forces, whether police, or army, or National Guard. And we are continuing to pound enemy positions." She noted that even in Fallujah, where the insurgency has been difficult, strikes have been made against terrorist safehouses and insurgent strongholds.
But putting down an insurgency requires not only military action, but also political strategy, Rice noted. "In some places the military element is stronger, and the political element is subordinate, in some places it's flipped," she explained. "If you look at places like the Sunni Triangle, Prime Minister (Ayad) Allawi and his people have been very clear that they believe that the political strategy, the groundwork has to be laid with leadership there. It was largely a political strategy that won in Najaf, but of course, in Sadr City we're continuing to pound positions."
Rice said that although political strategy carried the day in Najaf, militia loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr were defeated militarily as well. "They had very little left by the time we left those shrines," she said. "So the key is to marry at the right time, in the right places, political and military elements to defeat the insurgency."
And as progress continues in Iraq, Rice said, the insurgents will have their hands full.
"Prime Minister Allawi is working with leaders throughout the Sunni Triangle to enlist them in this election. The process of local governments and their work with local security forces goes on," she said. "Yes, it's a violent place, but there are going to be ups and downs, this is a turbulent period in a difficult circumstance. But, I'll tell you, the Iraqis are making political progress every day, and every time they move toward that -- those political milestones - - the insurgency has more of a problem."