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Iraqi Government Likely to Strike Balance Between Islamic, Secular Interests

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2005 – The government that ultimately emerges in Iraq will likely strike a balance between religious and secular interests, but whatever it looks like, it will reflect the culture and values of the Iraqi peoplenot Americans, Vice President Dick Cheney said this morning on Fox News Sunday.

Cheney said there is little justification for "hand-wringing" by some Americans who, as they watch partial election returns favor the Shiite majority, show concern that Islamic interests will dominate the new government.

Iraqis have watched the Iranians create a "religious theocracy" that Cheney said "has been a dismal failure from the standpoint of human rights."

"They fought a bloody eight-year war with the Iranians against that kind of theocracy, and I believe there are a great many people involved in the political process in Iraq who will seek some kind of balance," he said.

But in the final analysis, Cheney said Americans and the world need to stand back "and admire them for how far they have come and the courage they have displayed," and let the democratic process proceed.

The Iraqi government that emerges may be far different from America's form of democracy, the vice president acknowledged. "This is going to be Iraqi, whatever it is," he said. "It is not going to be America. It is not going to look like Wyoming or New York when they get their political process all put together."

Rather, he said, the Iraqis "will do it their way," and "in accordance with their culture and their history and their beliefs."

And that includes deciding what role religion will have in their society, he said. The vice president said he has "a lot of confidence in the players in this process," and is encouraged by Shia religious leader Ayatollah Ali Sistani's expressed belief that clerics should not play a direct role in the day-to-day operations of the government.

But regardless of what decisions the Iraqis make, Cheney said Americans need to allow the process to move forward "and preserve the integrity of that process that we set in motion."

"In the final analysis, the bottom line for everybody to remember here is, this is not going to be an Iraqi version of America," he said. "This is going to be Iraqis, [and the constitution] is going to be written by the Iraqis, for the Iraqis, implemented and executed by them. And it is essentially that that be allowed to happen."

Cheney said leading figures on the Shiite ticket that appear have a commanding lead in the votes have made it clear that they are opposed to setting a deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, despite Sunni pressure to set one.

Responsible Iraqis understand that Americans need to leave, not based on an artificial deadline settled on as part of a political compromise, but based on when the mission is completed, he said.

Once an effective Iraqi government and security forces are in place, "then we are out of there," Cheney said. "We have no desire to stay a day longer than necessary."

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Vice President Dick Cheney


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