Coalition, Iraqi Leaders Agree on Two Critical Areas
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 16, 2004 American and Iraqi leaders meeting here today came up with at least two major areas in which they agree completely the nature of the threat in Iraq and the political track to a representative, elected government.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is in Baghdad at the head of a high- level coalition delegation meeting with leaders of the new interim Iraqi government to discuss security-related issues.
A senior U.S. defense official speaking on background described the results of today's consultations. He said future delegations might be formed to discuss issues including the economy and foreign relations, but today's meetings were limited to the country's security situation.
The official stressed the parties expected to come to no decisions on details today, but rather to give the new Iraqi officials a chance to describe their positions and to find areas of common ground.
Two areas of "striking" agreement between the parties are the nature of the threat facing the Iraqi people and the political track forward, the official explained.
"They see the threat precisely the same way we do, and also they see the political process unfolding the way we do," he said.
Regarding the nature of the threat, both sides agree that a Shiia extremist group personified by Muqtada al-Sadr has been part of the security problem, and that Sadr "has been significantly beaten back where he's now holed up in Najaf and Kufa."
Both Iraqi and coalition officials also recognize there is a Sunni extremist group that generally includes former-regime elements and is loosely associated with foreign fighters. This group generally finds sanctuary in Fallujah.
"The purpose of getting a common threat assessment is that then you can take it a step further and sort of lay out what your requirements are to deal with that threat," the official said.
The other area of agreement was on the political track. The DoD official said Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is committed to "a good solid, sound adherence to transition to administrative law."
Wolfowitz was joined on the coalition team by Kevin Tebbit, the United Kingdom's permanent undersecretary of state for defense; U.S. Army Gen. George W. Casey, vice chief of staff for the U.S. Army, who has been nominated as the next head of Multinational Force Iraq; U.S. Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command; U.S. Navy Rear Adm. James A. Robb, U.S. Central Command's civil affairs chief; and a representative of the Polish government.
Iraqi officials attending were Allawi, Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan, Interior Minister Falah al-Nakib, and National Security Adviser Muwaffak al-Rabaiee.