DoD Leader Details U.S. Iraq Strategy
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2006 U.S. strategy in Iraq is working, and success in the country could mean a transformed Middle East, Peter W. Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said at the American Enterprise Institute here today.
Rodman said the strategy empowers moderates of all ethnicities and sects in the country. "This is a way to isolate the extremists politically, even as the coalition and Iraqi forces are hunting them down militarily," he said.
The strategy has three legs -- political, economic and military -- and all three aspects complement each other, he said. However, the political aspects of the strategy may be the most important. "The core of the strategy is helping the Iraqis build and consolidate their own institutions, filling the vacuum left by the demise of the old regime," he said.
The two elections and constitutional referendum of 2005 proved that political progress is being made in Iraq. "In the success of those elections, we can see the gravitational pull on the Sunni Arab population, pulling them into the electoral process," he said. "We hope this will separate them from the extremists. The terrorists are revealed to be a minority of a minority."
Rodman said the elections conferred legitimacy on the new government and added that this legitimacy "is the most powerful weapon we have against the extremists."
The idea of democracy in Iraq scares the extremists. If democracy takes root, then the extremists have no leg to stand on, he said.
Economic progress in the country shows Iraqis that democratic institutions can improve their lives, Rodman said. Following a 4 percent growth in gross domestic product in 2004, 2005 will see a "double-digit" rise, coalition officials in Iraq said. The terrorists' answer "is to perpetuate hardship, to demoralize the population, to try to weaken the credibility of the new institutions and the new government," Rodman said.
Security enables economic and political progress, Rodman said. He said he is satisfied with success of counterinsurgency operations and progress in training Iraqi police and soldiers. The United States will reduce the number of troops in Iraq as Iraqi security forces shoulder more of the burden, he added.
"But the president has made it clear that we will set no artificial deadlines," Rodman said. "The president wants to retain the flexibility to do what it takes to defeat the enemy and train the Iraqis to take over responsibility. Any reduction in U.S. forces will depend on our achieving the conditions of success, not on arbitrary timelines."
Rodman said confronting the enemy in Iraq "is a crucial test of strength with wider ramifications." He said that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden said the third world war is already under way in Iraq. Al Qaeda leaders make no secret of their desire to first take over Iraq, then move to Saudi Arabia, and then subjugate the West, Rodman said.
But, he said, they have been stopped in Iraq. "If they think they are winning, they are wrong," Rodman said. "The overwhelming majority of the Iraqi population has shown that they support this democratic process, which the extremists are trying to derail."
The strategy in Iraq is part of a broader strategy throughout the region "to identify the United States with a trend of political reform, liberalization and democracy in the Middle East," Rodman said.
"The outcome in Iraq could determine the face of the Middle East for a generation. It could determine whether extremists throughout the region feel emboldened or feel discouraged," he continued. "It could determine whether their ideology gains momentum or begins to lose credibility. It could determine whether the promising trend of democracy and reform in the Middle East receives a great boost or a serious setback."