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Rice: New Iraq Will Help Stabilize Middle East

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2006 – The Iraqis are going through a historic process to form a government of national unity, and success in that country will provide a basis for a more stable Middle East, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday morning talk shows today.

"We faced the outcome of an ideology of hatred throughout the Middle East that had to be dealt with," Rice said on NBC's "Meet the Press" today. "Saddam Hussein was part of the old Middle East. The new Iraq will be part of a new Middle East, and we will all be safer."

Iraq is taking longer to form its government than many in the international community would like, Rice acknowledged, but people need to recognize the magnitude of what the Iraqis are trying to do. The Iraqis are not just dividing up jobs and responsibilities, but are developing the programs and institutions with which they will govern, she said.

"This is a complicated process that is likely to push them very much further forward, once it is completed, than just having people identified as prime minister, defense minister, and so forward," Rice said.

The most important thing for the Iraqis to do right now is communicate with each other, the secretary said. The Sunnis didn't join the government until late in the process, she said, so they have many important issues to work out.

"They have some very important, really even existential, issues that they're trying to deal with," Rice said on "Fox News Sunday." "And they're grappling with some of those during this period. They need to be able to talk to one another."

U.S. leaders knew the war in Iraq would be difficult when they started it, Rice said on Fox, but it was necessary to help the U.S. overcome the ideology of hatred that caused terrorists to fly planes into buildings on American soil on Sept. 11, 2001. The enemy that struck that day was not just the specific terrorist group behind the attacks, but was the cumulative result of an oppressive Middle East that condoned hatred, she said.

"It is not as if we disturbed a placid and functioning Middle East in which our security interests were not at risk," Rice said on CNN's "Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer." "This was a broader problem of an ideology of hatred, of terrorism becoming an acceptable means in places where there was a freedom deficit and there was no opportunity for political discourse."

Changes are happening in the broader Middle East and specifically in Iraq, where security forces are stepping up and taking responsibility and the political process is moving forward, Rice said. The progress of the Iraqi security forces makes it likely there will be a significant drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq within the next year, she said.

Rice said she understands that Americans are concerned about the toll the war has taken on U.S. servicemembers, coalition forces and Iraqi civilians, but any major change in history will be turbulent and require sacrifice.

"You have to step back and ask, 'What was the alternative?'" she said on "Late Edition." "'Was the alternative to leave a Middle East with authoritarian repressive governments, with a Saddam Hussein who threatened his neighbors and threatened our interests? Or did you have to act?' And this president believed you had to act."

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