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Economic, Political Progress Tied to Iraqi Security

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 9, 2003 – The foundation of American policy in Iraq is that the country belongs to the Iraqis, and the United States will turn over control of the country as soon as possible, Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, said yesterday.

Feith spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He told the audience that "it's wrong and simplistic" for people to think that the United States wants to act unilaterally.

The United States has a number of objectives in Iraq, Feith said. These include increasing security, improving quality of life and creating a free, democratic Iraqi government. The United States is reaching out to countries around the world for help in this endeavor, he said.

"Security is our most important and pressing objective," Feith said, "but it's fundamental to recognize that security, economic and political objectives are closely interrelated. Without security, we can't rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure and protect it from sabotage, nor can we expect Iraqi political life to revive if Iraqis don't feel secure enough to travel, go to meetings, express their views without intimidation."

Economic progress will occur when people believe it is safe enough to invest in the country, he added.

The security situation in Iraq is complex, Feith said. It runs the gamut from simple stability operations to small- scale combat operations.

Coalition forces must deal with five different threats: remnants of the Ba'athist regime, foreign Islamist terrorists, Islamists influenced by Iran, looters who are taking advantage of an opportunity to steal, and the general criminality that's let loose when the repressive apparatus of a totalitarian regime suddenly disappears.

Feith noted that Saddam Hussein made the last much worse by emptying his prisons of thousands of common criminals.

"Of these challenges, the most serious now arises from the remnants of the old regime, which have not yet accepted that that regime and the inordinate privileges that they received from it are gone forever," Feith said. "Even though this Ba'athist problem is a serious one, it's confined chiefly to the Sunni heartland, including parts of Baghdad and several corridors that are radiating out from the city."

In Iraq's north and south the security situation is much better, Feith noted.

"We're addressing the security situation in several ways," he said. "Recently we've undertaken combat operations, such as Desert Scorpion, directed against the Ba'athist remnants. Our recent offer of large rewards for information on Saddam Hussein and his sons emphasize our determination to root out the Ba'athists and deny them any hope of regaining political power."

But the coalition must also place emphasis on repairing the neglected infrastructure of the country, he said.

"If we cannot increase employment and provide basic services, popular dissatisfaction will aggravate the security problem and make it harder to create the moderate democratic political environment in which new political institutions can be created," he said.

Creating this environment is important so that the Iraqis absorb the fact that they are responsible for their own destiny, he said. "We can't expect their wholehearted contributions to improving security and reviving the economy," until this fact is understood by the Iraqi population.

Training the Iraqi police and rebuilding an Iraqi army are important in emphasizing that Iraqis are responsible for their future. "Iraq should have a new division of 12,000 ready within a year and a 40,000-person force ready within three years," Feith said.

The coalition is moving forward in creating an Iraqi interim administration, Feith said, and a governing council is to be established soon.

"Our goal is to give the governing council, a representative group of Iraqis, as much authority as possible, and in time to turn the various ministries over to their control," he said. "This group would also serve as the Iraqi people's representative to the coalition provisional authority and to the world at large."

But along with these interim structures, the coalition is moving ahead on plans to convene a constitutional conference to draft a new constitution for Iraq. "Iraqis will play a large role in drawing up these plans," Feith said.

Coalition allies are heavily involved in operations in Iraq, Feith said. "Over 45 nations have made offers of military support for security and stability operations," he said. "Eighteen countries now have military capabilities on the ground in Iraq. The capabilities range from combat divisions and brigades to field hospitals."

Britain and Poland have each agreed to lead multinational divisions to meet stability and security requirements, and other countries are considering doing so, Feith said. "And still other countries have indicated their willingness to participate in peacekeeping, in some cases by contributing units from their national police forces, such as Italy's Carabinieri," he said.

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