07 October 2005
Political Process Viewed as Key To Ending Iraq's Violence
Moderate voices will make a difference in Iraq, Marine general says
Washington –- The U.S. military officer responsible for current military operations in western Iraq says violence there will end when the Iraqis use the political process to make life better.
Marine Corps Major General Stephen Johnson -- who serves as commander of 30,000 Marines, sailors and soldiers who make up Multinational Force West -- told reporters based at the Pentagon from his base in Fallujah, Iraq, that the Iraqi political process “is the way to end the violence.” With the October 15 referendum on the Iraqi Constitution and the fast-approaching national elections in December, the officer predicted that more moderate Iraqi voices will emerge.
As these political milestones draw nearer, “you will see more moderate voices among the leaders –- the sheikhs, the imams, the tribal leaders,” he said, “coming forward and encouraging the people to use these processes … to be part of the system rather than to continue the endless cycles of violence that seem to prevail.”
Speaking via audio link from Iraq, Johnson said there inevitably will be some Iraqi extremists who never will relinquish their pursuit of power through armed force, but he also said the voices of moderate Iraqis will be increasingly heard “and they will make a difference in Iraq.”
Asked to assess the potency of the Iraqi insurgency since his forces became active in western Iraq in March, Johnson said, “We don’t see a growth in the insurgency here.” The insurgency has existed at a steady level, he said. “The levels of attacks that we’ve experienced in the last six weeks have gone up,” the officer said, “but we knew that was going to happen” with the onset of Ramadan and the approach of the referendum vote.
Johnson, who is commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, provided an operational update one week in advance of the constitutional referendum. He said al-Qaida in Iraq has formed a marriage of convenience with various elements of the insurgency, ranging from hardcore Saddam Hussein loyalists to street-savvy criminals.
Johnson said most of the coalition military activity has focused in recent days on what he described as a resilient enemy in the Euphrates River Valley cities of Najaf, Karbala and Fallujah. The main coalition offensives have been prosecuted as part of operations Iron Fist and River Gate.
“The intent of these operations is really four-fold,” Johnson said. They aim to take the fight to al-Qaida in Iraq and other insurgent groups; enable the coalition to establish an ongoing presence in the key Euphrates River Valley cities; assist all relevant Iraqi political, military and community leaders to ensure a successful referendum vote; and to work with the Iraqi ministries of Interior and Defense to help re-establish Iraqi border control.
The overall mission for coalition and Iraqi military forces remains the same, he said: to create a secure environment that will allow Iraq to become self-reliant. In the end, Johnson said, a new constitution will be adopted and there will be a peaceful election that will put in place the new Iraqi leaders who will be able to provide the public and social services that Iraq needs.
The transcript of Johnson briefing is available on the Defense Department Web site.
More information about Johnson's command is available on the Multinational Force West Web site.
For more information about U.S. policy on Iraq, see Iraq Update.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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