Iraqi Unity at All-Time High, Rice Says
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
"I think you have greater unity of the various elements of Iraqi society than you've ever had," Rice said while en route to Athens, Greece. "You have a much more active and integrated Sunni leadership ... with clear indigenous roots, which should help with the movement of Sunnis away from violence to the political process."
Rice said the new Iraqi prime minister-designate, Jawad al Maliki, who was appointed April 22, will be the first permanent prime minister with the full backing of the Iraqi people and all elements of the elected leadership of the Iraqi government.
"I think that's a position of considerable strength," she said. "And in many ways, the fact that he came to this having the Sunnis and Kurds supportive of his prime ministership, I think, is extremely important," she said.
Rice explained that the new Iraqi government is a work in progress and people should be patient as it comes to fruition.
"I just hope that people understand and keep those expectations in check because it does take some time for any new government, let alone one that is governing permanently for the first time, to get hold of the reins and to start making a difference in people's lives," she said. "Progress is going to be the kind of progress that is political progress, which doesn't come in great flashes, it doesn't come in great outbursts of another election or purple fingers or any of that."
The secretary said the next big task is going to be to get ministers in place who have the confidence of the Iraqi people, particularly in the ministries of Interior and Defense, she said.
Rice also stressed that the new government will have the means to deal with militias in Iraq, which are thought to be a catalyst for sectarian violence. "I think now that you're getting to the point of a permanent Iraqi government and that you're getting security forces, armed forces and police forces that are more capable, the framework now for dealing with the militias is there," she said.
The United States can help the fledgling Iraqi government by continuing to provide the security framework in which national institutions can become stronger, which will make militias unnecessary and foster the integration of individuals who have been carrying arms, she said.
"The best thing we can do is to make sure that our training helps them to create truly national military forces and truly national police forces because that then takes away any sense that one needs militias to provide security," she said. "I think that will be our principal role."
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