27 March 2007
Iraq Making Political, Economic Progress, U.S. Official Says
State's Satterfield cites Iraq's advances in reconciliation, development
Washington – Iraq’s elected leaders are making progress toward political reconciliation, economic development and improved relations with neighbors, says a top U.S. official.
In a March 27 speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, David Satterfield, senior adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and coordinator for Iraq, said Iraqi officials are making a “vigorous and comprehensive” effort to seek compromise and bridge differences among the Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish communities to create “a new national basis for a common future.”
The most important example of the reconciliation agenda’s progress, Satterfield said, was Iraq’s recently completed draft hydrocarbon law, a key benchmark recently approved by the Council of Ministers that will be submitted to the Iraqi Council of Representatives in a few weeks.
The law, which outlines foreign investment and the national and local government’s roles in developing the country’s estimated 115 billion barrels of oil reserves, was the result of intensive negotiation. Satterfield said this demonstrates that internal differences exacerbated by decades of political repression are not irreconcilable and can be resolved through the democratic process.
Another challenge facing the Iraqi government, Satterfield said, was confronting the legacy of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.
Even though the party was responsible for decades of abuses to the Iraqi people, membership was often a prerequisite for social and economic advancement for a wide range of Iraqi citizens. Satterfield said Iraqi leaders, accordingly, are developing a new approach to de-Baathification that shifts away from an approach of “criminality by association to one of individual accountability.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani sent a draft of the reformed de-Baathification law to the Cabinet and parliament March 27. The measure would offer jobs to former low-ranking regime officials and provide immunity to former Baathists, after a period during which Iraqi citizens can take them to court for suspected crimes.
Satterfield said that as these elements of the Iraqi government’s reconciliation agenda proceed, they will set the stage for future steps, such as provincial election laws to develop a free, fair, voting process for Iraqi citizens to elect their local governments, as well as a political process for disarmament, demobilization and integration of insurgents and militia members.
Another key task for the Iraqi government is to extend essential services, such as sewage, water, and electricity to all citizens, making economic development another top priority, Satterfield said.
Satterfield said officials were surprised at the level of neglect to Iraq’s key infrastructure during the Saddam regime, much of which appeared to have seen little maintenance since the early 1970s. Although Iraq is dedicating approximately $12.5 billion of its new budget for capital investment projects, he said that its leaders currently lack many of the bureaucratic tools needed to allocate funds and execute these essential large-scale projects.
The United States is responding by requesting $4 billion from Congress to help energize the building process by providing advisers and training for Iraqi officials. By doing so, Satterfield said, the United States could build on the success of parallel security operations by helping the Iraqi government undercut support for insurgents by creating economic opportunities and delivering essential services.
Satterfield called on Iraq’s neighbors and the wider international community to join the United States in stepping up support for the Iraqi government.
Two recent events show that nations are committed to Iraq’s success, he said. The first is the recently launched International Compact for Iraq, a U.N.-sponsored international effort to promote economic and political reforms. The second is the inaugural March 10 meeting of the Iraq Neighbors Conference, a multilateral effort to focus international support to stabilize and rebuild the country. (See related article.)
But more help is needed, Satterfield said. He urged countries to fulfill their pledges and deliver $31 billion in loans, credits, debt forgiveness and other types of aid.
Satterfield said that two of Iraq’s neighbors, Iran and Syria, also continue to be sources of “broad concern.”
Iran is the source of sophisticated bomb components and training for Shiite militants, and as many as 90 percent of the suicide bombers targeting Iraqi civilians are foreigners who entered Iraq through Syria, Satterfield said.
For more information, see Iraq Update.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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