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American Forces Press Service

Iraqis Turn Toward Government, Coalition, Odierno Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 22, 2007 – The Iraqi people are tired of a foreign-dominated group -- al Qaeda -- attempting to manipulate them, and are turning to their government, the commander of Multinational Corps Iraq said today.

Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno said during a teleconference with Pentagon reporters that the bombing of the minarets of the Golden Mosque in Samarra last week was an al Qaeda attempt to reignite sectarian divisions in Iraq, and it failed.

“Prime Minister (Nouri al) Maliki and the government of Iraq took immediate action,” Odierno said. “The prime minister traveled to Samarra, and I had the chance to go with him.

The Iraqi prime minister imposed a curfew, Odierno said. “He clearly asked for calm and restraint. He initiated an investigation to find those accountable, and he reviewed and adjusted the security posture across the entire country. In addition, many other leaders within the government of Iraq came up and asked for calm,” he said. 

Iraqi reaction to the bombing of the Shiia shrine was more muted than the initial bombing in February 2006, Odierno said. While some Shiia extremists bombed a few Sunni mosques, Iraqis turned away from violence over the act of terror.

“The people of Iraq are beginning to reject al Qaeda and other extremists that continue to foment this violence,” the general said. “They clearly understand that (al Qaeda in Iraq) is headed by a foreigner, an Egyptian who is linked to international terrorism, and are tired of the false promises, intimidation, brutality and repression that they offer.”

Iraqis see the progress being made in Anbar province and the advantages of allying with the government. “Citizens across the country are weary of conflict,” he said.

Iraqis understand that al Qaeda offers no hope for the future. “They are reaching out to coalition forces, but more importantly, they are beginning to reach out to the government of Iraq, and they want to be part of the solution,” he said.

Iraqis want security to pursue their lives in peace, the general said, noting the U.S. aim in the country is stability and security for the Iraqi people.

“However, success will not be achieved from purely military means,” he said. “It requires integrated political, security, economic, diplomatic and informational efforts. We are seeing some encouraging signs, but we have a lot of work ahead of us.”

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