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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

19 July 2007

Iraq's Political Healing Requires Time, Effort, U.S. Envoy Says

Ambassador Crocker says each region in Iraq has unique problems

Washington – Political reconciliation in Iraq will take time and sustained U.S. support as Iraqi society sweeps away a 35-year legacy of tyranny, Ambassador Ryan Crocker told senators July 19.

“If there is one word, I would use to sum up the atmosphere in Iraq -- on the streets, in the countryside, in the neighborhoods and at the national level -- that word would be ‘fear,’” Crocker told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee via a video link from Baghdad, Iraq.

“For Iraq to move forward at any level, that fear is going to have to be replaced with some level of trust, confidence and that is what the effort at the national level is about,” he added.

The Bush administration’s 2007 “surge strategy” to put more troops in the Baghdad region and other trouble spots has reduced sectarian violence “to a fairly notable degree,” Crocker said. Now, the Iraqi government must take concrete action to achieve political reconciliation among its Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish communities, he added.

In May, the U.S. Congress required progress reports on 18 indicators, or “benchmarks,” designed to evaluate the effectiveness of coalition-trained Iraqi security forces and the performance of the country’s elected officials.  (See related statement.)

Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the committee, pointed to an interim progress report released by the White House July 12 that indicated unsatisfactory progress on eight political benchmarks intended to gauge progress toward reconciliation.  (See related article.)

“It seems to me that there is no trust within the government now, no trust of the government by the people, and I don't see any realistic possibility of a capacity developing on the part of the government to be able to deliver security and basic services,” Biden said.

Although benchmarks are important to measure progress, Crocker warned senators against relying entirely on indicators formulated in Washington.

“Progress in Iraq cannot be analyzed solely in terms of these discreet, precisely defined benchmarks,” Crocker said.  “In many cases, these benchmarks do not serve as reliable measures of everything that is important -- Iraqi attitudes toward each other and their willingness to work toward political reconciliation.”

Since the interim report’s release, President Bush has urged elected officials to give the surge strategy time to show results.  He has sent senior officials to the Capitol, including National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and invited 200 members to the Pentagon for a July 19 classified question-and-answer session with Crocker and coalition military commander General David Petraeus.

Coalition forces are laying a secure foundation for political progress in Baghdad, Anbar province and elsewhere, but Crocker stressed that each region faces unique challenges in pursuing political reconciliation.

“Each part of the country has to be understood and dealt with on its own terms,” he said.

The Iraqi government has a long way to go, Crocker said, and deserves the international community’s support as it continues taking the necessary steps toward reform.  U.S. diplomats in Iraq remain dedicated to helping Iraqi leaders build trust and confidence in new democratic institutions, he said.

Crocker highlighted the work of Iraq’s Executive Council -- a body composed of the president, two vice presidents and prime minister -- that meets weekly to take stock of the government’s progress and consider new legislation.  Broadly representative of the country’s diverse communities, the council’s emphasis on consensus illustrates how democracy is a system that can serve all Iraqis.

Strengthening institutions at the provincial level, Crocker said, indicates an equally important “bottom-up” trend in political reconciliation, requiring careful cooperation and open lines of communication to keep suspicion and mistrust from derailing the process.

International working groups on energy, border security and refugees also have played a role in moving political progress forward, said Crocker.  They have helped all of Iraq’s neighbors make productive contributions toward Iraq’s future.  (See related article.)

Crocker also praised the United Nations for its work in supporting democratic elections, assisting Iraqis displaced by sectarian violence and helping to draft the International Compact for Iraq -- a multilateral agreement aimed at facilitating long-term assistance for the country’s democratic transition.  Crocker called for more U.N. staff and funds to aid the country.

The full text of Crocker’s prepared testimony is available on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Web site.

(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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