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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Interview: Despite Security Improvements, Iraq Remains 'Very Troubled Country'

Council on Foreign Relations

Interviewee: Kenneth M. Pollack, Director of Research, Saban Center for Middle East, Brookings Institution
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor,

December 10, 2008

Kenneth M. Pollack, an Iraq expert from the Brookings Institution, says he is concerned that the U.S. public and political establishment "increasingly feels that Iraq is heading toward victory" even though "Iraq still is a very troubled country." He fears that the reduction in U.S. influence as a result of the new U.S. security agreement in Iraq could make it difficult to "push back on the Iraqi politicians who will try as hard as they can to subvert the system for their own narrow interests."

With the U.S.-Iraqi Status of Forces Agreement now approved, it seems to me that the U.S. public has generally come to the conclusion that the Iraq war is ending well for the United States and that American troops will be home in a couple of years. Is that too glib a summation? Are there problems still ahead?

I certainly agree that that is the American perspective. I see it in the polls also, and I hear it anecdotally. But I am very concerned that is an oversimplification of the situation in Iraq and in fact we are missing very real problems that remain in Iraq. We have certainly made a tremendous amount of progress there; there's no question that security is orders of magnitude better than it was in 2005 and 2006. As a result of that you are seeing very significant changes in Iraqi politics and also the beginning of a revival of Iraq's economy.

But what we're missing, unfortunately, is that Iraq is not a stable state yet. There are dozens of problems remaining out there that could push Iraq into civil war or into some other very unstable situation.


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