Thank you, Zbig, for this very, very kind introduction. Many of you know that the Twelver Shia speak of certain individuals whom believers should seek to imitate, calling them the marjaiyya. To many of us who are playing policy roles but who have academic backgrounds, Zbig, you are a source for imitation. I also want to thank CSIS for giving me this opportunity to share my assessment of the situation in Iraq and my view on the way ahead, as well as to engage in some questions and answers.
I will give my bottom line up front. I believe Americans, while remaining tactically patient about Iraq, should be strategically optimistic. Most important, a major change - a tectonic shift - has taken place in the political orientation of the Sunni Arab community. A year ago, Sunni Arabs were outside of the political process and hostile to the United States. They boycotted the January 2005 election and were underrepresented in the transitional national assembly. Today, Sunni Arabs are full participants in the political process, with their representation in the national assembly now proportional to their share of the population. Also, they have largely come to see the United States as an honest broker in helping Iraq's communities come together around a process and a plan to stabilize the country.
Moreover, al Qaeda in Iraq has been significantly weakened during the past year. This resulted, not only from the recent killing of Zarqawi, but also from the capture or killing of a number of other senior leaders and the creation of an environment in which it is more difficult and dangerous for al Qaeda in Iraq.
These are fundamental and positive changes. Together, they have made possible the inauguration of Iraq's first ever government of national unity - with non-sectarian security ministers, agreements on rules for decision making on critical issues and on the structure of institutions of the executive branch, and a broadly agreed upon program. They have also enabled political progress that resulted in the recent announcement by Prime Minister Maliki of his government's National Reconciliation and Dialogue Project.
However, at the same time, the terrorists have adapted to this success by exploiting Iraq's sectarian fault line. A year ago, terrorism and the insurgency against the Coalition and the Iraqi security forces were the principal sources of instability. Particularly since the bombing of the Golden Mosque in February, violent sectarianism is now the main challenge. This sectarianism is the source of frequent tragedies on the streets of Baghdad. It is imperative for the new Iraqi government to make major progress in dealing with this challenge in the next six months. The Prime Minister understands this fact.
Today, I will discuss the status of these efforts, noting the achievements we have attained and the further steps we intend to take in partnership with the new Iraqi government.
Other major topics covered:
Enhancing Iraqi Unity to Contain and Defuse Sectarian Violence
Building Effective Security Forces and Establishing Enduring Security
Realizing Iraq's Economic Potential
In my remarks, I have explained the path to success in Iraq - the actions that the Iraqi government, the United States, and other members of the Coalition see as the keys to achieving the strategic goal of a stable and representative Iraq. The Iraqis are going through a difficult transition, simultaneously facing the challenges of state and nation building while also fighting vicious terrorists. Iraq's leaders have committed themselves to a course of action that can succeed. None of the steps in this strategy are easy, but all of them are doable.
I want to end by saying a word on the importance of succeeding in Iraq. I am aware of the dangers of staying too long in Iraq, as well as the risks of leaving too soon, before success is ensured. A precipitous Coalition departure could unleash a sectarian civil war, which inevitably would draw neighboring states into a regional conflagration that would disrupt oil supplies and cause instability to spill over borders. It could also result in al Qaeda taking over part of Iraq, recreating the sanctuary it enjoyed but lost in Afghanistan. If al Qaeda gained this foothold - which is the strategy of the terrorists - it would be able to exploit Iraq's strategic location and enormous resources. This would make the past challenge of al Qaeda in Afghanistan look like child's play. Finally, a precipitous withdrawal could lead to an ethnic civil war, with the Kurds concluding that the Iraqi democratic experiment had failed and taking matters into their own hands and with regional powers becoming involved to secure their interests.
Whatever anyone may have thought about the decision to topple Saddam - whether one supported it or not - succeeding in Iraq is now essential to the future of the region and the world. Most of the world's security problems emanate from the region stretching from Morocco to Pakistan. Shaping its future is the defining challenge of our time. What happens in Iraq will be decisive in determining how this region evolves. Therefore, the struggle for the future of Iraq is vital to the future of the world.
Speech by gov employee not copyrighted.
07-14-2006 07:44 AM
Re: Khalilzad on Iraq
Well NEM it is safe to say he has spent more time there than you.
07-14-2006 08:11 AM
Re: Khalilzad on Iraq
NEM and others do not want things to improve over there. They do not want Iraq to become a stable place where oil revenues won't go into funding or traning terrorist groups.
It doesn't fit their political agenda. For all of the phoney talk about caring about the safety of our troops over there, it would be bad news to them if things got better. Their real enemy is President Bush, not the terrorist.