By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
Nov. 15, 2006 – Political, security and economic development all are critical to the future of Iraq, and all must move forward together to ensure peace in that country and the surrounding region, the State Department's top advisor on Iraq said here today. Sectarian violence is the biggest threat to the stability in Iraq, and the Iraqi government, the U.S. and its allies, and the international community must work together to combat this challenge and ensure Iraq can stand on its own in the future, David M. Satterfield, senior advisor to the Secretary of State and coordinator for Iraq, said at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"If sectarian violence -- if the increasing presence of armed militias with a sectarian identification -- are not dealt with, then indeed, Iraqi national identity will erode, and hope for a united Iraq, a peaceful, stable Iraq, will over time diminish," Satterfield said. "This outcome in Iraq is unacceptable. It would undermine U.S. national interests in that country and in the broader region, and it would lead to a humanitarian disaster for the Iraqi people."
Satterfield stressed that success can be achieved in Iraq, as long as unified, persistent work continues along the political, security and economic tracks. The Iraqi government needs to work with the U.S. to set out measurable, achievable goals on a defined timetable, he said.
The Iraqi government has made significant progress on all three fronts, Satterfield noted. In the realm of security, the coalition has been transitioning more control to capable Iraqi security forces, he said. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wants his forces to have more responsibility, and the coalition is working with him to create security goals and objectives to ensure the transition is seamless.
The coalition also is working with the Iraqi government on the renewal of the United Nations mandate for coalition forces in Iraq, Satterfield said. In a letter sent yesterday to the president of the U.N. Security Council, the Iraqi government reaffirmed its desire for such a renewal and underscored the transitional nature of that extension, he said.
The Iraqi presidency council agreed in mid-October on a detailed set of political goals and objectives, Satterfield said. The government already has passed an investment law and a privatization law and will soon introduce legislation to reinstate thousands of former Baath party members, he said.
"These are hopeful signs that Iraq's leaders can find a middle ground on which to proceed," Satterfield said. "But I want to underscore, much more work remains, and the time for that work is now."
Maliki has appropriately focused on national reconciliation, Satterfield noted, but that reconciliation depends on several factors. Iraqi security forces must create conditions that allow for reconciliation; the Iraqi government must engage all nonviolent members of society to participate in the process; the government must disarm and integrate militias into society; and the country must pass a new hydrocarbon law, he said.
The Iraqi government also is moving forward in economic development, Satterfield said. The government is working with the U.N. on an international compact that will pave the way for foreign investment and assistance, he said. The compact is expected to be complete by the end of this year.
Political, economic and security progress are inextricably linked, and a failure in one area will hinder efforts in the others, Satterfield said. Militias cannot be effectively confronted and demobilized in the absence of a larger political reconciliation agreement; political reconciliation cannot survive if the government cannot agree on the distribution of oil revenue; and Iraqis cannot modernize their economy or draw foreign investment if there is violence in the streets, he said.
"We believe that a successful path forward can still be forged in Iraq," he said. "As the transition continues to full Iraqi government control, we will stand firmly behind the Iraqi government. The fate, the interests of our two countries and, beyond our two countries, of the region and the world are intertwined. Success is critical; failure is unacceptable."
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