War on Terrorism

Friday, May 04, 2007

Improved Security Helps Iraq's Political Progress, U.S. Ambassador Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

May 2, 2007 – The ongoing surge of U.S. and Iraqi security forces into Baghdad and parts of western Iraq is designed to tamp down insurgent violence and provide enough time for the fledgling government to sort out pressing political issues, the senior U.S. diplomat in Iraq said yesterday. "Security buys time," Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker told reporters at a Baghdad news conference. However, he emphasized, any improvement in security must go hand-in-hand with Iraqi government efforts to bring together disaffected elements of the population, namely the Sunnis and Shiites.

Crocker previously served in Baghdad as the first director for governance for the Coalition Provisional Authority between May and August 2003. He succeeded Zalmay Khalilzad as ambassador to Iraq on March 29. Khalilzad is now the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Achieving security in Iraq is "not an end in and of itself," Crocker explained. The Iraqis, he said, need time to institute "a political process to move forward with meaningful national reconciliation, which is why we pay so much attention to issues like de-Baathification reform, constitutional reform, hydrocarbon legislation, and so forth."

Crocker's principal mission in Baghdad, he said, is to assist and support the Iraqi government's national reconciliation efforts. The more numerous Shiite Muslims within Iraq's population were systematically persecuted under the regime of the late dictator Saddam Hussein, who was a Sunni Arab. Much of today's violence in Iraq is staged by Sunni insurgents who lost power after Saddam's government collapsed during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Achieving reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites will greatly assist the Iraqi government "to move ahead with the fulfillment of what they and we have all worked so hard for, which is a democratic, stable, secure Iraq that is a source of positive development in the region and beyond," Crocker said.

Meetings between Iraqi and neighboring-country ministers slated later this week in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, are "critically important to Iraq's long-term success, as well," Crocker pointed out. The United States' top diplomat, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, also will be in Sharm El Sheikh.

"I'm encouraged by the fact that all of Iraq's neighbors have agreed that they will be at the table at a senior level in Sharm El Sheikh," Crocker said, noting that representatives from 60 countries are expected to attend.

The behavior of Iraq's neighbors "will have a crucial bearing on what happens inside Iraq," Crocker pointed out. And, it's therefore desirable, he added, that Iraq's neighbors "commit themselves to constructive roles and not destructive ones."

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