By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 11, 2007 - There is encouraging evidence of political reconciliation in Iraq despite legislative stalls on key issues, including oil revenue sharing, the top U.S. military commander there said here today. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today that an oil revenue-sharing law has been proposed in Iraq's Council of Representatives, but no legislation that governs the disbursement of the country's lucrative resource has been passed. "But Iraq is actually sharing oil revenue. ... In fact, (it is) very similar to what is likely to happen if the bill as currently envisioned is passed," he said.
Petraeus joined U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker during the second of two days of hearings on the status of the war and political developments in Iraq.
"What I draw some encouragement from ... is again the activity that is ongoing actually in the absence of legislation," Petraeus said. "It has not worked out the way we had hoped with respect to the national legislation, but there have been these other activities that have given us some cause for hope."
Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the committee chairman, began today's hearing with a moment of silence for the nearly 3,000 people killed during terrorist attacks this day six years ago. In stark contrast, several times during the hearing, vociferous war protesters shouting anti-war tirades were forced from the Hart Senate Office Building.
Petraeus said there are many examples of the Iraqi government making incremental progress, "where the big law, the national reconciliation, has not taken place, but there are steps just happening, there are actions being taken that give you hope that they can indeed reconcile with one another," he said.
There is no general amnesty law for former insurgents, Petraeus said, but "conditional immunity" is occurring in areas like Abu Ghraib, a Shiia-Sunni fault line. Some 1,700 former Sunni Arab insurgents now are being accepted into an Iraqi police academy there. "That's a very significant step, and candidly, that is what gives some encouragement," the general said.
Petraeus noted that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has formed a national reconciliation committee that works to move local volunteers into Interior Ministry or Iraqi security force roles, in addition to other conciliatory initiatives. Such measures were successful in Anbar province, where a roughly 20,000-strong police force now adheres to the Interior Ministry's chain of command.
Crocker echoed Petraeus' remarks, saying that despite challenges, "the seeds of reconciliation are being planted."
Reiterating comments he made during a hearing yesterday before the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, Crocker said he was encouraged in late August when Iraq's five most prominent national leaders issued a communiqué expressing their commitment to working through key issues including de-Baathification and balancing provincial power. Additionally, the leaders publicly stated their desire to develop a long-term relationship with the United States.
Crocker and Petraeus agreed that premature withdrawal of U.S. forces would have devastating consequences in Iraq.
The general said rapid drawdown would produce a number of dangerous results, including the possible disintegration of Iraqi security forces, an erosion of local security initiatives, a handover of control to al Qaeda and an invitation to increased sectarian violence.
"I ... believe that the best way to secure our national interests and avoid an unfavorable outcome in Iraq is to continue to focus our operations on securing the Iraqi people while targeting terrorist groups and militia extremists," Petraeus said, "and as quickly as conditions are met, transitioning security tasks to Iraqi elements."