US on Iraqi political groups walk out
Iraq-USA, Politics, 3/18/2008
US Department Of State Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey was asked today about the number of Iraqi political groups pulled out of the talks that were being held today, more than a year after President George W. Bush announced the surge as a way to try to provide breathing space for the Iraqi political system to achieve reconciliation.
Noting that the questioner mentioned that "General Petraeus has been very clear that the surge was not an answer in and of itself; it was simply a tool to try to achieve the political reconciliation that was, I think, in his view, the necessary condition for stability in Iraq. What does it say to you that a year and change beyond the announcement of the surge, that the Iraqi political parties can't even get together for a conversation or a conference like this?"
Casey said "first of all, I think a lot of progress has happened in the past year since the President announced the surge. We've certainly seen levels of violence go down significantly in Baghdad and in other parts of the country. We've seen a real change, particularly in the Sunni community, in terms of having people turn away from al-Qaida and turn away from the insurgency and work with the United States, multinational forces, as well as, most importantly, with the Iraqi Government. We've seen some major legislation passed by the parliament and we've seen actions on the ground to try and help advance reconstruction and help provide some basic services to the Iraqi people, all of which are important issues that need to be addressed for Iraq to move forward."
He added "In terms of national reconciliation, certainly, you know, the issues involved here are fairly existential ones for the Iraqis. It's how they intend to structure and organize their society moving forward and it's inevitable, I think, that there will be difficulties and there will be ups and downs in this process. And we've seen similar things where people have gotten together and then broken off or had to get back together after some period of discussion. Certainly, we think that in this instance, there is still room for the Iraqi Government to be able to move forward on these questions."
Casey said "And frankly, if you talk to the leaders in Iraq, whether they're Sunni or Shia or Kurd or other ethnic groups, they all recognize that they have to find a way to bridge these differences and I think slowly but surely, they are. Is the progress as fast as we would like? Certainly, I think everyone would like to see there be greater progress and see it move faster, but these are important and difficult questions for the Iraqis to deal with. They're ones that we think have to be dealt with and we're going to continue to work with them to do so. But we're confident that they are going to be able to ultimately deal with these kinds of fundamental questions and do so in a way that'll allow Iraq to be able to move forward as a peaceful democratic country."
Casey said he is confident because "we believe in the goodwill and the desire on the part of Iraq's political leaders to reach compromise. And again, I think you've seen, not only through their words but through some of their actions, including the passage of some of the major legislation in recent months, real steps being taken by the Iraqi political leadership to work out compromise. Certainly, one of the things we forget in our country is the habits of democracy, the habits of compromise, of give and take; are not necessarily something that just springs to life fully formed. These are people who are coming out of decades of a brutal dictatorship in which the word of one individual was the only word that mattered. And they have been working since that time-- for the past five years-- to be able to overcome some of that legacy, to work together and be able to overcome some of the legacy of mistrust that was bred into some of the policies of Saddam Hussein's regime."
He added "And that process has not been easy and it's certainly, I don't think, easy for any country to be able to decide some of these fundamental questions. But they have been moving forward. They've shown the will to do so. They've shown the leadership to do so. And they are, on a day-to-day basis, making progress and making efforts towards dealing with some of these questions."
Casey said "So again, we all wish that this process were moving faster than it is, but we also recognize that there are difficulties there and we believe that the surge has had a positive impact in terms of helping make it easier for these communities to be able to come together and be able to work on some of these questions. And of course, we'll all have an opportunity to hear from the real experts, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, later on in the not-too-distant future when they make their report back to Congress."
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