Iraqi PM Al-Maliki & UN Ambassador Khalilzad Weigh In On Iraq

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Amliki writes today in the Opinion Journal:
“Our Common Struggle”

It is perhaps true that only people who are denied the gift of liberty can truly appreciate its full meaning and bounty. I look with admiration at the American debate surrounding the Iraq war, and I admire even those opinions that differ from my own. As prime minister of Iraq I have been subjected to my share of criticism in that American debate, but I harbor no resentment and fully understand that the basic concerns of Americans are the safety of their young people fighting in our country and the national interests of their society. As this American debate goes on, I am guided and consoled by the sacred place of freedom and liberty in the American creed and in America’s notion of itself.

War being what it is, the images of Iraq that come America’s way are of car bombs and daily explosions. Missing from the coverage are the great, subtle changes our country is undergoing, the birth of new national ideas and values which will in the end impose themselves despite the death and destruction that the terrorists have been hell-bent on inflicting on us. Those who endured the brutality of the former regime, those who saw the outside world avert its gaze from their troubles, know the magnitude of the change that has come to Iraq. A fundamental struggle is being fought on Iraqi soil between those who believe that Iraqis, after a long nightmare, can retrieve their dignity and freedom, and others who think that oppression is the order of things and that Iraqis are doomed to a political culture of terror, prisons and mass graves. Some of our neighbors have made this struggle more lethal still, they have placed their bets on the forces of terror in pursuit of their own interests.

When I became prime minister a year and a half ago, my appointment emerged out of a political process unique in our neighborhood: Some 12 million voters took part in our parliamentary elections. They gave voice to their belief in freedom and open politics and their trust imposed heavy burdens on all of us in political life. Our enemies grew determined to drown that political process in indiscriminate violence, to divert attention from the spectacle of old men and women casting their vote, for the first time, to choose those who would govern in their name. You may take this right for granted in America, but for us this was a tantalizing dream during the decades of dictatorship and repression…

We have entered into a war, I want it known, against militias that had preyed upon the weakness of the national government and in the absence of law and order in some of our cities, even in some of the districts in Baghdad, imposed their own private laws–laws usually driven by extremism and a spirit of vengeance. Some of these militias presented themselves as defenders of their own respective communities against other militias. We believe that the best way to defeat these militias is to build and enhance the capabilities of our government as a defender of the rights of our citizens. A stable government cannot coexist with these militias.
Our conflict, it should be emphasized time and again, has been fueled by regional powers that have reached into our affairs. Iraq itself is eager to build decent relations with its neighbors. We don’t wish to enter into regional entanglements. Our principle concern is to heal our country. We have reached out to those among our neighbors who are worried about the success and example of our democratic experiment, and to others who seem interested in enhancing their regional influence.

Our message has been the same to one and all: We will not permit Iraq to be a battleground for other powers. In the contests and ambitions swirling around Iraq, we are neutral and dedicated to our country’s right to prosperity and a new life, inspired by a memory of a time when Baghdad was–as Washington is today–a beacon of enlightenment on which others gazed with admiration. We have come to believe, as Americans who founded your country once believed, that freedom is a precious inheritance. It is never cheap but the price is worth paying if we are to rescue our country.

And Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Permanent Representative, reports on Multi-National Forces in Iraq, to the Security Council, June 13, 2007:

Mr. President, it is clear that the Iraqi government confronts significant security challenges as it strives to promote stability and consolidate Iraq’s young democracy. Success will depend not only on progress in the security sector, where MNF-I plays an important supporting role, but also on advances in the economic field, and, most importantly, movement in the political arena. We welcome the efforts expended over the last three months, while noting that much work remains to be done.

Mr. President, with your permission I will now provide an update on these efforts, which include activities in Iraq’s political, economic, and security sectors, as well as in the region and with the international community. In the political arena, progress on national reconciliation is essential to ensure that security efforts underway will result in long-term stability in the country and the region. To that end, we welcome efforts by Iraqi leaders who are engaged in activities designed to promote national reconciliation. For example, as Mr. Qazi mentioned, the Constitutional Review Committee continues its work to address outstanding constitutional matters. Last month, the Committee announced that it had prepared a draft plan to reform the constitution. The Committee’s work will provide a solid foundation for a successful Iraq, and we look forward to its sustained effort on this fundamental matter.

Turning to the economic front, we welcome the launch of the International Compact with Iraq on May 3, and appreciate the support of Secretary-General Ban. The emphasis now is on implementing the economic initiatives that the Government of Iraq has committed to undertake. International community support for Iraq will be important for the Compact’s success. The cooperation between Iraq and the United Nations has been key to successful launch of this initiative, and will remain critical during the implementation phase. Further advances in Iraq’s economic reform, however, will require passage of legislation on the hydrocarbons sector with regulations governing oil revenue sharing…

On the security front, insurgents, militias, terrorists, and criminals continue their destabilizing actions. We strongly condemn this morning’s vicious attack on the holy Shrines of Imam Ali Al-Hadi and Imam Hassan Al-Askari in Samarra, and share the outrage of the Iraqi people against this crime. It is another deliberate attempt by terrorists to sow dissent and inflame sectarian strife among the people of Iraq. We call on all Iraqis to reject this provocation.

Most of the attacks in Iraq have occurred in Baghdad, Al-Anbar, Salah ad Din, and Diyala provinces, and the majority of the victims are Iraqi civilians. We regret the suffering of the Iraqi people and the many innocent lives lost.

Those seeking to undermine Iraq continue to use a variety of methods to kill and maim, as witnessed in the use of lethal vehicle-borne improvised explosive bombings in the Baghdad area in April. Also in April, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the Iraqi Council of Representatives building, killing one member and wounding several other people. In a demonstration of the Council’s resolve to stand up to terrorists, the Council met the following day. We applaud this courageous act and commitment to serving the interests of the Iraqi people.

Iraqi Security Forces are undertaking a greater role in Iraq’s secur
ity, taking the lead in raids and other operations to combat the insurgents, militias, terrorists and criminals. In the month of May, the Iraqi Special Operations Force Brigade alone conducted more than 48 operations, targeting terrorists, regardless of their sect. Iraqi forces continue to conduct operations throughout the country.

As part of the continuing process of handing over the security lead to Iraqi Security Forces, Multinational Forces transferred security responsibility for the southern Iraq province of Maysan in April, and the northern provinces of Sulaymaniyah, Erbil, and Dohuk on May 30. Iraqi Security Forces have now assumed the security lead in seven provinces. We are working steadily to achieve further transfers, as the Iraqi Security Forces and Iraqi Provincial governments build their capacity to take on this responsibility…

Mr. President, in closing let me confirm that the Multinational Forces remain dedicated to helping the Iraqi Security Forces build their capabilities so that they may assume full responsibility for securing and defending their country. The international community shares a common interest in ensuring the success of the Iraqi effort to create a peaceful, stable and prosperous country, which is important not only for the peoples of Iraq, but for the region and the entire world.

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