Iraq's Elections Could Be 'Magnet' for Success,
By Vince Crawley
Nov. 29, 05
Washington -- Iraq's three main ethnic groups appear ready
to conduct successful elections December 15, creating a new permanent
government that should defuse the insurgency and be ready to
negotiate for a reduced U.S. military presence, a senior Pentagon
"The component parts for a successful government are
there," Ambassador Evan Galbraith said of Iraq's upcoming
election. Galbraith, a former U.S. ambassador to France, is Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's representative in Europe as well
as the defense adviser to the U.S. Mission to NATO.
Galbraith discussed the U.S. strategy for winning in Iraq
during a November 28 panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation,
a conservative policy research organization in Washington.
"Sure we can expect some stumbles by the new government,"
he said. "God knows, the challenges are myriad. But the
preponderance of evidence is for success."
Also taking part in the discussion was U.S. Army Brigadier
General Mark Kimmet, deputy director for strategy at Central
Kimmet said Iraqi forces are playing an increasingly important
role in combat operations, which could allow the United States
to achieve its goal of reducing the numbers of American troops
throughout the region. Currently, 200,000 American troops are
serving in the Central Command area, which includes Afghanistan,
Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain and the Horn of Africa.
Iraq's election is expected to create a permanent government
that would serve for four years under Iraq's new Constitution,
which was approved in an October 15 referendum.
Galbraith said leaders of Iraq's main ethnic groups all have
a stake in creating a working government.
"The three groups -- the Shi'a and the Kurds and the
Sunnis -- all now clearly have a purpose in having this succeed,
in having this government be created and being successful,"
For Shi'ites, the ethnic majority in Iraq, a successful representative
government "gives them political power," Galbraith
said. On the other hand, Shi'ites realize they need to share
power with other minorities in order to maintain stability and
international support, he said.
Ethnic Kurds, in Iraq's north, have held an autonomous position
since the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, but neighboring Turkey,
with a large Kurdish population of its own, strongly opposes
the creation of a separate Kurdish nation.
"The Kurds need Iraq, the cover of Iraq, being part of
Iraq to keep them in a balanced position, shall we say, with
the Turks," Galbraith said. Remaining part of Iraq also
gives the Kurds a stronger negotiating position for deciding
who would control Iraq's northern oil fields, he said.
INCREASED SUNNI COOPERATION
Galbraith acknowledged that Iraq's Sunnis, who controlled
the country under the former Saddam Hussein regime, have been
involved heavily in the ongoing violent insurgency. However,
Sunni leaders increasingly have cooperated with the democratic
process to ensure that their people have a say in the new government
and to help foster stability, he said.
"Sunnis were the business class under Saddam the guys
that had the concessions that did everything, had quite good
training and experience. It was a very sophisticated business
community. And businessmen want -- and need -- law and order,"
Iraq's permanent government has been almost three years in
the making, but it will be sovereign and independent, Galbraith
"If you think about it, it's going to be a pretty powerful
instrument," he said. The government will be based on an
established constitution and will have authority to amend the
constitution, he said. And it will be "backed up by the
military firepower of the United States," he added. "That's
a fairly awesome thing to think about when you're plotting to
engage in its overthrow."
The election of the permanent government might well be a turning
point for Iraq, Galbraith said.
"It will act like a magnet and draw people in,"
he said. "People will want to get on the bandwagon. They
will see that this thing is going to work."
An important but "underappreciated" point, he said,
is that a sovereign Iraqi government will be in a position to
negotiate on the size of the continued U.S. military presence
in Iraq. In Washington, congressional leaders increasingly have
called for a timetable for troop reductions in Iraq, and President
Bush has said that he considers the debate on force levels in
Iraq to be a healthy reflection of American democracy.
"The drawdowns that we will engage in will be negotiated,"
Galbraith said. "We'll negotiate with a sovereign government
in their country about what it is the military forces should
be -- in the best interests of the government and, of course,
MILITARY SUCCESSES SEEN AS UNDERREPORTED
Galbraith also said military successes in Iraq have been under-reported.
"We are methodically wiping out in 'hotspots' in insurgent
strongholds," he said.
In a strategy shift put in place about six months ago, Iraq
forces now accompany U.S. troops on combat missions. After the
combined forces have taken control of a town or village, the
Americans withdraw but the Iraqi security forces remain on the
scene, maintaining order and helping to coordinate humanitarian
and reconstruction operations.
"We are making progress, but it would be unwise to suggest
that that progress is at a point of irreversible momentum,"
said General Kimmet.
"We've built an army," he said of Iraqi security
forces. "But it will be some time before that army fully
Both Galbraith and Kimmet said Iraq is just one battlefield
in a larger war against the ideology of militant religious fundamentalism.
"At Central Command, our strategy is for the long war,"
Kimmet said. One of the main challenges facing U.S. leaders,
he said, is finding the right balance for American troop levels
in the larger Middle East and Central Asian region.
"We've got to get our posture right in the region,"
he said. With about 200,000 Americans stationed in the area,
"it is our view that that number is just too large,"
Kimmet said. "And it can't sustain itself over time."
In Europe, the United States kept hundreds of thousands of
military personnel on duty for decades throughout the Cold War,
but Kimmet said conditions are significantly different in the
Middle East. "We cannot use that as a model for the future
inside the Middle East," he said. "So as we talk about
the long war, we talk about reposturing ourselves into a smaller,
more expeditionary, more capable force."
However, reinforcements could be sped back to the region if
needed, he said.