Former Ambassador Says Iraqis Capable of Handling Security Issues
Washington - Iraq's security situation will continue to improve as its security forces increase their capabilities and expertise, the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq says.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington — Iraq’s security situation will continue to improve as its security forces increase their capabilities and expertise, the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq says. He adds that he leaves his post with a sense of optimism for the country’s future when assessing the overall progress it has made during his 16-month tenure.
Speaking August 18 in Washington at the U.S. Institute of Peace, Christopher Hill said Iraq’s security forces have “stepped up” as U.S. forces have gradually limited their activities in the country in preparation for meeting President Obama’s pledge that all U.S. combat operations in the country would end by August 31.
“It’s not like anything big is really going to happen on the 31st,” Hill said, because Iraqi forces have already assumed much of the security responsibility. Even though the security situation is still not “at a completely satisfactory level,” it will continue to improve, he said.
U.S. officials, including President Obama, have pointed out that the number of violent incidents in Iraq has remained at the lowest levels since the beginning of the conflict through much of 2010.
“The Iraqi forces are capable of handling the security problems,” Hill said. “They will have problems. There will be mistakes. We have made mistakes, too, in how we’ve handled it. They will learn from their mistakes as we learn from our mistakes. And I think you will see a continued improvement in the security situation.”
Similarly, even as Iraq faces a difficult process in trying to form a coalition government after close parliamentary elections in March, Hill said a government will be formed, and it will include members of all three of the country’s main population groups — Kurds, Sunnis and Shias — regardless of which political coalition assumes power.
“No serious observer of the situation in Iraq is suggesting that somehow you can run Iraq except through the full participation of these … three components of Iraq’s polity,” he said. As long as the three groups know how to work together and cooperate, “this is not something that we need to fear.”
But at the same time, Hill said, as Iraqi civil society continues to develop, the current political identities based on sectarianism will change.
“The tendency is to have more secular than sectarian tendencies,” he said. Political differences are already occurring within each community, and the importance of geographic identities also could increase.
Hill said the notion of partitioning Iraq “has been raised and resolved,” and is not supported due to the “horrendous violence” that would result. Among the Iraqi people, the “concept of being Iraqi is also very strong,” he said.
Hill said he has returned from Iraq “with a real sense of optimism about its future.” The Iraqi people have absorbed human rights concepts such as the freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and “overall, the trend lines in Iraq’s human rights are improving.” Iraq will also see increasing economic success, he said.
In remarks at the State Department August 17, Hill said major international oil companies are now beginning to drill in Iraq. He expressed his belief that the country will “emerge as one of the major oil producers of the world.”
The drilling has begun despite a stalemate in the Iraqi parliament over a hydrocarbons law that would codify how revenue from oil would be shared among the regions of the country.
Iraqi politicians decided instead to move ahead with oil-service contracts, which Hill described as “a very practical approach” that has stimulated investment in Iraq’s economy, and an agreement with the Kurdish Regional Government on a 17 percent revenue-sharing figure.
Hill said an oil law is still needed to provide an overall framework for investors, but oil “is no longer an impediment” to the country’s reconciliation.
“I think you will see Iraqi oil production in the next five, 10 years becoming very significant. It’s around 2 million barrels, and if things go well in seven, 10 years, we’ll be looking at 8 million barrels, maybe higher than that,” he said.
Along with increased investment, national unity could also be strengthened through the adoption of joint political committees, such as a political committee for national security, he said, which could produce a national consensus on how to handle tough security issues.
But despite horrific terrorist attacks, such as the August 17 attack against Iraqis lining up outside an army recruiting station in Baghdad, Hill said the trend toward less violence in the cities has continued.
“When you go out outside of the Green Zone [in Baghdad] and you see a plate glass window being installed in Iraqi shops, you realize it’s because … the sense of insecurity that prevailed there a couple of years ago has been changed,” he said.
He credited the improvement to U.S. and Iraqi military operations, including those against al-Qaida forces in the country.
Hill said there is “no local support” for al-Qaida, as evidenced by Sunni participation in the March elections, and “a sort of general revulsion at their behavior,” as innocent Iraqis continue to be killed in attacks.
Where al-Qaida once held much influence in the country, the organization now “is not able to hold on to … a single building or city block,” he said.
This story was released on 2010-08-19. Please make sure to visit the official company or organization web site to learn more about the original release date. See our disclaimer for additional information.