Thursday, April 19, 2007

Iraq: The Road Ahead

Event Title: Iraq: The Road Ahead
Sponsor and Location: CSIS
Date: April 13, 2007
Time: 10:00-11:00am
Approximate Number of Attendees: 60
Intern Attending: Elysa Severinghaus

Featured Speaker: His Excellency Samir Sumaida’ie, Ambassador of Iraq to the United States

So often in the United States, we debate international issues on our own terms. Recently, the issue of peace in Iraq has been one of the most important issues at hand and yet we rarely lend an ear to the Iraqi voice in regard to the logistics of a timely solution. This is the voice that Ambassador Samir Sumaida’ie brings to every audience he addresses in hopes that it will eventually reflect itself in American policy toward Iraq.

Many Americans see the war in Iraq leading in no specific direction and are generally disappointed with our executive officials’ handling of the conflict. The Ambassador commented that he profoundly understands this opinion, but would like to put the Iraqi situation in a context that lets Americans understand it, and not just as a problem but as a path to resolution. In 2003, after two wars, numerous economic sanctions, and failing infrastructure under Saddam Hussein, the United States’ invasion of Iraq was a welcome and necessary intervention. However, it seems that decision-making officials in Washington, D.C. had not sufficiently thought about what was to happen post-Saddam in Iraq. Consequently, there was a period of lawlessness and lack of control for which the Iraqi people and governing institutions are still paying. Before his defeat, Saddam had released thousands of criminals, in addition to the fact that terrorist organizations took advantage of the period of chaos to establish themselves.

Additionally, there is a problem of understanding of the current internal conflict from an international perspective. Unlike the Balkan conflict years ago, there is no inherent civil conflict between the two predominant Muslim sects, Sunni and Shi’a. The only sectarian violence that exists in Iraq is between extremist groups from each side. Therefore, the solution of a soft partition simply will not work because of the complete integration of the two peoples in the Iraqi state. There are without a doubt marriages that mix the two sects and Ambassador Sumaida’ie asks his audiences whether they would “run the borders through bedrooms?” He suggested that when the U.S. divides its country between Catholics and Protestants, they could then consider soft partition.

Today, in every action they undertake, the Iraqi people speak against the terrorists. What they are fighting is a confrontation that stretches far beyond Iraqi borders. While Iraq’s officials do require further American aid, Ambassador Sumaida’ie suggests that there must be a change of paradigm toward benchmarks and deadlines set for the country’s development. By setting a date for removal of all troops, armed forces simply give terrorists a timeline for when they should plan the next major onslaught. The Ambassador also commented that “things take long enough here, so don’t expect more of us than [you] would in a peaceful environment”. In essence, all he requests is patience for restructuring. The current government is taking vigorous action every day for resolve and with the help of the United States, and the respect of Iraq’s neighboring states, they will reach a conclusion. This conclusion will be pursued on a subjective timetable according to what is actually happening within their country.

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