More On Senate Foreign Relations

More on Senate Foreign Relations Committee Testimony: Cole and Dodge

Here are oral comments of myself and Toby Dodge last Tuesday at the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Senator Lugar: . . . Dr. Dodge.

MR. DODGE: Well, thank you very much for the invitation to present here today. It’s a great sorrow that it’s against such a pessimistic background in Iraq. And I think the current wave of violence sweeping the country is not merely a one-off spike in attacks on coalition forces. It is instead a symptom of three longer-term dynamics that have dogged the occupation since the liberation of Baghdad on April 9th of last year.

The first of these problems, the legacy of Saddam Hussein’s rule, could have been anticipated, but could not have been avoided. The other two problems — the nature of the Coalition Provisional Authority’s interaction with Iraqi society and then the character of the violence faced by coalition forces — are partly the result of decisions taken since the liberation of Baghdad.

A different long-term strategy and short-term tactics could have avoided these and could possibly still avoid these problems.

Overall, these three problems mean that the occupation either on a de facto or de jure basis will have to last a great deal longer than June 30th. The continued presence of large numbers of foreign troops is essential for the successful creation of order.

International oversight is also key for the stability of Iraq. It’s role would be to manage the Iraqi polity while the Iraqi population negotiates amongst itself the terms of a national pact.

Before these things — these things are crucial for the medium- term stability of the country, and need international oversight.

Any attempt to understand the problems faced by the Coalition Provisional Authority today and any future government of Iraq has to understand the legacy of Saddam Hussein they are striving to overcome. Before the liberation of Baghdad last year, it was impossible to talk about civil society in Iraq. The regime had reshaped or broken all intermediate institutions that sat between the population and the state. For the Iraqi population, politics only began on April 9th last year. The Iraqi political organizations that the CPA are trying to liaise with have either been in existence for little over a year or have been imported into the country in the aftermath of regime change. This means that they have had a very short period of time to gain the attention of the population, and more importantly to win their trust and allegiance. So Iraqi politics today are extremely fluid. Liberation has led to political mobilization, but at the present junction this process is both tentative, unstable and highly fractured. No one individual or party has managed to rally any significant amount of support from the population. This was starkly borne out by the largest opinion poll ever conducted in Iraq, in February 2004. Although some of the results were broadly positive for the CPA, others highlighted distinct problems for the medium-term political stability of the country. When asked which organization they would vote for in a national election, the Shi’a party Al-Dawa received the highest polling figure. But I think it’s crucial to recognize the support that Al-Dawa registered was extremely low, at only 10 percent of those questioned.

Other parties that also claim a national base registered even lower polling figures. The largest percentage of those polls, 39.2 percent, answered that they did not know whom they were going to vote for, with 34.5 percent refusing to answer the question at all.

A similar very low response resulted to the question, Which national leader in Iraq, if any, do you trust the most? Again, Al- Dawa’s leader, Ibrahim Jafferi, got the highest rating, but again it was only 7.7 percent of those questioned. The more indicative result was 21.1 percent of those questioned who answered they didn’t trust any political figures, and 36.7 percent who answered they weren’t sure.

In Iraq today the CPA faces a highly mobilized by largely atomized society that is unrestrained by effective state institutions or by political parties. The Iraqi people that the politicians speak so freely about have not yet given their allegiance to any individual party. They clearly feel unrepresented at a national level. They have little or no affinity with the parties who claim to speak for Iraq. With this in mind, handing sovereignty back to Iraqis would be dangerous and could, if anything, further increase the alienation of the Iraqi population from the CPA or its successive body and the governing structure it’s trying to build.

Against the background of increased violence and insecurity, plans for rebuilding the political and administrative structures in Iraq appear to have become largely reactive. As policy has moved to meet a series of challenges, it appears that little attention has been paid to the long-term consequences of each new initiative.

The key problem damaging the occupation and hindering state building is the difficulty in communication between American civil servants stationed in the Green Zone in downtown Baghdad and the vast majority of ordinary Iraqis. It is this inability to have meaningful interaction with Iraqi society that is a core problem facing the occupation today.

A second problem hampering the occupation is the CPA’s continuing lack of expert knowledge about the country they are trying to control. Within the CPA’s headquarters there are very few experts on any aspect of Iraqi society, politics or economy. With this limited expertise on Iraq, the coalition became waryingly dependent upon a small group of Iraqi exiles they brought back to Baghdad in the aftermath of the liberation. They were meant to provide several functions. First, they would become the main channel of communication between the wider Iraqi population and U.S. forces. Secondly, they would also, in spite of being absent from the country for many years, become the chief source of information and guidance for the American administrators struggling to understand and rebuild a country. And, finally, and most importantly, they were set to become the basis of the new political elite. The heavy reliance on organizations like the Iraqi National Accord and the Iraqi National Congress has further exacerbated the divide between Iraqi society and U.S. forces. Despite setting up numerous offices around Baghdad, publishing lots of party newspapers and spending large sums of money, the two main exiled groups — the INC and the INA — have so far failed to put any substantial roots into Iraqi society. This is borne out by the opinion poll conducted during February 2004. Ahmed Chalabi and Ayad Alawi both respectively registered 0.2 percent of those questioned when asked, Which national leader, if any, in Iraq do you trust?

The inability of the exiled parties to develop significant constituencies within Iraq has not stopped the CPA from using them as the cornerstone of new governing structures. This is heralded as we know by the CPA setting up the Iraqi Governing Council in July 2003. This body was heralded by the CPA as, quote, “The most representative body in Iraq’s history.” The representative nature of the Iraqi Governing Council does clearly not come from the method of its formation, but instead supposedly the balanced nature of its membership. The politicians were chosen to approximate the supposed ethnic makeup of Iraq.

The confessional basis to choosing the Iraqi Governing Council caused much heated debate in Iraqi political circles, and across the newly-liberated press in Baghdad. Arguments focused on the way members were chosen for their sectarian affiliation, not their technical skills, and the dangers of introducing divisive confessional dynamics into the highest levels of Iraqi politics.

The lack of communication between American civil servants and military personnel, their hand-picked allies on the Iraqi Governing Council and the wider population of Iraq, is one of the key problems undermining the occupation and the CPA’s attempts to build a state. From this inability to interact with Iraqi society springs the core problems facing the U.S. and those who will inherit the Iraqi state after the 30th of June. Many Iraqis, aware of the increasing unpopularity of the U.S. presence in their country, and believing it to be temporary, are still sitting on their hands, eschewing involvement in government institutions, political and administrative, until the situation becomes clearer and the risks of political involvement become fewer.

Overcoming this problem is clearly the chief concern of Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. envoy in Iraq. Early indications suggest that Brahimi may well be trying to reproduce an Afghan model. This would involve a caretaker government made up of a prime minister, president and two vice presidents. Before elections, scheduled sometime for late 2004 or early 2005, this ruling triumvirate would gain legitimacy from a national conference to be convened a short time after June 30th.

It is unclear how this plan would overcome the problems that have undermined the various approaches of the CPA. Firstly, where is Mr. Brahimi going to pick the president and the prime minister from? It seems very likely that he will be forced to choose from the core of the Iraqi Governing Council that has to date formed the revolving presidency of the council. If he does succumb to this temptation, then all the problems that have dogged the Iraqi Governing Council — it’s lack of legitimacy, its inability to forge meaningful links with the population, and the criticisms of it being appointed and not elected — are likely to resurface.

Secondly, because Mr. Brahimi, like his predecessor Sergio Vieira de Mello, is working under the auspices of the CPA, he runs a distinct danger of being perceived of as merely an appendage to the occupation.

Finally, with the current poor security situation, the proposed national congress may find it very difficult attracting a large and representative sample of the Iraqi population. If this were the case, it would be very difficult for it to fulfill its dual roles as a forum for national consultation and a source of legitimacy for the new caretaker government.

The failure of a national conference to gather momentum and bring together a broad cross section of the population would leave the caretaker government proposed by Mr. Brahimi dangerously exposed and open to similar criticisms and suspicions as those that have been leveled at the Iraqi Governing Council since its formation. The only way to avoid such pitfalls would be to totally internationalize the creation of the governing institutions and democratic structures. This would not mean a partial or token role for the United Nations organizing national conferences or overseeing elections; instead it would involve bringing the whole occupation and state-building under U.N. management. This would reduce the suspicion felt toward the CPA by sections of the Iraqi population. The organization overseeing the move and the creation of a new state would then not be the United States but the international community. Accusations of double standards or nefarious intent would be much harder to sustain. Arguments about the occupiers’ willingness to relinquish power — both economic and political — would be negated. It will be the Security Council in New York, not the U.S. government in Washington, that would have the ultimate responsibility for Iraq’s transition.

This would result in many more Iraqis doing the whole exercise with a great deal more legitimacy. The U.N. could then utilize expertise and troops from across the international community. Those involved in the reconstruction, both Iraqis and international civil servants, would not run the danger of being labeled as collaborators.

Now, I think the third problem that I’ll briefly touch on is the severe lack of troops on the ground in Iraq at the moment. I think RAND Corporation in its book on state-building argued that there should be at least 400,000 or 500,000 troops on the ground. I think it’s one security personnel for every — it’s 20 for every 1,000 I think. Now, clearly the United States isn’t and can’t be in a position to supply that number of troops. Also, I’m afraid NATO can’t. The basic estimates of spare troops for NATO to deliver is about 10,000, as far as I understand it. So it has to be much broader coalition of the international community that would deliver a great deal more troops so to fill what is at the moment, what is today a security vacuum. So that’s why I say there hasn’t been a spike in violence. What this has been is a cumulative thing towards a tipping point that we saw over the last two weeks, where Iraq is growing cynical and alienated from the occupation. And those who choose to resort to violence — and let’s not forget that Iraq is a highly-armed society, with nearly most men of military age having done some form of military service, and a lot of them seek military action. So therefore these individuals move towards violence because there is a security vacuum. And that security vacuum, as Professor Cole has alluded to, has produced something much more worrying in Iraq today, and that’s the growth of militias. It doesn’t take much to get a group of armed men together and dominate your neighborhood because the occupation can’t do it for you. Those militias are now increasingly organizing along sectarian lines, and are claiming to deploy order on the basis of political — they’re repaying in political affiliation. I think that’s one of the most dangerous long-term dynamics that we face in Iraq today. And the only way you can do that is by building — circumvent that — is by building sustainable democratic links between the Iraqi population and government. That’s going to take a lot of time. And before you do that, as the first desperate thing you need to do, establish security across the whole of the country. Thank you very much.

SEN. LUGAR: Well, thank you very much, Dr. Dodge.

Once again we’ll have a seven-minute limit on our questions. We’ll try to adhere to that as best we can.

Let me start by saying that Mr. Perle has mentioned that Iraqis will finally have to settle the issue, and his suggestion was that we should have brought in thousands of Iraqis at the outset — both for security purposes as well as for governance purposes. Dr. Cole, you’ve mentioned that in fact the overthrow of Saddam liberated the Iraqis, liberated the religious groups, including the Shi’ites who may have been affiliated with Iran, but may not have been, may have had an indigenous movement — may be interested in democracy, may be not. May be interested really in theology and what they were about.

And, Dr. Dodge, you’ve added the disquieting thought that whether the Iraqis came in from the outside, or whether they are indigenous and stay all at home, very few have captured the attention or the support of other Iraqis — very, very small numbers for any particular person or party or movement.

Now, all of this comes to a head June 30 or before then when Mr. Brahimi, Ambassador Brahimi and his group apparently are going to make some selections. And you suggested, Dr. Dodge, that probably, all things considered, he will select some of the leaders — perhaps the top leaders, the president or the two vice presidents, the prime minister — from members of the Governing Council. But, if so, this is a group, at least as you have described it, were imposed to begin with by the coalition and do not have the support of Iraqis, so that, from the beginning, this group has some problems in terms of executive leadership.

Now, granted, the advisory group may ameliorate that somewhat, but then, since many of these people will not have high recognition either, or great popularity, they may not be able to add a great deal of support to this.

So the group that we’re about to cede authority to, on the face of it, is not well-known, not well-supported, at least as you would describe from the polling that you have there. On the other hand, there is at least anecdotal evidence that Iraqis who were exiles who have come in are not particularly well-supported either, although they may be knowledgeable.

And as Mr. Perle has said, perhaps our policy with the liberation of Iraq never had the follow-through from administrations or Congress in the past, or maybe pragmatically it was impossible for this group to overthrow Saddam militarily. Maybe that simply was a non-starter.

But in any event, we’re faced, it appears to me, pragmatically in this situation, if June 30 is to be the time, with somebody naming people. And Mr. Brahimi appears to be the one designated to do this now. And so maybe Iraqis, all things considered, since it comes from a United Nations commission, accept the fact that this is an interim group and that they are setting up the conditions for elections, which particularly Ayatollah Sistani has called for. So maybe they get by. But, then again, maybe they don’t. This is why, in my initial questions, I raised an issue I would like to raise from you, because it’s not been touched upon.

What happens if, for example, the governing group decides that the security we are providing, which all of us believe today is really essential, and we would like others to be helping us, but at minimum no one has suggested the 130,000 Americans ought to leave, because that seems to be the (glue?) factor, at least, however well they’re handling it.

But let’s say this government really takes things seriously and the new president or the vice president or so forth indicates that they have some serious qualms about our tactics, whether it be in Fallujah or with regard to Najaf or other places. In other words, they would say to the American commander, “You may be commander of 130,000 Americans, but we don’t want you to go to Fallujah” or “We want to prescribe how the security is done these days in our country.”

Now, perhaps the U.N. resolutions that have been passed — and we hope, at least, that they will be to give a certain amount of legitimacy to all of this structure — still say the American commander is in charge until the training occurs, until there is a pass-off.

But one of the reasons I’m raising this question is, in the same spirit as you’ve raised the question, how do you select the people, and how are they given at least some strength, given the numbers that you’ve cited, really how do we establish the relationship on security between this government, that some people blandly say just has civil sovereignty and not the other, but maybe so, maybe not, if Iraqis, in fact, decide to take seriously the whole problem of governance.

Now, finally, just for any of your comments, at the end of the day there still are the technical questions of these elections. In Afghanistan, this has been formidable, for a variety of reasons. Barely 20 to 25 percent of the population has been registered, even though there is an agreement that the election should have been held at a certain point; it’s been pushed back. It may be pushed back some more.

But who does the nitty-gritty political work in Iraq, as you perceive it — registering valid voters, setting up security for some legitimacy, so that after these elections are held, there are not cries of foul ball, that in essence this is a flawed situation in which we didn’t get what we wanted?

Well, each of you give a comment, and that will exhaust my time, and I will turn to Senator Biden. Mr. Perle, do you have any overall thoughts about this situation? . . .

SEN. LUGAR: Dr. Cole?

MR. COLE: Well, I agree that there are sets of very difficult issues here that have yet to be negotiated. And indeed, we don’t know with whom we will be negotiating them.

With regard to the military situation, I’m a little bit more optimistic about the relationship of any Iraqi government with CENTCOM insofar as the Iraqi army is gone. Iraq is a small country of 25 million surrounded by very large countries like Iran and Turkey, each of which have nearly three times as many, and which have very powerful militaries. Iran fought an eight-year war with Iraq not so long ago. Turkey has made noises occasionally about invading the north of Iraq.

So I think that whether they like it or not, most responsible Iraqis are going to want a U.S. security umbrella. They may have severe differences of opinion. And indeed, the interim governing council that we appointed didn’t like the strategy used at Fallujah and said so on Al Arabiya satellite television. But they may have differences of opinion about particular tactics and so forth. I’m fairly optimistic that they’re not going to want to be left in the lurch, regardless of their feelings about being occupied. So I think those things can be negotiated.

I would say, with regard to the issue of holding elections, it should be remembered that Iraq was a constitutional monarchy from the 1920s through the 1950s. There were occasionally military coups in that period. But, on the whole and by and large, they had elections and parties came to power and prime ministers were elected.

And so this is not an unprecedented thing to happen in Iraq. And it ended in part because that was a game of large landlords in that period and didn’t have popular support. I think there are already now city councils and provincial governing councils in place. They haven’t been exactly democratically put in place, but they are there. There are people who would be in charge of voter registration. The voter registration can be kept honest in some ways because it can be compared to the food ration roles that the U.N. had prepared.

So I think that, in principle, there’s not a reason for which Iraq can’t go to the polls in January. I think Grand Ayatollah Sistani desperately wants this. He doesn’t want the country to fall into chaos. He will exercise his considerable moral authority in this regard.

I think there will be people who will attempt to disrupt this process. There will be guerrilla forces that attempt to disrupt it. And that’s why I say that elections should be held anyway. Even if some polling booths are bombed, the elections should go forward. Twenty-five million people should be allowed to vote in their government. It won’t be perfect. The first government that is elected may be contested. But it will have a great deal more legitimacy than anything that can be appointed, and it’s the only way forward.

SEN. LUGAR: Dr. Dodge.

MR. DODGE: Thank you. I think we have two problems. We have the date of the 30th of June, which is shooting towards us with increasing speed. And you or I or the vast majority of Iraqis don’t know what that will deliver, because so much of it is unworked out. So we have that very narrow political timetable. But on the other hand, we have a society ravaged by 35 years of dictatorship, which has no institutions, which is highly mobilized, but isn’t coalescing around political forces. And that’s the great tension.

So I guess your question is, how do we overcome that question? What’s the best compromise we can find? Well, I think it’s a hybrid. Firstly, clearly, in the run-up to elections, whenever they come — and they may well or may certainly, I suspect, be postponed — we need to build local democratic structures.

We need to build on the limited work that’s been done on local town councils and regional councils and pump money and oversight into that, because that will clearly be the structures which — the architecture which democracy will finally be built through. I think there’s been too much emphasis on grand conferences in Baghdad and not enough on the nitty-gritty, unglamorous work of building local democracy.

And secondly, I agree with Professor Cole, you desperately need a national election, because what that will do is force these parties to develop a national base. And those that can’t develop a national base won’t get national votes.

It will also force, to a certain extent, these parties to shape the policy, the very diverse and fractured policy, and explain to the Iraqi population or negotiate with the Iraqi population what is a valid manifesto. So you’ll have a dialogue between the parties and the population which will be mutually transforming and then will channel political mobilization, anger as well as hope, through democratic institutions. So an election is desperately needed. But my great worry is that, like nearly everything else with this occupation, it will be postponed and postponed.

Now, that’s a pessimistic prediction. But while that may well be happening, it’s desperate that much more emphasis is put on the local level, building up local democracy.

SEN. LUGAR: I thank all three of you. I’d just make an observation that much seems to depend upon the Ayatollah Sistani and his desire for an election to occur, for democracy to happen, for at least the Shi’ite majority to become a government, so that, pragmatically, as Mr. Perle has said, things may muddle through because, if they get off-track, the elections, the democracy, whatever may be manifested there, will get off-track likewise.

Senator Biden.

SEN. BIDEN: There seems to be an agreement among the three of you that elections should take place as rapidly as feasible. Is that right? Do you all agree with that? And that’s essentially what Chirac has been arguing for for the last year, that there should have been elections almost immediately. He wanted to have them this spring. Was it feasible to have them this spring? Anyone.

MR. COLE: Yes, it was feasible. The British command in Basra actually has been a little bit insubordinate in being very open that they thought such elections were entirely feasible. The CPA would say, “Well, the election rolls are incomplete.” They would say, “No, they’ve been updated.” They would say, “Well, they didn’t include the Kurds.” The British commanders said, “Well, yes, they do.”

And so Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani wanted to have the elections this spring. There was substantial international support for such an idea. And at least the British military command in Basra thought that it was feasible.

I mean, as a historian, I try to have a balanced view of these things. And I also do understand the reasons for which perhaps Mr. Bremer was not eager to go forward with such elections at this time. It’s a risk. You don’t know who exactly is going to be elected. And they did this in Bosnia. They had early elections after the violence ended there, and people got into power, quite frankly, who later were thugs and who later on posed obstacles to then, down the road, further good things happening.

So I think, you know, one must remember that a lot of the American military and State Department and other personnel involved in Iraq, their recent history has been in the Balkans. And coming from that Balkans background, you could understand how they felt, “Well, we went too early to elections in the Balkans and it had this” —

SEN. BIDEN: I was one who shared that view, by the way.

MR. COLE: Yeah. Well, so I’m sympathetic —

SEN. BIDEN: I know no-one else acknowledges having made any mistake anywhere where that applies but I will never — (inaudible).

MR. COLE: I’m sympathetic to the reservations that they had. However, I think Iraq is not the Balkans. The Iraqi situation is different. I think there would have been a value in going to early elections in Iraq. I think it might have forestalled the recent blow- up, had they done that.

I also think it was a mistake not to have early municipal elections. People were planning municipal open elections in Najaf last June and everything was set to go, and Mr. Bremer decided not to do it. What was reported in the press — and I don’t know if it’s true — is that he was afraid that pro-Iranian parties would win in Najaf. I hesitate to say this, but there are no parties that would win an election for the mayoralty of Najaf which wouldn’t be favorable towards Iran. So if that’s a consideration, you could never have elections there.

I think it was a mistake to cancel those elections. I think it made a bad impression on Sistani and other Shi’ite leaders that the United States was maybe not serious about democracy. So I agree completely with Dr. Dodge that as soon as you can have free and open municipal elections, that would be a good base for the national scene.

And John Bourne, for instance, who is a Coalition Provisional Authority figure in the Nasiriyah area, has been going around having open elections in the towns and villages around Nasiriyah with great success. So in some parts of Iraq it’s been done. In other parts it’s been the local colonel lieutenant who sort of appointed a council. It’s diverse. But the more local choice can be there, the better.

MR. DODGE: Just a brief point. The feedback from the local elections organized around Nasiriyah were quite intriguing and surprising. They threw up a much larger secular vote than would have been anticipated; that secular parties and secular independents got a much larger share of the vote than anyone would have predicted . . .

SEN. LUGAR: Senator Corzine.

SEN. CORZINE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I truly appreciate your holding this set of hearings. I apologize for not being here earlier this morning, with work on the floor. And some of the questions may be repetitive. But, one of the things — the assumption that I’m hearing here, which I’m actually quite troubled by, is that we have consistently set out game plans, I’m not even sure how effective those plans have been laid down, then had to change, because circumstances on the ground pragmatically led to different responses than the current situation. We were suppose to have a status of force agreement put in place three or four months ago.

Given the fact that there has been this enormous shift, different people can categorize it however they want, the fact is American men and women are losing their lives in this process in untold numbers in the last three weeks, and it certainly catches the public’s attention, it catches the Senate’s attention, and it has a great human element to it. Why are we so committed to a timetable that apparently was pulled out of the air more than — I’ve been involved in business plans, and sometimes you work your way through, and then you get t a point and you say, we’re not prepared to go. We don’t know what the status of forces are, we don’t know who we’re going to transfer this to, we don’t know what the civil sovereignty means versus military sovereignty is about. We have a rough justice view of the direction of this. We’re arguing about whether it should be internationalized or it shouldn’t be internationalized. I think we are not in prepared state — it doesn’t seem to me, now I don’t have all the information that I’d like to be asking the administration why they think we’re in a period of preparation. You know, we’re still arguing about whether we should have more forces on the ground or we shouldn’t have more forces on the ground. How do we create security? No one would disagree with Mr. Perle’s argument in the long run that we’d like to have an Iraqi face on this. That’s just not possible right now, or if it was, then we have really not prepared ourselves for this moment in time.

So, why — the simple question is why June 30th, when in fact the most important thing, which I think was generally agreed by the panel, was getting to an election that actually has Iraqi legitimacy to it as opposed to this mad rush towards June 30th with all kinds of unanswered questions. You know, in the Afghani model, which by the way, at least to my mind, looked like an international — I thought they had an international conference in Bonn, they had people on the ground, we have the United Nations sort of supervising how the thing worked, I see international troops fighting alongside the America side — maybe that’s not internationalization, maybe it’s just Afghani, I don’t really believe that. But the fact is, we need to make decisions that will allow for the reality of creating security and political arrangements that we’ll set up this election, that I think all of us agree ultimately are the appropriate things.

What’s so magic about June 30th? . . .

MR. COLE: Could I just say that the reasons for which this date was set have to do with the crisis of last October, when it became increasingly clear that Mr. Bremer could not, as initially envisaged, continue to rule Iraq virtually by fiat for an extended period of time. He flew back to Washington. He negotiated with the interim governing council. And initially his plan was to have council-based elections and to have a more legitimate government come into power on June 30th that at least had some electoral input from some proportion of the Iraqi public. Those council-based elections were viewed by Grand Ayatollah Sistani and many other Iraqi actors as stage managed and not genuine representatives — representations of the Iraqi public will, and so that element of it had to drop out, but the transition remained. So, there is a kind of natural history of how this thing has happened.

But I have to say that I read the Iraqi press in Arabic every day. My firm impression is that this is enormously popular among the Iraqis. That is to say they want a transition on June 30th. There’s no faction in Iraq, on any part of the political spectrum, that would be at all happy with any kind of delay in this date. And I think we have to recognize that the way things have turned out, it is largely going to be a symbolic moment. I mean, the U.S. is still going to make a lot of important decisions in Iraq. There’s going to be a weak caretaker government which may have, you know, some U.N. influence in its appointment.

But, the big date now is next winter’s election. And if the security situation can be stabilized to the point, and if preparations can be made for those elections actually to occur, that, for me, would be the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s the one glimmer of hope I see in this situation.

I don’t understand how someone can look at what happened in the last two weeks and say it’s not a popular uprising. The United States lost control of much of Baghdad. Its supply lines and communications lines to the south were lost. A rag-tag bunch of militiamen in Kut chased the Ukranian troops off of their base and took control of it. This was an uprising. And how much popular support it had is hard to know. It’s true that when pushed these people took back off their uniforms and went home, but there are real problems here.

SEN. CORZINE: I would only say, though, that if you create a structure that is a problem for getting to the elections, then you may have satisfied public opinion, so-called public opinion in the short- run and ended up creating one hell of a mess when you get to — getting to what I think all the voices I hear, both those that were in favor of this, and weren’t in favor of it, and none of us want cut- and-run, but we want to get to a positive conclusion — that is — (inaudible) — elections, and it seems to me, just one person’s observation, we’re on a mad rush with regard to a whole lot of unanswered questions, and that we feel pressure about it, but I’m curious —

MR. DODGE: I think that’s the great danger that you’ve both hit upon, that there is a sense that something’s going to change on June 30th in Iraqi popular opinion. And when we look at what’s — (inaudible) — aren’t state institutions in Iraq that run from Baghdad to the periphery of the geographical area of Iraq. The polity, as it seems, is not ready for elections, so there’ll be an interregnum before elections come, and security is absolutely dreadful, and when pushed, the indigenous security structures — the police and the army — ran away or refused to fight when they were asked to impose security. So, there is a build up of aspiration around June 30th that I suspect, in a pessimistic prediction, will then, when they — when that popular opinion realizes nothing changes after June 30th, and things may well get a lot worse in the run up and the aftermath of that date, that exactly as you say, Senator, that goodwill or hope will be then frittered away, and the next dates will be even more difficult to move towards. That’s the great danger that nothing about this handover has been nailed down, nothing that — you can’t say the ink has not dried yet, the ink — the document hasn’t been written yet. There is so much uncertainty in a very uncertain and disturbed country that June 30th may well add to our problems, not detract from them.

SEN. CORZINE: Thank you.

SEN. LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Corzine. I thank each of you for your patience, and your longevity, and your wisdom. And the hearing is adjourned.

Posted in Uncategorized | No Responses | Print |