9.19.2005

Rice Sees Major Historical Change Under Way in Iraq

Sees insurgents losing popular support as Sunnis embrace politics

By David Shelby
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Iraq is undergoing a major historic transformation, according to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and as such it is not surprising that the progress is accompanied by acts of violence.

"[W]hen you're in a very big historical change like this, you have progress and chaos existing side by side. And it is not going to be a consistent picture of one or the other," Rice told the editors of Newsweek magazine September 15.

She said such transformations can be messy and violent, but added, "[T]hat exists side by side with a political process that's continuing inexorably to move on, where you have a million more Sunnis registered than voted last time."

In an interview with the editorial board of NBC news the same day, she said that this growing interest in the political process, as exhibited through high voter registration, is an encouraging sign.

"[W]hen you have Sunnis who the last time either boycotted or stayed out because of intimidation, registering in droves and saying, 'We're going to win in these elections,' something is happening in this country and it is not just the few people that you see on television as leaders," she said.

She explained that this broad interest in the political process is a bad sign for the insurgency as it shows a lack of popular support for the insurgents' brutal alternative to the political system. She said no insurgency could survive without some sort of popular support.

"[T]his insurgency has plenty of lethality to make life difficult and miserable and violent and dangerous for the Iraqi population. What they have not shown is the ability to derail a political process that will lead over time to a government that can govern," she said.

Rice told Newsweek, "I think increasingly they don't have hope of a political base because Sunnis are determined to make the political process work."

Rice welcomed the progress of Iraqi security forces in taking charge of the security situation as demonstrated by their recent operations in Talafar. "I think Talafar was for the Iraqis a sense that their forces are going to be able to really make a difference," she said.

The secretary dismissed the notion that U.S. operations in Iraq had generated an increase in the number of terrorists and extremists. She said that these people were a latent force building up in the region and simply became more visible when the United States started to engage them after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

She also said that the current situation in the Middle East, despite the apparent turmoil, is better than the false stability that has existed for decades under the iron fists of authoritarian regimes.

A transcript (http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2005/53325.htm) of Rice's interview with NBC is available at the State Department Web site.

A transcript (http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2005/53320.htm) of Rice's interview with Newsweek is available at the State Department Web site.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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