He cited provincial elections, constitutional reform and the rule of law in general as all very important. We need from the government a “level of commitment to do the right thing, leading for all Iraqis.”
Iraq is more complicated than the Balkan wars of the 1990s. There’s “no Milosevic,” no one “who can commit their constituents,” outside of the Kurdish leaders Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani. Also, it’s “not five years into a civil war with all sides exhausted” so they’re ready to come to the table.
Even in the best case, Iraqis “will have to learn to live with violence.” He noted there was “violence in Northern Ireland for years.”
Getting to even that imperfect state will require beating back al Qaeda. Iraq is the “central front for al Qaeda,” which is “public-enemy number one.” “They’re wired into al Qaeda central” and are “trying to cripple Iraq, cause failure in general.” “Imagine Iraq without car bombs right now; Baghdad wouldn’t be so bad.”
Then, there’s Iran. Iran’s involvement is “enormous, much more than we ever realized.” “We can’t solve Iraq wholly within Iraq. We’ve got to do something about that.”
What is Moqtada al-Sadr thinking? “Sadr doesn’t know what he’s thinking,” he replied. He is hiding, probably in Tehran. “He thinks there’s a JDAM with his name on it,” a notion that he doesn’t want to disabuse Sadr of. The Shia radical is “trying to show his relevance by doing certain actions” — pulling his ministers out of the government, staging a demonstration in Najaf. Meanwhile, in squeezing his militia, we have “tried not to target run-of-the-mill members, unless they’re in the sectarian murder racket.”
With the surge, we are now doing all we can militarily: “This is the all-in strategy at this point.” “It all keeps coming back to Iraq’s political leadership. You can create the conditions but then other folks have to exploit the conditions.” In short, we can succeed, “but it will be the toughest thing we’ve ever done.” And we need time.