Expert Assesses Iraqis' Benchmark Efforts

Dr. Anthony Cordesman, who holds the Arleigh Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., examines efforts to sideline militias and bring Iraq under the control of the government in Baghdad.

Weighing in on Iraq's Progress

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As the White House prepares a key progress report on Iraq, experts say the country's government has failed to meet many of the political, military and economic benchmarks stipulated by Congress in May.

One of the key economic goals laid out by U.S. lawmakers was the passage of a law requiring the sharing of oil revenues across Iraq. But that law is still being hotly debated by the country's various political parties. Similarly, legislation on the exploration of oil fields has yet to make it onto the floor of the Iraqi parliament.

Efforts to push such legislation through have stalled repeatedly, according to NPR Baghdad correspondent Jamie Tarabay.

The political benchmarks include reversing the purge of former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party from government posts. Iraq's Shiite parties are strongly opposed to legislation reversing de-Baathification, and Iraqi lawmakers believe any move forward on this benchmark will be delayed until at least September.

The Iraqi government also has yet to make noticeable progress on efforts to disarm militias and centralize security operations, and sectarian tensions continue to divide the country, according to Dr. Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

"There has been some progress in the sense of talks between various groups. But Baghdad is becoming more polarized along sectarian lines, along with the rest of the country," Cordesman says.

Still, there have been some signs of progress in recent months — at least on the security front. U.S. and Iraqi forces are establishing joint security stations in the capital. Government officials are also discussing ways to boost training for security forces and to protect minority groups.

"For Iraqis, this is progress enough," Tarabay says. "They operate on a different clock than people in Washington do."

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