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Iraqi Envoy Says Progress Can't Be Rushed

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Iraqi Envoy Says Progress Can't Be Rushed

Iraq

Iraqi Envoy Says Progress Can't Be Rushed

Iraqi Envoy Says Progress Can't Be Rushed

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From the Interview

Renee Montagne asks whether the threat of a U.S. pullout is needed to force Iraq to make political progress.

Iraqi Ambassador Samir Sumaidaie says that despite the "great impatience" in Washington, now is the wrong time to give up on Iraq.

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White House Report on Iraq

The White House released Thursday its assessment of Iraq.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

Momentum in Congress is building to draw down the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and limit their missions there. Critics say that without American forces, Iraq will descend into full-scale civil war, or even regional war.

One more voice making that charge is Iraq's ambassador to the United States. Samir Sumaidaie spoke to us from our studio in Washington yesterday. He says that withdrawing the troops prematurely would open the floodgates to violence, and that now is exactly the wrong time to give up on Iraq.

Ambassador SAMIR SUMAIDAIE (Iraqi Ambassador to the United States): The military in Iraq - the American military and their allies, and, of course, the Iraqi security forces are dealing with the situation with a new attitude, with a different approach. Now, that is creating a substantial change on the ground. Well, this needs to work out. It needs time to actually bear fruit. The situation here in Washington, however, is one of great impatience, wanting either instant gratification or getting out. And life is not like that.

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MONTAGNE: But Ambassador, with all due respect, you're saying instant gratification is what's being asked for. It doesn't seem to many Americans that there's anything instant about this. It's been going on badly, from the American point of view, for over four years.

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: That's right. But it was going badly because there were bad decisions. I would argue that it's only recently, with a change of approach and change of some personnel at the top, that things started to move in the correct direction.

MONTAGNE: The president has to report to Congress by the end of this week on political progress in Iraq, and it's being reported that the president will conclude that the Iraqi government hasn't met its targets for political reform. And that would be everything from an oil law to sorting out debaathification to resolving aspects of the constitution. Why haven't these targets been met?

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: I am puzzled by the amount of attention given here in Washington to the promulgation of certain legislation in Iraq. Legislation by themselves are not going to solve the problem. We have already a reasonably good constitution in place, but it is totally ignored by armed gangs who go around killing people and by some leaders who do not believe in the tenets of the constitution.

Now, some of these laws deal - like with the oil-revenue distribution in Iraq. These are extremely important. They will affect generations to come. There is a lively national debate up and down the country, and this needs to take its course. I mean, to be ordered to pass a law through parliament in days or a week or two is not realistic.

MONTAGNE: It is not just that there is little political progress, or that there is political progress but it's going slowly and subtly, but from outside Iraq it appears that there's little political will. And there are some who would argue that the threat of withdrawal of American troops or the withdrawal of American troops is exactly what's needed.

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: It's a respectable argument. I understand it. But it's not true. First of all, there is genuine effort being made. Yes, this government has a lot of problems, has a lot of deficiencies. We are criticizing it all the time ourselves. But putting this kind of pressure first encourages the terrorists and the insurgents because it's telling them that they just have to wait, the Americans have lost their will to stand firm in this situation, and Iraq is already lost. It does not help the government accelerate its progress. It creates a sense of panic amongst those who are trying to do good. I don't see that it is helpful.

MONTAGNE: Does it then boil down for you to these benchmarks make no sense, that there shouldn't be these expectations?

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: No, they do make sense. There should be these expectations. We expect them of ourselves. They are our benchmarks before they became American benchmarks. But, you know, it takes nine months for a baby to be born, and there is no use wishing it to be in three months. Nature must take its course. Reality on the ground must take its course. We are doing everything that we can. We are bleeding. We are giving human losses every day. But under fire, we are making progress.