Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Iraq's National Security Advisor Speaks ...

Mowaffak al-Rubaie, national security advisor to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, spoke today at The Nixon Center.

He seemed, at times, to be channeling the sentiments found in Morton Abramowitz's and Heather Hurlburt's essay in the current issue on the challenges of nation-building, arguing that what is going on in Iraq is a "long struggle" and a "continuous process", and that Iraq is moving from an old regime--not simply that of Saddam but one going back for a thousand years--in order to try and create a new form of governance.

Rather bluntly, he said that this could not be completed within a U.S. election cycle and urged his audience to have "strategic patience."

Echoing a theme that I and others have made, he noted that there are political forces in Iraq that at present are unwilling to compete in the political process and instead use violence as their means of expression. The process of national reconciliation in part is to convince all parties in the country that there is no way to bring down the government or constitution or current system, that it is not going to disappear, and that participation is the only outlet (signficantly, I thought, he also said that it would be necessary to "break the will to fight" on the part of those groups currently outside the process and drew comparisons with the long time frame needed in northern Ireland to get fighters into the political process).

But this cannot occur in a vaccuum, and al-Rubaie pointed the finger squarely at the larger region for some of Iraq's difficulties in moving ahead. He said that "90 percent" of the violence taking place has a larger regional link (e.g. outsiders, groups armed and equipped by neighbors, etc.) All of Iraq's neighbors are currently meddling in Iraq's affairs--and this is also complicated by the unclear signals the U.S. is sending about its intentions vis-a-vis Iran and Syria. Essentially, national reconciliation inside the country is tied to a larger regional peace process.

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