U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday the key to defeating the Iraqi insurgency lies with the Iraqi people and their new transitional government. Despite the newly elected parliament's delay in forming a government, Mr. Rumsfeld remains cautiously optimistic about Iraq's future.
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says he is not worried that Iraq's parliament failed to choose a speaker after meeting for the second time since the January 30 elections.
"What's happening over there? What's happening over there is politics," he said.
Unlike Saddam Hussein's ruthlessly efficient regime, Mr. Rumsfeld said, democracy, while less efficient, is infinitely more desirable. The Defense Secretary said the extensive negotiations among Iraq's different religious and ethnic groups were an encouraging sign for the future of Iraq.
"Those people are deeply concerned about the rights of minorities and they have every right to be because they lived in a society that did not respect the rights of minorities," he said.
Negotiations about the shape of Iraq's new government have been bogged down as the leading Shia coalition and the Kurdish alliance - which together control a majority of the seats in parliament - try to persuade Iraq's Sunni Muslims to join them in a unity government.
Sunnis make up an estimated 20 percent of Iraq's population but won fewer than 20 seats in parliament because of a boycott of January's elections. Many Sunnis, who were afforded a special place under Saddam Hussein, now feel the new government threatens their way of life, and much of Iraq's insurgency has been centered in Sunni areas.
Mr. Rumsfeld says the best way to defeat the insurgency is to create an environment that is less insecure - politically and economically.
"To the extent that the Iraqi people feel that they own that country, that they're a sovereign nation, that they have a stake in it, a voice in it, then in fact that's a good thing," he said. "It makes the insurgency less attractive to people. To the extent the economic reconstruction goes forward and people have jobs and the economy is growing that again has the effect of reducing support for the insurgency and increasing support for the Iraqi government."
Mr. Rumsfeld said coalition troops are doing what they can to help the new Iraqi government create such conditions. The defense secretary declined to offer a timetable for a withdrawal of U.S. troops, although he said forces wouldn't remain in Iraq any longer then they are needed.