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Can the New Iraqi Government Stand Alone?


The Parliament of Iraq swore in a new Prime Minister and government on Saturday amid continuing violence in many parts of the country. As VOA's Peter Fedynsky reports, there are different American views about the ability of that government to survive without a U.S. presence in Iraq.

The new government and cabinet of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki complete a five-month democratic transition that began with parliamentary elections in December.

Violence on the eve of the inauguration - at least 10 Iraqis and one U.S. soldier killed in various parts of the country - defines the new government's primary task: restoring security.

In Baghdad, Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli, the Commander of the Multinational Corps, says the linchpin to a peaceful Iraq is reducing unemployment. "By creating jobs and opportunity, the Iraqi government would take away a major source of support for violent movements," he said. "Aimless, underemployed young men, who would otherwise rather be gainfully employed and supporting their families, that are laying IEDs, shooting RPGs and fighting Iraqi security forces and the coalition, because they lack alternatives."

However, a recent public opinion poll among the world's Muslims by the Gallup Organization disputes the claim that unemployment motivates much of the Iraqi insurgency. Dahlia Mogahed is the Executive Director of Gallup's Muslim Study Section. “Are radicals more unemployed?" he asks. "Well, the answer is no. While unemployment in general is quite high, they are no more or less unemployed than the moderate majority."

Leading Democratic Party war critic, Congressman John Murtha, says the United States has done everything it could to help Iraq militarily. Murtha this week repeated his call for an immediate U.S. troop redeployment away from Iraq.

"There's no plan to make things better," said Murtha, "and so it's time for us to leave, to redeploy. And I say that in Iraq, success of Iraq is up to the Iraqis."

When asked at a hearing by Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy whether Iraqi forces could maintain security if U.S. troops withdrew from 14 relatively calm Iraqi provinces, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, said "no."

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld appealed against any premature U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq by citing misguided calls for an American pullout from Europe during the Cold War.

"At the time, it was tough, and it took staying power and perseverance," said Rumsfeld. "People of both political parties, successive administrations in our country and in other countries in Western Europe to see that through. And we did."

In Baghdad, General Chiarelli predicted that insurgents will attempt to destabilize the new Iraqi government, adding however, that he has confidence in the desire of ordinary Iraqis and their new government for a free and democratic country.

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