Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Iraq’s foreign minister says his country is headed in the right direction.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari spoke without notes to members of the private group. He described his country in upbeat terms, saying that although corruption and mismanagement remain endemic, the country is on the “right path” toward a stable democracy.
“Iraqi leaders came together, through our own initiative, to form a broad national unity government. Still it’s not complete, but it’s established: Iraq has its structure. It has its constitution. It has its way of resolving its own difficulties or internal problems," he said. "There may be delays. It’s not easy. It’s not tidy but really, when we compare ourselves to our neighborhood, we are in a stronger position.”
Zebari says that, although U.S. forces are to leave Iraq at the end of the year, he believes there is a continuing need for U.S. military training. He cites recent incursions by Iran and Turkey into Iraq’s territory, including air strikes by Turkey, in attacks against Kurdish militants. He says he is concerned that the Iran-Turkey actions may indicate an attempt to assert more power in the region once American troops withdraw.
“That is another reason that the Iraqi government needs this continued support at least to be able to deter this regional intervention,” he noted.
Some observers contend that Iraq will be in danger of falling apart once American troops leave. Zebari says he disagrees, saying that Iraqis are committed to resisting sectarian conflict.
He adds that he believes that Iraq’s example that led to the popular democratic uprisings in the Arab world - and helped end what he called a “taboo” against asking for international help. “
Look at Libya, for instance. They have publicly, openly welcomed the NATO American support to save lives. In fact, not only has there been air attacks on Tripoli and other places, I can tell you there has been special forces, European forces, fighting on the ground to defeat Gadhafi,” he stated.
Zebari says he thinks the democracy movement will inevitably succeed in Syria, too, although he says the repressive government of Bashar al-Assad remains very strong.