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Iraqi Official Says US Both Source and Solution to Iraq's Woes

A senior advisor to Iraq's government says U.S. efforts to forge democracy in his country have been disastrous, but that the United States remains the only power capable of rectifying the situation. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where Ali Allawi, who has headed three Iraqi ministries since 2003, spoke with reporters.

In a newly published book, The Occupation of Iraq, Ali Allawi a cousin of former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, blasts what he terms the "monumental ignorance" of those in the United States who advocated and planned the 2003 invasion of his country. He alleges that critical mistakes were made after Saddam Hussein's ouster, such as disbanding Iraq's armed forces, and blasts what he terms the "rank amateurism and swaggering arrogance" of the U.S.-led former Coalition Provisional Authority that governed Iraq after the invasion.

Speaking at Washington's National Press Club on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad to U.S.-led forces, Allawi says the post-invasion years have been a grave disappointment - a story of, in his words, "what could have been."

"After the invasion of Iraq, there was a set of policy decisions that were not only inappropriate and inexplicable, but in the context were incoherent," said Ali Allawi. "And this is really quite surprising, because we know the abilities and capabilities of the United States. We know what the United States did in similar contexts where it took on the responsibility of rebuilding states or entire continents."

Allawi says the Iraqi state the United States helped create is "dysfunctional." In a particularly pointed commentary, he says the state is more corrupt and less competent today than it was under Saddam Hussein.

But for all the failings and shortcomings, Allawi does not call for U.S. disengagement from Iraq. In fact, despite what he views as the poor U.S. track record when it comes to efforts in his nation, Allawi says the United States is the only power capable of helping to foster conditions in Iraq that will lead to a brighter future.

"I do not think we should write off the United States simply because the last four years have been a failed engagement in Iraq," he said. "It is the only country that has the means and resources to be able to effect real change on the ground. Frankly, I think any other country would have sunk a long time ago [in Iraq], given the stresses inside the country."

Allawi, who was educated in the United States and Britain and has held positions with the World Bank, says the United States should lead an international conference on Iraq in which all Iraqi factions and all of Iraq's neighbors come together to map out a way forward for his nation and the region as a whole.

The Bush administration has admitted that critical mistakes were made after the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein. But U.S. officials insist that corrective steps have been taken over the years, and that the mission in Iraq is under constant review to improve operations and adjust to changing conditions on the ground.

Currently, the United States is boosting its troop level in Iraq. The build-up is scheduled to be completed in June, but administration officials say the initiative is already showing some positive signs that suggest improved security in targeted areas of Baghdad and one of Iraq's violence plagued provinces.

The goal is to curb civil strife and terrorist attacks, which have been major impediments to the consolidation of democratic rule in the country.

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