Iraq's ambassador to the United States says patience and perseverance are required, as his nation's fledgling democratic government struggles to improve security in the face of rampant sectarian violence.
Commenting on a surge in violence between Sunni and Shi'ite militants in Baghdad, Ambassador Samir al-Sumaidaie described Iraq's security situation as "bad" - adding that "the country is bleeding." Speaking on CNN's Late Edition program, the ambassador said his government has important work to do.
"This government must continue to build up its institutions, including the security forces," said Samir al-Sumaidaie. "After the removal of Saddam [Hussein], the state was destroyed. There were no institutions. For the first time now, we have an elected government, but the institutions are still weak. What we have got to do is complete building the institutions, so they can start taking control, not give up."
Sunday, bombs detonated outside a Shi'ite Muslim mosque in central Baghdad, hours after Shi'ite gunmen killed several-dozen people with Sunni names in another part of the city. This year, deaths in Iraq blamed on sectarian violence and terrorist attacks far outpace the number recorded at this time in 2005.
Continued bloodletting has not gone unnoticed in the United States, where the future of America's mission in Iraq is a central issue ahead of congressional elections in November.
Also appearing on Late Edition, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California argued that the open-ended U.S. military presence in Iraq is making a bad situation worse.
"It is a nightmare that gets worse and worse," said Barbara Boxer. "Our troops are in the middle of a civil war there. It is a difficult assignment, one that I do not think has a clear mission anymore. And [do] you know what? We won the war [to topple Saddam Hussien]. This is an occupation, and it is not working."
But Ambassador Sumaidaie said a premature withdrawal of international forces from Iraq would constitute a victory for terrorists. That view was echoed by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
"You have militia people creating sectarian violence to disrupt a democratic Iraq," he said. "So, who is going to win? I believe the political leadership of Iraq, if supported by the United States and the world at large, will overcome the militia threat, but we have to be patient. There will be a timeline for us [the United States] to withdraw, but it needs to come from the elected leadership of the Iraqi people."
Meanwhile, four U.S. soldiers have been charged in connection with the alleged rape and murder of an Iraqi woman and the killing of her family south of Baghdad. A fifth soldier has been charged for failing to report the incident, although the serviceman is not alleged to have participated.
The case is the latest in a series of allegations of mistreatment of Iraqi civilians by U.S. forces in Iraq. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has urged a review of the legal immunity that foreign troops have in his country.
Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns rejected that proposal on CNN's Late Edition program.
"There are agreements in place that are very specific that protect American forces and diplomatic personnel, and we obviously want those agreements to be respected," said Nicholas Burns.
Burns added that the United States is being transparent in investigating allegations of misconduct, and bringing those responsible to justice.