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Iraqi Ambassador Talks About Impact of Debate Over Funding for Iraq War in US Congress 

Iraqi Ambassador to the United States Samir Shakir al-Sumaida’ie, who was active in Iraqi opposition efforts for many years before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, says Iraqi government leaders are concentrated on addressing the day-to-day challenges in Iraq and have “no wish to interfere” in the current U.S. congressional debate on funding for Iraq. Thus, they will respect whatever decisions are reached.

Speaking with host Carol Castiel of VOA News Now’s Press Conference USA, Ambassador al-Sumaida’ie says, however, the outcome of the insurgency is a “matter of the utmost importance” to both Baghdad and Washington. And he says there is “broad agreement” in both capitals that Iraq should not be “abandoned to the forces of extremism and terrorism” and that it should not become a “failed state.” According to the Iraqi Ambassador, Iraq and the United States are “partners” in a struggle against common adversaries such as al-Qaida.

Regarding the “political benchmarks” that Washington has set - for example, oil revenue sharing – Ambassador al-Sumaida’ie says that will present no long-term problem because that principle is part of the Iraqi Constitution and has been “ratified by the people of Iraq.” Regarding the proposed legislation on “de-Baathification,” Ambassador al-Sumaida’ie suggests that it will offer former Baath Party members who committed no crimes a new start.

He acknowledges that Iraq has had difficulty establishing a secular, democratic, and affluent society for several reasons. Before the war Iraqi leaders underestimated both the “level to which state institutions had collapsed,” and also the resolve and resourcefulness of the “enemies of change.” Furthermore, he says, there was “poor management of the situation” immediately after Saddam’s regime fell.

Regarding the insurgency, the Iraqi Ambassador says, it consists of a mixture of many strands – al-Qaida, “home-grown Islamic extremists” such as those who favor a caliphate or return to earlier times, former Baathists who lost their privileges, organized crime members, and about 1,000 suicide bombers, most of whom are not Iraqi. He says their strategy is to create chaos, drive the Americans out, and intimidate people into submission.

But, Ambassador al-Sumaida’ie says there are encouraging signs that the U.S. troop “surge” is working, although the current level of mobilization is only half of what is planned. For example, murders are down, while suicide bombers have proved “much harder to stop.” And many of the Shi’a militias have disappeared. However, once Baghdad is secured, attention will need to turn to other regions. He notes that there have been “considerable efforts” to promote national reconciliation, especially by Iraqi President Jalal Talibani. Regarding the upcoming referendum on the future status of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, whether it becomes part of Kurdistan or remains under the central government, Ambassador al-Sumaida’ie says its oil revenues will belong to everyone. And, he adds, “maximum assurances” should be given to all the communities that live in Kirkuk that their identity and freedom will be protected.

For full audio of the program Press Conference USA click here