Political Progress Is Taking Place In Iraq

Top-Down Progress Occurring In Baghdad; Bottom-Up Progress Occurring Throughout The Country

Political progress is occurring in Iraq through:

Ø      National legislation by lawmakers in Baghdad

Ø      Local initiatives by Provincial Reconstruction Teams throughout Iraq

Ø     Agreements, conferences, and commitments by Iraq, the U.S., and the international community

Major Legislative Accomplishments Further Political Accommodation And Increase Funding For Security, Economic Reconstruction, And Provincial Governments

 

On February 3, 2008, Iraq‘s Presidency Council issued the Accountability and Justice Law, which will allow thousands of former Ba’athists to return to government jobs.

·        Iraqi Government Spokesman Ali Dabbagh: “It distinguishes between the criminal and the innocent.” (Ned Parker, “Iraq Votes To Lift Ban On Ex-Baathists,” Los Angeles Times, 1/13/08)

·         General David Petraeus & Ambassador Ryan Crocker: “The law … sends a message to the people of Iraq and throughout the region that Iraqi political leaders are working together.” (Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker And General David H. Petraeus, Joint Statement On The Passage Of The Accountability And Justice Legislation, 1/14/08)

 

On February 13, 2008, the Council of Representatives passed two key pieces of legislation.

·        Amnesty Law:

o       The Government of Iraq’s General Amnesty Law represents a benchmark in facilitating political reconciliation and the rule of law in Iraq.  The General Amnesty Law addresses the scope of eligibility for amnesty for Iraqis in Iraqi detention facilities, whether they have been brought to trial or not.  The law exempts from this amnesty those who have committed specific serious crimes, such as premeditated murder or kidnapping, and those who are subject to the death penalty. 

·        Fiscal Budget:

  • The $48 billion Iraqi budget would represent a 17 percent increase in spending over last year’s budget, with a 23 percent increase in security expenditures.  Capital funds allocated to the 15 provinces will increase over 50 percent, from $2.1 billion to $3.3 billion, reflecting the improved budget execution performance by provinces in 2007.

The Iraqi government passed a pension law in late 2007.

·        Gen. Petraeus: [This law] extends pension rights to tens of thousands of Iraqis who are denied those rights because of various policies implemented after liberation.” (Fox’s “Fox News Sunday,” 12/23/07)

 

The central government of Iraq continues to distribute oil revenue to provinces, even though the proposed oil law is still being negotiated.

·       Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte: “When I was United States Ambassador to Iraq, there was no such thing as provincial budgets.  Now, the central government is distributing revenue to the provinces, which have made impressive progress in executing their budgets.” (Dep. Sec. John Negroponte, Press Briefing, 12/2/07)

 

The central government of Iraq reached its 2007 target of $30.2 billion in budget revenue one month before the end of the year.

 

The Government of Iraq recently completed early repayment of its outstanding obligations to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and reached a new Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF.

·        On December 12, Iraq repaid all of its outstanding obligations to the IMF, amounting to approximately $470.5 million.

·        On December 20, the IMF Executive Board approved a successor Stand-By Arrangement for Iraq equivalent to approximately $744 million.

 

Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) And Other U.S. Organizations Are Producing Tangible Political And Economic Gains On The Ground In Iraq

 

The new strategy President Bush announced a year ago was built around three key elements, culminating with a surge of PRTs.

·        Over the past year, we have doubled the number of PRTs in Iraq – there are now 24 of these teams active in all 18 Iraqi provinces.  Many of these teams are “embedded” PRTs, created as part of the President’s new strategy.  These civilian-led teams work together with Brigade Combat Teams or Marine regiments to support the military surge in Anbar Province and the greater Baghdad area.

 

PRTs play a vital role in sustaining the bottom-up political progress that is laying the groundwork for national reconciliation in Iraq.  For example, the Kirkuk PRT last year helped broker a settlement that brought Sunnis back into the Province’s local government – the Provincial Council.

 

In 2007, achievements by embedded PRTs (ePRTs) established after the beginning of the troop surge include:

 

Ø      The opening of the Fallujah Business Development Center in Anbar with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Community Stabilization Program (CSP).  With help from the PRT, the local Chamber of Commerce and CSP staff ended 2007 reviewing grant applications for 400 local small businesses.

 

Ø      A regional security summit in Taji sponsored by an ePRT located in Baghdad and facilitated by a Brigade from the 1st Cavalry Division.  One hundred sheikhs from the Taji area met to discuss cooperating on security issues with strong participation by the Iraqi military and police and Coalition Forces.  The Taji area is critical for security in the north of Baghdad and is strategically positioned where the provinces of Baghdad, Anbar, Salah ad Din, and Diyala join.

 

Ø      The opening of an agricultural bank in Ramadi by an ePRT located in Anbar Province.  The Agricultural Bank of Ramadi closed in 2004, when terrorists occupied it.  By the end of 2007, the facility was completely renovated and ready to support local agriculture.  This is critical to the province, which depends highly on agriculture for jobs and prosperity.

 

Recent Accomplishments by Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Iraq include:

 

·        Baghdad ePRT:  Baghdad ePRT 2 helped establish the Women’s Sewing Training Center with Quick Response Funds and purchased equipment to support the training of 20 women, every four to six weeks, in a marketable skill.

 

·        Karbala PRT:  A Women’s Coalition Center, organized by the Karbala PRT, was established as an eventually self-financing, non-profit independent center for education and training.  The Center is predicated on the ideas of tolerance, the equality of women, and the importance of civil society in democracy.

 

·        Kirkuk PRT:  The PRT helped launched one of the most successful micro-finance operations in Iraq, disbursing over $900,000 in loans.  Starting with a single office, the PRT helped open an additional branch and a third office is in the final stages of completion.  The three branches should reach financial self-sufficiency within 12 to 18 months.  To date, the Al-Aman office maintains a zero default rate on all of its small loans.

 

·        Muthanna PRT:  The PRT transformed a primary school serving a poor, rural community near the town of Najmi into a modern, four classroom building with solar power panels and provided laptop computers to its students.  The computers are solar-powered and heat- and dust-resistant and have innovative educational, Arabic software.  PRT Muthanna recently expanded the “One Laptop per Child” concept to a series of model schools, including an orphanage and an all-girls school, throughout the province.  Each school will have 10-20 computers and will be paired with a counterpart U.S. elementary school to encourage interaction and relationships between Iraqi and American children. 

 

·        Ninewa PRT:  The PRT played a key role in the reopening of Mosul Airport for its first commercial operations since 1993 in December 2007.  On that day, approximately 150 Hajj pilgrims departed Mosul bound for Mecca.  A total of 50 inbound and outbound flights carried 5,000 pilgrims to and from Mosul Airport.  Importantly, the success of the Hajj operations in Mosul will serve as the impetus to re-open the airport for commercial operations permanently in the very near future.

 

As security improves in Iraq, civilian and military personnel are supporting economic initiatives throughout the country.

·        Coalition forces and local Iraqi contractors recently renovated and reopened the Ramana Municipal Government Building in Anbar province – five months after it was attacked by a suicide bomber.

·        A major market in Yusifiyah has been revitalized after the Iraqi Army established itself and local citizens manned checkpoints, cleaned up debris, and repaired shops.

·        In the Mansour district of Baghdad, a small businessman named Ahmed opened his own store after being awarded a $2,500 micro grant.

·        USAID’s work with local religious leaders has resulted in approximately $530,000 of loans in support of the people of Anbar, including:

o       139 loans worth $334,000 in Al-Qaim

o       18 loans worth nearly $47,000 in Ramadi

o       72 loans worth $148,000 in Fallujah

·        An entrepreneur opened a juice factory in Baghdad last summer, creating 24 full-time jobs, after he applied for a microfinance grant through the USAID Community Stabilization Program

 

The United States Has Followed Through On President Bush’s January 10, 2007 Call For Increased Diplomacy In Iraq.  

 

The U.S. Has Increased Its Diplomatic Efforts Through Critical Agreements, Conferences, And Long-Term Commitments To Iraq’s Future.  Since January 2007, the U.S. has worked with Iraqi leaders to establish an International Framework based on three pillars:

  1. The International Compact with Iraq
  2. The Expanded Neighbors Process
  3. The Expanded Mandate for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI)

On May 3, 2007, Iraq, The U.S., And More Than 60 Other Nations and International Organizations Adopted The U.N.-Backed “International Compact” In Sharm El-Sheikh.

·        The International Compact established a five-year framework with implementation mechanisms for addressing Iraq’s challenges to achieving economic self-reliance, good governance, rule of law, and civil society.

·        Approximately 50 countries agreed to the U.N.-sponsored plan to support Iraq’s economic reform program.

 

On May 4, 2007, 22 Countries And International Organizations, Including Iraq And The U.S., Met At The Foreign Minister Level In Sharm El-Sheikh To Discuss Security In Iraq.

·        Delegates, including representatives from all of Iraq’s neighbors, discussed ways to curb violence in Iraq.

 

U.S. Representatives Attended A Neighbors Conference Working Group Meeting In Damascus Regarding Iraq’s Border Security. The August 8-9, 2007, Damascus conference was the third in a series of working groups formed at the March and May Minister’s meetings.

·        The first working group focused on refugee issues and was hosted by Jordan.

·        The second working group focused on energy and was hosted by Turkey. 

 

On August 10, 2007, The U.N. Security Council Unanimously Adopted A Resolution To Expand The UNAMI Mandate

·        The U.N. Security Council sent an important signal of commitment to Iraq’s stability and security by unanimously voting to renew and expand the mandate for the UNAMI. 

·        The resolution authorizes the U.N., at the government of Iraq’s request, to promote political talks among ethnic and religious groups as well as a regional dialogue on issues including border security, energy, and refugees.

 

U.S. Ambassador To Iraq Ryan Crocker Has Twice Participated In Trilateral Talks With His Iraqi And Iranian Counterparts To Discuss Security In Iraq.  Ambassador Crocker and senior Iraqi officials met in Baghdad with Iranian officials in May and July.

·        Iranian weaponry continues to flow into Iraq, killing Coalition soldiers and Iraqis, and Iran is actively involved in training and funding “secret cells” that are destabilizing Iraq and killing innocent Iraqis. 

o       This activity must stop for any negotiations to be successful. 

·        In addition to discussions with Iranian officials, Coalition forces will continue to seek and destroy the networks that are supplying advanced weaponry to militant groups inside Iraq.