Iraqi Official Says Pullout By U.S. Would
TAMPA - Imposing a deadline for the
withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq would doom the
country's democratic government and unleash
sectarian warfare across the Middle East, Iraq's
national security adviser said Sunday.
"It will play into the hands of the terrorists,"
Mowaffak al Rubaie said of the plan by congressional
Democrats to make funding for the war contingent on
a timed exit of U.S. troops.
"The consequences are not Iraq splitting into three
or four. This is simplistic," al Rubaie said. "The
whole region would be up in fire - sectarian war
everywhere in the region."
The recent surge of U.S. troops in Baghdad has
succeeded in averting a civil war, al Rubaie said.
Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in
Iraq, was too conservative in his assessment of the
increase during recent testimony before Congress, he
"If we had met six months ago, we would have said
the country's on the verge of civil war," al Rubaie
said. "Nobody's talking about civil war now."
In a wide-ranging interview with local media, al
Rubaie cast Iran's government as a key element in
resolving Iraq's internal violence, a role that
would seem unlikely given the Bush administration's
harsh assessment of Iran as a major source of
Al Rubaie's defense of Iran reflects the challenge
Iraq's Shiite-led government faces in trying to
maintain good relations with Iran without upsetting
the United States.
The United States has accused Iran of providing
weapons and other support to al-Qaida and insurgent
elements in Iraq. But al Rubaie said he's seen no
proof of such activity.
"I'm saying this categorically: there is no solid
evidence that Iran is supporting or helping al-Qaida
in Iraq," al Rubaie said.
Al Rubaie, who has been Iraq's national security
adviser since March 2004, is here for a series of
meetings with coalition officials at U.S. Central
Command, which is responsible for managing the war
The meetings will be led by Centcom chief Adm.
William Fallon and Petraeus. Heightening the
importance of the sessions, President Bush is
scheduled to arrive at MacDill Air Force Base on
Al Rubaie emphasized the importance of the United
States and Iran beginning a dialogue that would
de-escalate the tensions between the two. Iraq can
help, he said.
"It's very important for Iraq to get the United
States and Iran talking to each other," he said. "We
believe Iraq can be not a mediator, but a medium, if
you like, for the United States government and the
Iranian government to communicate."
Iran will attend a conference on Iraq in Egypt this
week, a move al Rubaie called very positive.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also is
scheduled to be there.
"It's a step" toward breaking the "psychological
barrier" between Iran and the United States, al
Iraq has asked the United States to release five
Iranian officials captured in Iraqi Kurdistan by
U.S. forces in January, al Rubaie said. Doing so
would assist in starting a dialogue.
Iraqi leaders are well aware the United States has
invested heavily in "blood and treasure" in Iraq, al
Rubaie said, but he urged Americans not to have
After years of dictatorial rule by Saddam Hussein,
Iraq is on the path to democracy.
But it will be a long time before the country is
stable enough to make it on its own.
Four years after the U.S-led coalition toppled
Hussein from power, al Rubaie said Iraq's military
and security forces are still developing.
It would be "extremely difficult," he added, to set
a timetable for when they would be able to defend
the country without substantial outside assistance.
"You need some strategic vision. You need strategic
patience. This is not a fly-by-night operation," he
said. "I know the patience is running. But the
mission is still there. Failure is not an option."
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