Iraq cannot turn in a single day from a
dictatorship to a fully-fledged democracy: U.S.
By Al Arabiya
U.S. ambassador says Americans
have left behind a young democracy
The U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, James Franklin
Jeffrey (L) .Photo: Al Arabiya TV.
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January 28, 2012
The Americans left behind a fledgling democracy in
Iraq, the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, James Franklin
Jeffrey, said in an interview on Al Arabiya’s Point
Jeffrey, who became ambassador to Iraq in August
2010, said the country is no longer a threat to its
people and neighbors, and is not pursuing chemical
weapons, as was the case during Saddam Hussein’s
time in power.
Instead, Iraq is holding elections and enjoys an
active parliament, together forming the base of a
democratic state, he added.
“We Americans, despite many years of direct
engagement in Iraq, are not experts on the country,
but we are experts for 65 years in helping countries
develop,” Jeffrey said.
The ambassador said that Iraq cannot turn in a
single day from a dictatorship to a fully-fledged
democracy, citing Taiwan as an example.
Since U.S. troops’ withdrawal from Iraq at the end
of 2011, Iraq continues to be marred by bombings.
Political crisis also plagues Iraq, with the Shi’ite-led
government seeking the arrest of Tareq al-Hashemi,
the Sunni vice president, after charging him with
coordinating death squads. Al-Hashemi, who has
sought refuge in the semi-autonomous region of
Kurdistan, has caused some tensions between the
government and Iraqi-Kurdish leadership.
Al-Hashemi refused to stand trial in Baghdad, saying
that the judiciary is not independent, and insisted
he will stand trial only in Kurdistan. Meanwhile,
the government of Kurdistan has not responded to
requests from Baghdad to hand him over.
Asked if the U.S. has a vision to solve Iraq’s
political crisis, Jeffrey said, “We talk with all
Iraqis. The general consensus is that for this
problem to be solved the root causes of the problems
must be dealt with by the partners in this coalition
In addition, we need to ensure the judiciary is
independent and not a target of political debate,
and we need to maintain constitutional procedures,
and there is an agreement about that and the issue
is how to implement it,” the ambassador said.
“We left because we thought Iraq could have a stable
government and society without the presence of U.S.
forces, and we still believe that,” he said, after
being asked if the bombings in Iraq were caused by
some sides being keen to prove that Iraq cannot
survive without the presence of U.S. troops.
“Those attacks were planned in advanced and have
nothing to do with the withdrawal or presence of
U.S. forces,” he said.
He also rebuffed the claim that continuous bombings
after the withdrawal were retaliation for the Iraqi
government’s support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
The ambassador said that violence has “dramatically”
subsided since 2007-2008, adding that Iraq is
similar to many other countries suffering from
“It is not the issue of having a political dispute,
as many countries have them, but it is the way of
dealing with such disputes,” he said.
Another problem facing Iraq is that the Sunni-backed
Iraqiya bloc urged a boycott of parliament, most
notably after one of its prominent members said
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a
People from the Sunni provinces are also demanding a
federal region to alleviate what they called random
arrests. All of this has put stress on the fragile
coalition of Shi’ite,www.ekurd.net
Sunni and Kurdish parties forming Maliki’s coalition
Meanwhile, the ambassador said that the U.S.
supported U.N. Security Council Resolution 1483,
which supports a unified, pluralistic and democratic
“I believe most Iraqis support just that” he said.
“Federalism is in the constitution of Iraq, and we
as Americans, we have no position to be pro or
against, it is up to the province to agree or not.”
Massoud Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous
Kurdistan in Iraq, told Al Arabiya that the U.S.
withdrawal from Iraq will pave the way for a civil
war in Iraq.
“Iraq has many dangers that it faces every day,” the
ambassador said, citing Barzani as a wise observer
of the situation in Iraq and saying that “his word
should be taken seriously.”
The ambassador said that a report in The New York
Times stating that around $11 billion was
transferred via the embassy to support the Iraqi
army is not “correct”.
“We have run a program of over 100 police advisors
and lawyers and other personnel working with the
interior and justice ministries for less than a
billion dollars this year.”
According to the New York Times, the figure
mentioned is for “foreign military sales for the
Iraqi military forces.”
The ambassador also rejected a claim that he met
with Harith al-Dhari, an anti-U.S. cleric and
chairman of the Association of Muslim Scholars.
“I can confirm that I have not met with Harith al-Dahri
and neither has any American of executive rank.”
He said that al-Dhari is considered to be a
supporter of terrorism and does not have any
solutions for Iraq.
The ambassador also said that reports that the U.S.
embassy in Iraq had 15,000 personnel and was the
biggest embassy in the world is false.
He said the number of personnel working in the U.S.
embassy in Iraq is “not larger than China, Japan or
Mexico,” adding staff were channeled from different
countries, including Iraq, to work in areas such as
Asked if the trillion-dollar war against Iraq was
worth it, the ambassador said: “I have a personal
opinion on that; it is always justified for any
American to die for his country. In terms of our
activity, we let history to decide that … I am
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