Iran — Election, Transition Proves Iraqi Stability

WASHINGTON, June 11, 2010 — Troops and equip­ment con­tin­ue to leave Iraq as the draw­down dead­line approach­es, and in their place, the Iraqi peo­ple are step­ping up to take con­trol of their coun­try, a spokesman with U.S. Forces Iraq said.

Army Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Lan­za spoke yes­ter­day with blog­gers on a “DoDLive” Blog­gers Round­table about the progress made not only by Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces, but by the nation as a whole over the past year.

On June 1, two impor­tant mile­stones occurred in Iraq, pro­vid­ing sym­bol­ic and sub­stan­tive exam­ples of the coun­try and its secu­ri­ty force’s growth, Lan­za said. First, the Unit­ed States for­mal­ly tran­si­tioned the last nine check­points it joint­ly staffed in the Inter­na­tion­al Zone, or Green Zone, to Iraqi forces. Sec­ond, the Iraqi Supreme Court announced the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of the March 7 elec­tion results, a crit­i­cal step in the process of peace­ful­ly form­ing the new gov­ern­ment.

The over­all improved secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion today and the ever-increas­ing capa­bil­i­ties of the Iraqi forces are direct­ly respon­si­ble for these two accom­plish­ments, Lan­za said.

“I think this is indica­tive, first, of all of the greater sta­bil­i­ty with­in Iraq. It’s also indica­tive of the fact that this is allow­ing us to tran­si­tion from com­bat oper­a­tions to sta­bil­i­ty oper­a­tions, on 1 Sep­tem­ber, as part of our respon­si­ble draw­down,” he said. “I would high­light the fact that as a result of this improved secu­ri­ty, Iraq has been able to devel­op strate­gic depth and has also moved real­ly far both eco­nom­i­cal­ly and diplo­mat­i­cal­ly.”

The elec­tion is a crit­i­cal step, Lan­za said, because it’s the first time Iraqis have had a tru­ly open, demo­c­ra­t­ic elec­tion, with 62 per­cent of cit­i­zens vot­ing.

“They were actu­al­ly able to choose the can­di­dates that they want­ed to, which is some­thing that has nev­er been done here before,” the gen­er­al said. “The four polit­i­cal par­ties ran on an agen­da of nation­al uni­ty, and the two top issues for the peo­ple who vot­ed were jobs and essen­tial ser­vices, with secu­ri­ty being No. 4.”

The improve­ments have man­i­fest­ed them­selves in a num­ber of oth­er ways, Lan­za said, from decreased vio­lence to changes in social and gov­ern­ment are­nas. In south­ern Iraq, from Babel province to Bas­ra, he not­ed, there has been a large down­turn in attacks.

“Vio­lence in south­ern Iraq has tapered off,” he said. “Just last week there was a total of nine attacks.”

Pre­vi­ous­ly, police in the coun­try had trou­ble con­trol­ling vio­lence in many areas, and in some cas­es were con­sid­ered per­pe­tra­tors or accom­plices in attacks. But Iraqi Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Jawad al-Bolani has turned the force around, Lan­za said. Now, the 40,000-strong fed­er­al police corps is well-trained and loy­al to the con­sti­tu­tion, he said.

“The loy­al­ty to the force has been tremen­dous and that has bro­ken down some of the bar­ri­ers that per­haps you have seen in the past few years with the last min­is­ter of inte­ri­or and how the police was real­ly involved in sec­tar­i­an vio­lence,” the gen­er­al said.

“I would say the fact that … we have real­ly bro­ken away from sec­tar­i­an vio­lence here has allowed the police to actu­al­ly grow in the eyes of the pub­lic,” he added. “The lat­est polling data we have here is that 80 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion sup­ports the Iraqi army and 70 per­cent sup­ports the Iraqi police, which is a tremen­dous num­ber and part of that obvi­ous­ly comes from the suc­cess dur­ing the elec­tion.”

In addi­tion to the cer­ti­fied elec­tion results ear­li­er this month, Lan­za said, there also is a major fem­i­nist shift in the Iraqi gov­ern­ment and secu­ri­ty forces. There are grow­ing num­bers of women serv­ing in the Iraqi army and police, and the Iraqi Coun­cil of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives is about 25 per­cent female – 82 mem­bers out of 325.

“It’s the largest amount of women rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the Arab world and I would pos­tu­late per­haps with­in most gov­ern­ments right now that 20 per­cent of the [leg­isla­tive body] will be women,” he said. “It’s not just help­ing women move for­ward, it’s also chang­ing the cul­ture of how men in this cul­ture approach women, not only in the work­place, but in the coun­try.”

The result, Lan­za said, is a smooth tran­si­tion out of the coun­try for U.S. forces as they draw down to 50,000 troops by Sept. 1. The U.S. mil­i­tary has closed or trans­ferred 370 bases in the coun­try so far, and moved some 700,000 pieces of equip­ment back to the Unit­ed States, Army Cen­tral Com­mand in Kuwait, or to sup­port Oper­a­tion Endur­ing Free­dom in Afghanistan.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)