Iraq: US Post-War Policy under Scrutiny: The Euphoria That Followed the Iraqi Elections in January Has Dissipated with the Recent Upsurge in Violence. during a Visit Last Month, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Urged Patience but Many Iraqis Believe They Have Shown Fortitude Enough
Darwish, Adel, The Middle East
AMERICAN SECRETARY OF STATE Condoleezza Rice, urged 'patience' for the country's fragile new government, during a heavily guarded surprise trip to Iraq on 15 May.
"This the nearest a high ranking American official, second only to President George W. Bush in the neo-cons hierarchy, admits that the American project in Iraq has seriously gone wrong.
Miss Rice was a chief architect of the US-led invasion as White House national security adviser during Mr Bush's first term and was his companion during his own surprise visit to Iraq on Thanksgiving Day in November 2003.
"Obviously there is a security situation," Miss Rice told reporters as she left fortress Baghdad, for the mountain stronghold of Kurdish Democratic Party leader Massoud Barzani, riding in an Apache military helicopter under extremely heavy guard, "I wanted to go to Iraq at the right time, and the right time is now when they have a new government."
Miss Rice said the Iraqis have made remarkable political progress that can overcome the recent surge of violence. Someone ought to tell her that over 500 lives, mainly Iraqis--82 in one day by four suicide bombers--more than 30 Americans, and one British soldier, have lost their lives since the new government was sworn in a month ago. The escalation in violence, observers agree, is a testament to the insurgents' ability to regroup and recover from setbacks.
Miss Rice said she wanted to discuss the new government's upcoming tasks including writing a constitution, as well as addressing the country's security and infrastructure needs. Hardly any observers, including many Iraqi officials, believe the new government can meet the August deadline for writing a federal constitution.
Miss Rice's visit came as US Marines wrapped up a week-long campaign against insurgents along the Syrian border. 'Operation Matador' saw the most intense fighting for US forces in months. The name, like most American codenamed military operations, was a source of endless jokes in and around Iraq. "How appropriate," a tribal chief said, "except that the matador is facing this bull in a china shop not in an arena." He was referring to the way Iraqis have come to regard American behaviour in dealing with a situation they suspect to be dangerous.
During a US offensive 200 miles west of Baghdad, nine Marines were killed and 40 injured as they searched the Euphrates River villages of Karabilah, Rommana and Obeidi for followers of Iraq's most-wanted terrorist, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi.
Some 125 hardcore militants were killed, a US official told The Middle East, and the area close to the Syrian frontier, suspected of being a key supply and infiltration route for the rebels, is now considered 'flushed out'.
Iraqi sources in Damascus claim some 25 Iraqi Baathist leaders are sheltering in Syria. American commanders are debating whether to use diplomatic or other action to stop them, western diplomats say. There are also reports of insurgent leaders slipping across the Iraqi border into neighbouring Jordan to hold co-ordination meetings.
Syrian tribesmen accuse the Americans of short-sightedness and fostering trouble for the future. "Clearly the Americans want us [the Syrians] to patrol the borders because they don't want their marines to get hurt," said a retired Syrian army officer, "but this is unrealistic, we will not take our army away from our borders with Israel and our police from our cities just to patrol 300 miles of desert borders."
He said the Americans come and start heavy fighting for a day or two, then they go away "leaving lightly armed Syrian borderguards, and local tribesmen to face the wrath of the heavily armed insurgents".
The broad national picture in Iraq seems paradoxical in the extreme. Rapid progress is being made in various key indexes of economic activity, but the vital psychological need for peace and security goes unmet. …