29 June 2004
Iraqi Government Must Win Hearts and Minds, Says Iraqi Envoy
Rend Al-Rahim speaks of political, security, economic
issues June 28
By Brian Kaper
Washington File Writer
Washington -- Iraq's new ambassador to the United States, Rend
Al-Rahim, said the interim Iraqi government has to deal with several
issues to win the battle for the "hearts and minds" of the Iraqi
people and assure the survival and future prosperity of Iraq.
Speaking June 29 at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington,
Al-Rahim said the first step in solidifying Iraq's sovereignty
is the selection of 275 representatives to an interim national
council. A conference is scheduled for July with nearly 1,000 participants
who will decide on the final composition of the council, she said.
Al-Rahim said she hoped the council would prove to all the different
factions within Iraq that political participation is possible for
"I think more Iraqis need to feel that they are part of the political
process. Again, we have not been successful in that. We need to
bring more people in, engage them more."
Defeating terrorism and establishing security were of the greatest
necessity, Al-Rahim said. The ambassador said the problems resulting
from terror are hurting Iraq through tremendous loss of life and
loss of massive amounts of money.
Al-Rahim said the fight against terror would require more than
sheer numbers in security forces. Rather, the government had to
address the conditions that lead individuals to embrace terror,
"This has to be a national battle against terrorism, not just
a battle waged by the security forces, by the national guard and
by the army. It has to be a battle waged by every Iraqi, civilians
as well as uniformed. And to do that, we must sell the new order
to the entire Iraqi population, and we must sell it to segments
of the Iraqi nation that hitherto may have not been totally persuaded," Al-Rahim
Al-Rahim said the people of Iraq must realize that the insurgents
are not attacking coalition forces in order to better the people
of Iraq, but rather the insurgents are attempting to prevent prosperity
for the people of Iraq.
"The new government must get all Iraqis on its side in the war
on terrorism. It has to expose the terrorists for what they are:
not so-called resistance against occupation, which is nonsense,
but criminals who hate the new order in Iraq and simply want it
to fail. This is their only agenda."
Al-Rahim said the presence of multinational forces in Iraq was
crucial to the government's efforts to stabilize the country. She
also called for Iraq's neighbors to help guard shared borders as
a means of keeping foreign insurgents out.
The ambassador also spoke of the need for the government to "win
people's hearts through winning their wallets and their bellies." It
was her hope that the government would be able to put people to
work as soon as possible in order to quell dissent and help Iraqis
to put food on the table.
"We must absolutely rethink our strategy for rebuilding in Iraq.
And the new government, which will now have a lot of authority
in awarding contracts from the Development Fund for Iraq, they
must concentrate on labor-intensive projects that can employ tens
and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and get money into the pockets
of Iraqis and again give them a stake in the new Iraq," Al-Rahim
Al-Rahim cautioned against placing too much pressure on the new
government to accomplish too much too soon. However, the ambassador
said the people of Iraq, including the Kurds, Shia and Sunni, would
be better off under a free and democratic government than under
the old regime.
"I have no doubt that the situation will improve and will improve
drastically, but we need to moderate the expectations," she said.