London, Asharq Al-Awsat- David Satterfield, the deputy US ambassador in Baghdad, has placed the rehabilitation of the Iraqi economy at the top of the new Iraqi Government’s list of priorities following security and stability.
Speaking to members of the Arab press, Satterfield stressed that the time has come for Arab nations to define their position concerning Iraq by giving moral and financial support to its government because the time “for sitting on the neutral fence” is over.
Satterfield, who will soon be appointed a senior adviser to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and coordinator of policy in Iraq, said Iraq’s infrastructure is in ruins and some of it has not been modernized for 50 years and needs at least $1 billion in order to modernizing them.
Satterfield highlighted the Iraqi Government’s present efforts at fighting terrorism and drawing up the plans for Iraq’s revival. He said the Iraqi Government is following the steps of national reconciliation and a comprehensive security plan that starts in Baghdad while dealing with pending problems like merging the various kinds of militias with the army and the regular security apparatuses. The security plan starts with the announcement of a general amnesty followed by a firm handling of any armed actions that will be considered terrorism against the state’s sovereignty with which the government will deal firmly.
He also felt positive regarding Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s announcement of the government plan on the basis of reconstruction and national reconciliation as it is important for the Iraqis, the Arab countries, and the world to see progress in Iraq, especially in security matters.
Regarding the Arab nations, Satterfield observed that most of them continue to watch the situation from afar without declareing their commitments, either to help the Iraqi Government boost security or to fulfill the promises made by some countries to write off Iraq’s debts. He stressed that the time for sitting on the neutral fence is over and these governments must act to back Iraq and enter into a dialogue with it and also into strategic partnerships that serve both sides’ interests.
He referred to the importance of nurturing Iraq’s economy so that it can reach a level of being able to welcome foreign investment. This requires intensive government investments in the infrastructure and the oil sector. After pointing out that Iraq also needs much support from the Arab countries and international community in general, he said, “Iraq needs some time and our best efforts.” He underlined the need for Iraq to conclude a tacit agreement with the international community by which Iraq ensures and guarantees international investments while the international community makes efforts in return for building Iraq and moving it to the stage of prosperity. He said an oil industry that is open to the world from whose revenues the Iraqi people benefit is better than the present mafias of smuggling that do not care about Iraq’s interests but only their own.
According to Satterfield, the confrontation with “Al-Qaeda” is continuing inside and outside Iraq. As to the so-called “resistance” and all the other militias, a dialogue between them and the Iraqi Government is possible for the purpose of participation in the political process but on condition that they give up violence.
The US official noted that violence is threatening Iraq’s stability and its future and the presence of various militias has to be dealt with. He said Al-Qaeda is aiming to ignite a sectarian war and Al-Zarqawi’s death is a success in the effort against Al-Qaeda but not the decisive victory.
Satterfield attacked what he called the Iranian conduct in Iraq, which he considered responsible for some of the violence taking place there. He added that the Arab countries and the Arab League should not leave the Iraqi stage for others in this way and must have a dialogue with the Iraqi Government and back it because this is in their interest too.