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Iraqi Lawmakers Say U.S. Study Ignored Them


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

In Iraq, politicians have been waiting for the Iraq Study Group's report, many of them with an air of polite skepticism. Although, many agree with some recommendations such as strengthening the Iraqi security forces, they questioned the wisdom of other proposals such as encouraging more involvement from Iran and Syria. Many also point out that the Iraq Study Group spoke with very few Iraqis.

NPR's Corey Flintoff has reaction from Baghdad.

COREY FLINTOFF: The Baker-Hamilton Commission did in fact visit Baghdad for four days in August and September. And the members met with around 40 top government officials. Only one member, Senator Chuck Robb, went outside the concrete and razor wire confines of the Green Zone. And that was a very heavily guarded trip to Anbar province. That's one of the things that frustrates Mahmoud Othman.

MAHMOUD OTHMAN: They should have tried to see more people. Not only see the government, not only see the people who are in this Green Zone. See the people who are against them also.

FLINTOFF: Dr. Othman is a member of the Kurdish bloc in parliament. He was not among those who were consulted by the commission. Lawmakers were also skeptical about the purpose of the Iraq Study Group.

Dr. Saleem Abdullah is the spokesman for one of the smaller Sunni-Muslim parties. He thought two general problems that the panel might deal with, the Iraqi political and sectarian crisis and the American stalemate in Iraq.

SALEEM ABDULLAH: (Through translator) We think that the commission will come out with recommendations to deal with the second problem: How to save America from the impasse in Iraq. I don't think that the commission will come out with a proposal to rescue ordinary Iraqis from their political and security problems.

FLINTOFF: Despite their reservations about the group and its process though, most lawmakers were well informed about their recommendations the commission made public today. Mahmoud Othman, the Kurdish representative agrees that American combat troops should be gradually withdrawn but he's also in favor of doing it according to a clear set of deadlines.

OTHMAN: And it's always better than not having a timetable and saying just go upstairs much as it's needed will not stay one minute more - stay the course as President Bush always says. I think these words are now hated by people.

FLINTOFF: Saleem Abdullah disagrees, saying that a date certain is simply an embarrassment when the deadline isn't met. Abdullah and other lawmakers all agree that an American withdrawal shouldn't be completed until Iraq's own security forces have been properly trained and equipped.

One place where they differed significantly was the question of whether to open up dialogues with Iran and Syria, Iraq's neighbors often accused of meddling in the country's affairs. Ali al-Yassiri is a leading spokesman for the Sadrist, the movement loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. He calls it an insane idea.

ALI AL: (Through translator) For three years, we've talked about the negative and dangerous influences that countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria have had on Iraq. Now politicians in the U.S. are talking about giving these countries an official role in our country. I really am confused.

FLINTOFF: Hassan al-Shammari is a member of parliament from a smaller Shiite group. He favors the inclusion of Iran and Syria.

HASSAN AL: (Through translator) I believe that it's a very positive step because the influence these two countries have in Iraq can't be ignored.

FLINTOFF: Al-Shammari says that despite the fact that the U.S. and Britain have refused to engage with Iran and Syria, it makes more sense to bring them into the political process. Al-Shammari also fears that American politics could tie up the U.S. government and keep it from following any coherent policy during the run-up to the presidential elections in 2008. He wonders whether Democrats will ever allow any Iraq policy that results in what might be perceived as a win for President Bush and the Republicans.

ABDULLAH: (Through translator) We hope that Democrats along with the Republicans will restrain themselves and not turn Iraq into an arena for settling not only regional scores but partisan scores from other countries.

FLINTOFF: The people who are most likely to be affected by any change in American strategy are the ones who know least about the process that's been going on for the past nine months. Most ordinary Iraqis have never even heard of the Iraq Study Group.

Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Baghdad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corey Flintoff
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