- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 9, 2005

U.S. officials and foreign-policy senior statesmen yesterday speculated that the violence in Iraq will continue after the election there, but said postponing the vote was not an option and would not quell the insurgency.

“We need this election, and we don’t believe that this election will suddenly end the insurgency. The insurgency will continue,” Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday.

“It will continue until it has been defeated, defeated by the Iraqis, defeated by the coalition forces working with the Iraqis,” Mr. Powell told interviewers on ABC’s “This Week.”

Mr. Powell made his final rounds of the Sunday talk shows and was asked repeatedly to respond to a prediction last week of “imminent civil war” by Brent Scowcroft, who was national security adviser to two previous Republican presidents — Gerald Ford and George Bush.

“The Iraqi elections, rather than turning out to be a promising point, have the great potential for deepening the conflict,” Mr. Scowcroft, a consistent critic of the war in Iraq, said Thursday at a luncheon sponsored by the New American Foundation.

Henry Kissinger, Mr. Scowcroft’s boss during the Ford administration, agreed the violence will continue, but said the focus for now should be on the Jan. 30 election.

“We will have to decide to what extent we want to be involved in what may become a civil war,” Mr. Kissinger told CNN’s “Late Edition” with Wolf Blitzer.

“As this evolves, it will probably be necessary to bring about some regional autonomy in Iraq, and to give up the idea that there is one central government on the model of Saddam Hussein that can govern equally in every part of the country.

“But that is a challenge for after the election,” Mr. Kissinger said. “For now, it does no good to start debating about the difficulty of the election. It is now a necessity. The consequences of not having it would be much graver than any benefit we would get from delay.”

Mr. Powell said predictions such as Mr. Scowcroft’s are not helpful.

“The alternative then is not to have an election and [not] to give the Iraqi people choice, or to delay the election for some indefinite period,” Mr. Powell told CNN.

“Our position and the position of the Iraqi interim government and the overwhelming desire of the Iraqi people is to have this election,” he said.

On “Fox News Sunday,” Mr. Powell said he shares Mr. Scowcroft’s concerns that the insurgency will continue, but said holding the election on schedule is key to building the new democracy.

“The alternative cannot be: Let’s just keep postponing elections or not have elections. We need to give the Iraqi people this opportunity, on the 30th of January, to speak out for how they wish to be led,” Mr. Powell said.

“We’re going to have to defeat this insurgency in the field with coalition troops, with Iraqi troops, and hopefully with an elected government that the people will now turn to as their government, not just a government appointed by the coalition or appointed by the United Nations,” the secretary of state said.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Carter and a member of the panel at which Mr. Scowcroft spoke last week, criticized the election process on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” but said it still should go forward as planned.

“In my view, the United States and the president has invested so much in the holding of the elections, and has made it so much a test of American determination, that to suspend them now would probably be a mistake,” Mr. Brzezinski said.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “cutting and running” would hurt efforts to build Iraqi democracy and to establish the rule of law. He dismissed canceling or delaying elections as “really sort of grasping at thin air.”

“We don’t know what the outcome of these elections will be on January 30th. But we know — at least we were told today by the United Nations representative, the coordinator who was there on the ground — that we are on the road to expecting elections that can be credible … as well as independent,” he said.

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