- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Yesterday, an important meeting took place between President Bush and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, hearalding a new era in Iraqi-American relations. For the first time in the history of the two nations, the White House received the first freely and democratically elected president of Iraq.

The Iraqi president conveyed a thank-you message from the people of Iraq, who were empowered to vote last January, for making a democratic Iraq a reality. But this will not be it. The two men will quickly realize that both of them are in one trench, they are fighting the same enemy — the al Qaeda terrorist organization.

Just over two years ago, the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein was in power. He was using his power to kill innocent Iraqis and was using the affiliates of al Qaeda to spread carnage, death and destruction in areas of Iraq he could not reach.

The group of Ansar al-Islam in Iraqi Kurdistan, formed on Sept. 1, 2001, is an affiliate of al Qaeda that killed many innocent civilians before they were kicked out of their mountainous strongholds near Iran by the joint U.S.-Iraqi offensive as the war of liberation was taking place in the rest of Iraq.

Today, thanks to the United States and its allies, a young democracy that elected Mr. Talabani is in place. But the enemies of Iraq and the United States are doing their utmost to undermine the new Iraq and prove that the “Western model of democracy does not work in the Middle East.”

The remnants of Saddam’s regime and the terrorists of al Qaeda, helped by the negligence or the recklessness of some of Iraq’s neighbors, are still clinging on to the dark vision of taking Iraq back to the days of isolation and dictatorship and failure of democracy.

Those who committed the September 11 atrocity are today killing Iraqis and are conducting a campaign of terror in any place in the world they could get to — London, Madrid, Sharm el-Sheikh, Turkey and Lebanon.

Iraqis and Americans know that the terrorists of al Qaeda have no objective but death and destruction; they thrive on it.

They showed no remorse for any human suffering. After Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Talabani told Mr. Bush in a message of condolences: “We would also like to reassure you that at these difficult times in Iraq, and as we mourn our dead in Baghdad, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of New Orleans, Grand Isle, Gulfport, Biloxi, Mobile and all other areas hit by the hurricane.”

With glee, the leaders of al Qaeda were exchanging messages of greetings and congratulating each other for “the start of the end of America.”

Regardless of the country, the beliefs and political opinions, the terrorists of al Qaeda are fighting one war, and so should the two leaders who met yesterday in Washington. They should be aware of the reality that they are facing one enemy, an enemy that is merciless and wants to bring nothing but death and destruction.

As Mr. Talabani’s fellow citizens are busy establishing a democratic, pluralistic and federal Iraq, they have become a main target for the terrorists and those who want to see America fail.

Iraqis know that America is a friend and democracy is possible in the Middle East and the terrorists want to prove it is not.

The people of Iraq are fighting them on two fronts: by building a security force and by having an inclusive democratic political process for all Iraqis.

With the help of their allies, the Iraqis are building security structures that are modern and capable. While the people of Iraq are grateful for the protection that the United States is providing, their presence and help is vital until Iraq can stand on its feet.

Furthermore, Iraqis have just completed one of the most important documents in Iraq’s history, a draft constitution that enshrines many of the values of the free world. Getting to the document was not an easy task. The drafting process was faced with many hurdles, but as president of this diverse ethnic, cultural and religious mosaic, Mr. Talabani took it upon himself to be the moderator and broker of the processwhenhestarted marathon deliberations until the majority of the participants reached the draft.

Next month, Iraqis will vote on the draft, and a higher turnout than the January election is expected. Although the draft constitution is very likely to be ratified, ratifying it or not is not relevant. The important point here is that the snowball of popular participation will create a sense of ownership of the new Iraq among those who are reluctant to accept it and are being exploited by the terrorists.

This in addition to America’s continued engagement with Iraq will isolate the terrorists and eventually eradicate them.

Hiwa Osman is media advisor to President Jalal Talabani.

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