- The Washington Times - Friday, August 31, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

With evidence mounting that the troop “surge” in Iraq is achieving results, even diehard opponents of the war like Sens. Carl Levin and Dick Durbin have been forced to concede that the change in strategy ordered by President Bush is working militarily. The American public seems to believe that victory can be achieved in Iraq. According to a UPI/Zogby Poll released on Wednesday, 54 percent of Americans said the war is not lost. So, in recent weeks, these politicians have turned their attention to the lack of political progress in Iraq.

But on Sunday, five Iraqi political leaders (Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi’ite; President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd; Vice President Tariq Hashemi, a Sunni; Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, a Shi’ite; and Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government) announced they had reached agreement on “de-Ba’athification” — the policy that barred many members of Saddam Hussein’s overwhelmingly Sunni Ba’ath Party from holding positions in the post-Saddam government. They also agreed on provincial elections; a law to distribute oil revenue; and a law providing for the release of prisoners held without charge. All of these changes were demanded by the Iraqi Accordance Front, the major Sunni bloc in parliament, which created a political firestorm when it withdrew its six ministers from from the government Aug. 1.

The most important of these is the de-Ba’athification agreement. U.S. officials concluded years ago that the relatively far-reaching purge of Ba’athists which took place after Saddam’s ouster in 2003 had been a mistake, and that the ban should be restricted to the most senior-level Ba’ath Party members. But until Sunday’s announcement the Iraqis themselves had been deadlocked, on the issue. The main stumbling block had been the fact that Iraqi Shi’ites, who had been brutally repressed by Saddam’s dictatorship, were not prepared to yield. Now, that appears to be changing.

To be certain, Iraq’s democratically elected leadership has a long way to go as far as implementing such an agreement is concerned. Powerful forces, among them al Qaeda and the terror backers in Tehran and Damascus, are likely to redouble their efforts to foment civil war and destroy any possibility of reconciliation. But it’s also clear that things have been changing for the better in Iraq in recent months. Now that an agreement has been reached, the challenge becomes implementing it.

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