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Stick to Timeline For Continued Progress in Iraq, Expert Says

(Washington, DC--September 16, 2005) By sticking to the timeline, Iraq's political and religious parties can achieve compromise and continue their progress in building democratic institutions, according to an Iraq expert. Michael Rubin, a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who recently visited Iraq, told a RFE/RL audience last week that the United States should not delay the established timeline for Iraq, because "more time doesn't improve the situation." And, within the Iraqi context, Rubin said, "If you make concessions, you don't get compromises, just more demands."

Federalism, Rubin said, can be a "saving model" for Iraq that can bridge the considerable cultural, religious and social differences among Iraqis and allow for diversity within a unitary state. Yet, there is a major problem with federalism, according to Rubin, because Iraqis do not know what it means, nor do they understand its benefits. Rubin faulted Iraqi political leaders for not explaining the benefits of federalism to their constituents. He acknowledged that federalism is not easy, because of the "patronage and corruption which exists in Iraq." Federalism can serve as the basis of a fair constitution that offers a compromise on the role of religion in Iraq -- "Federalism is a solution for the Shi'a" and "a safety valve to prevent an authoritarian regime" in Iraq, said Rubin.

Rubin said that security in Iraq is marginally better now than last year. For example, he said, "Bandits, not insurgents, are the problem on the road between Kirkuk and Baghdad." "It would be wrong to correlate the insurgency with the number of car bombs," according to Rubin, who asserted that the coalition needs to shut down the bomb-making source, because the insurgency is "not nationalist, has no united platform" and "is not trying to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis." Rubin advocated that the "power brokers" among Iraqis need to focus on eliminating the "multiple insurgencies" in Iraq.

Despite the major difficulties facing Iraqis, Rubin said the draft constitution is "not a lost cause." He is optimistic that the constitution can be approved in the referendum scheduled for October 15. Rubin suggested that voter fraud can be minimized by having "people from distant cities in Iraq" manning voter boxes, and appeals to Arab nationalism and the ancient empires within Iraq could serve to maximize voter turnout.