US Warns Syria, Change ProTerrorist stance on Iraq
U.S. Envoy Warns Syria To Change Pro-Terrorist Policies on Iraq
Khalilzad says time is running out for Damascus
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington – Syria is the “number one offender” in the Middle East region working to impede the success of Iraq, according to U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad.
In a September 12 briefing, the ambassador said Syria is knowingly allowing terrorists to use its territory for training exercises and permitting them to transit across Syria into Iraq and kill Iraqis.
“There is blatant interference by Syria in Iraqi affairs by allowing these terrorists to come across… Our patience is running out. [The Iraqis’ patience] is running out. We have given them every opportunity to mend their ways, to change. They have not done that,” he said.
He added: “Let me tell our Syrian friends that they should not miscalculate, that they need to decide. Iraq… will succeed. Iraq is a neighboring state of Syria. Iraq is going to be a rich country. It’s going to be a strong country, a powerful country. It behooves Syria to have good relations with this country.”
Khalilzad said Syrian interference in Iraq “will be dealt with” and “all options are on the table” for addressing the problem if Damascus does not change its approach toward Iraq. “Syria has to decide what price it’s willing to pay in making Iraq’s success difficult, and time is running out for Damascus to decide on this issue,” he said.
The ambassador said he has been in discussions with Iraqi leaders about the transfer of security responsibilities to Iraqis.
“We have formed a joint committee since I have been there with the Iraqi leaders and ourselves to define conditions for the increased transfer of responsibility, and we will come to some agreement with them in the next couple of months as to a vision of transfer of responsibility and a plan for transfer of responsibility that will be condition driven, and we will make that known to everyone,” he said.
He said that the security plan would be based on specific goals and timelines. He added that he believes a substantial withdrawal of U.S. and coalition forces can take place within the next two years.
Khalilzad also said he has been heartened to see average Iraqis taking increased responsibility for their own security in recent weeks. In particular, he pointed to the actions of Sunni tribesmen against the forces of Jordanian-born al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as a positive sign.
“It’s critical for the success of Iraq that Iraqis, whether Sunni, Shia or Kurd, protect their country, defend their country, and the sign that I see in these tribes, in Sunni tribes standing up to Zarqawi, a positive development,” he said.
The ambassador said he is encouraged by the increasing popular interest in engaging in the political process, particularly within the Sunni community, where he said voter registration has been as high as 90 percent. “I’m very, very happy with the trend in terms of Iraqis registering to vote. That means that politics is coming to Iraq,” he said.