A new White House report on Iraq shows slim progress, moving just one more political and security goal into the satisfactory column: efforts to let former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to rejoin the political process, a senior administration official told The Associated Press.
The latest conclusions, to be released Friday, largely track a comparable poor assessment in July on 18 benchmarks. The earlier White House report said the Iraqi government had made satisfactory gains toward eight benchmarks, unsatisfactory marks on eight and mixed results on two.
Congress required President Bush to submit the report to lawmakers, assessing whether the Iraqi government had made progress toward achieving the 18 goals. In the new report, the Iraqi government showed movement on only one of the benchmarks.
The goal of enacting and implementing legislation on so-called “de-Baathification” was rated satisfactory instead of unsatisfactory, the official said Thursday evening. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the report had not been made public.
Such a law hasn’t passed, but the official pointed to the tentative Aug. 26 power-sharing agreement among leading Iraqi politicians.
“This agreement by no means solves all of Iraq’s problems, but the commitment of its leaders to work together on hard issues is encouraging,” Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told Congress earlier this week.
White House offers no confirmation
In testimony this week, Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said Iraqis are struggling to come to terms with a vicious past in the matter of “de-Baathification.”
“They are trying to balance fear that the Baath Party would one day return to power with the recognition that many former members of the party are guilty of no crime and joined the organization not to repress others but for personal survival,” Crocker said.
The White House wouldn’t confirm the contents of the report and has tried to lower expectations about its findings.
“It has only been 58 days since the last assessment of July 15, which showed the Iraqis are making some progress in many areas but that in others they are lagging,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Thursday. “While everyone continues to work toward more political reconciliation, we don’t expect dramatic differences in the Sept. 15 report compared to the one submitted less than two months ago.”
Congress included the 18 benchmarks in a war-spending bill in May.
White House more upbeat
The White House report is more positive than two other recent Iraq progress reports that harshly criticized lack of progress in Iraq.
The Sept. 6 report by the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, chaired by retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones, said Iraq’s security forces will be unable to assume control of the country in the next 12 to 18 months without U.S. help and that the national police force is rife with corruption and infiltrated by militia forces and should be disbanded.
The Government Accountability Office progress report on Iraq, released Sept. 4, said violence in Iraq remains high, fewer Iraqi security forces are capable of acting independently, and the parliament in Baghdad has failed to reach major political agreements needed to curb sectarian violence.