Iraqi Leader In 'WSJ' Op-Ed Claims Progress -- 'NYT' Disputes

By: Greg Mitchell Who you going to believe? The leader of Iraq or The New York Times? The choice arose today as the two offered diametrically different views of political progress in Iraq.

Just as the Times reported a failure in Iraq to reach or even approach "benchmarks," Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki appeared on the editorial page of the friendly Wall Street Journal claiming gains.

He opens: "Americans keen to understand the ongoing struggle for a new Iraq can be guided by the example of their own history. In the 1860s, your country fought a great struggle of its own, a civil war that took hundreds of thousands of lives but ended in the triumph of freedom and the birth of a great power. Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation signaled the destruction of the terrible institution of slavery, and the rise of a country dedicated, more than any other in the world of nation-states then and hence, to the principle of human liberty."

Maliki then tackles several U.S. demands, including reform of the de-Ba'thification law ("This has not been easy, but we have stuck to that difficult task)" and oil sharing (?Iraq is well on its way to passing a new oil law?).

He closes with ?we are neutral and dedicated to our country's right to prosperity and a new life, inspired by a memory of a time when Baghdad was -- as Washington is today -- a beacon of enlightenment on which others gazed with admiration.?

The Times, meanwhile, on its front page, kicks off the Damien Cave article this way: "Iraq?s political leaders have failed to reach agreements on nearly every law that the Americans have demanded as benchmarks, despite heavy pressure from Congress, the White House and top military commanders. With only three months until progress reports are due in Washington, the deadlock has reached a point where many Iraqi and American officials now question whether any substantive laws will pass before the end of the year.

"Kurds have blocked a vote in Parliament on a new oil law. Shiite clerics have stymied an American-backed plan for reintegrating former Baathists into government. Sunnis are demanding that a constitutional review include more power for the next president.

"And even if one or two of the proposals are approved ? the oil law appears the most likely, officials said ? doubts are spreading about whether the current benchmarks can ever halt the cycle of violence gripping Iraq?s communities."

He wrote that before today's latest bad news: another attack on a shrine in Samarra that promises to inspire another new wave of retaliatory violence.


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