A new White House report on Iraq will show improved progress on just one of 18 political and security goals — efforts to allow 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. 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.
In testimony this week, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, 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.
The official said the latest progress report will show the Iraqi government was making satisfactory progress on items including:
• Establishing and supporting political, media, economic, and services committees in support of the stepped-up security plan in Baghdad that the president announced in January.
• Providing three trained and ready Iraqi brigades to support Baghdad operations.
• Ensuring that the Baghdad security plan will not provide a safe haven for outlaws, regardless of sectarian or political affiliation, as Bush says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has pledged to do.
• Establishing all of the planned joint security stations in neighborhoods across Baghdad.
The report, according to the official, will cite unsatisfactory progress on other issues, such as:
• Enacting legislation to formally distribute oil resources equally among Iraqis without regard to their sect or ethnicity.
• Ensuring that the Iraqi security forces are providing evenhanded enforcement of the law.
• Increasing the number of Iraqi security forces units capable of operating independently.
• Ensuring that Iraq’s political authorities are not undermining or making false accusations against members of the Iraqi security forces.
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.