United States Embassy
Tokyo, Japan
State Department Seal
Welcome to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. This site contains information on U.S. policy,
public affairs, visas and consular services.

Main page
The Embassy
Visa services
U.S. policy
& news
Study in
the U.S.

American Centers
U.S. Promises to be Iraq's "Partner," White House Envoy Says
Wall Street Journal article by White House envoy to Iraqis Zalmay Khalilzad

A Free Country Run By Free People
By Zalmay Khalilzad

Nasiriyah, Iraq -- There has been a gathering of Free Iraqis here, and I am filled with hope as I look around at those who have come together to discuss Iraq's future. The tyranny of Saddam Hussein's regime is truly over, and we are savoring a victory for the Iraqi people. The United States, Britain and other members of the coalition made a promise to disarm the dictator and to free the people of Iraq. We are in the final stages of delivering on that promise.

America's promise to Iraq today is to be its partner, and to help Iraq move toward a representative government, one that respects the principles of justice, the rule of law and the rights of the Iraqi people. The U.S. will deliver on this promise, too, and will be with the Iraqis for as long as it takes -- until the job is done.

Our task is to build a democratic Iraq. In my meetings with free Iraqis before Operation Iraqi Freedom -- whether in London or in Iraqi Kurdistan and elsewhere -- and from what we've heard in recent days from Iraqis who are now free, it is clear that, among other things, Iraqis desire democracy. None of us, American or Iraqi, thinks that this is going to be quick or easy. History shows how challenging it is to build a democracy -- it was so in the U.S., for sure, and elsewhere in Europe, and in Asia. Iraq will be no exception.

But people everywhere share the same aspirations -- security, prosperity, freedom and self-government. And Iraq is a country vibrant in its heritage, its religious faith, its resources and its people. Iraq's very diversity -- the mosaic of Sunni and Shiite Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Yazidis and others -- is a source of tremendous richness and talent. Iraq's choices over the coming weeks and months will determine the process toward a democratic country and a new government responsible to all Iraqis.

The coalition supports the formation, as soon as possible, of the Iraqi Interim Authority -- a transitional administration, run by Iraqis, until a government is established by the people of Iraq through elections. The Interim Authority should be broad-based and fully representative. It will also be temporary. Iraq in the past has had interim constitutions that lasted too long, and transitional leaders who overstayed their welcome.

This week is the beginning of the road toward democracy in Iraq. Our meeting here in Nasiriyah, with representatives of the Iraqi people, is the first in a series of consultations with Iraqis in different parts of the country. None of these meetings will choose a government for Iraq. Rather, they will be forums for Iraqis to discuss their ideas about the formation of the Iraqi Interim Authority, and to foster an Iraqi national dialogue. Based on these consultations, a formula for constituting the Iraqi Interim Authority will be arrived at. The Interim Authority will gradually increase its authority and will provide the means for Iraqis to participate increasingly in the economic and political reconstruction of their country.

There will need to be accountability and reconciliation in Iraq. What should be done to the top leadership of the Baath party will be an important issue that Iraqis will need to decide collectively. The special position and privileges of the Baath party have already stopped as a matter of practice. That will need to be translated into law. Iraqis, as a society, must decide how to treat differently those who led the crimes of the past regime, on the one hand, and those, on the other, who joined the Baath party at the lowest levels, and are not necessarily culpable in any crimes. There should be room for those Iraqi civil servants -- teachers, police and irrigation engineers, for example -- who in the past have done their best to serve their country, not Saddam's tyranny.

The United States has no desire to govern Iraq, and I have made that clear in all my discussions here. The Iraqi people should govern their own affairs as soon as possible. As President Bush said, "The Iraqis are plenty capable of governing themselves." The American interest is to see that the weapons of mass destruction of the Saddam regime are identified and destroyed, that terrorists are apprehended, that the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people are met, that security is established and that the Iraqi people are freed and empowered to build their own future.

We also appreciate the many immediate difficulties that the Iraqis are facing, and are taking steps to mitigate the severity of their hardship. With freedom comes responsibility -- including the responsibility of not taking the law into one's own hands, but dealing with grievances in an organized, lawful manner. To this end, we will work with Iraqis and others to achieve stability.

The decision of who ultimately governs Iraq is a decision for the people of Iraq. They have suffered terribly under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. Like people everywhere, they deserve liberty, and to live in peace under leaders they have chosen for themselves. They deserve a government that respects the rights of every citizen and ethnic group. They deserve a country that is reunited, that is independent, and that is released from years of sanctions, isolation, and sorrow. As President Bush has said, "Our coalition has one goal for the future of Iraq -- to return that great country to its own people."

America will be Iraq's partner as Iraqis move toward peace, democracy, and prosperity. Their security will be our security, their success will be our success.

This column by Zalmay Khalilzad, who is President Bush's special envoy and ambassador-at-large for Free Iraqis, first appeared in the Wall Street Journal, April 17, 2003, and is in the public domain. No republication restrictions.

This site is produced and maintained by the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy, Japan. Links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.