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IRAQ: Speaking in advance of Crocker-Petraeus testimony

April 7, 2008 |  1:16 pm

Ahead of U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus' testimony to Congress, ordinary Iraqis spoke about Iraq's current situation. While they felt things were better than January 2007, when Iraq's civil war was at its height, many are worried about the future. Below are some Iraqis' thoughts.

Sabah Wajih, 45, Sunni, a civil engineer who works at a construction company:

"This is just for the benefit of the American public. When was the last time that a report made any significant change. I think the last time they spoke to Congress is just before the so-called security plan when they basically convinced Congress that adding troops would resolve the problem. But when you think about it, it wasn't the troops that instigated a relative state of security. It's all about the money and it's always been that way. Pay one of your former enemies to get rid of Al Qaeda elements and that's it. Therefore I don't think that the so-called surge really worked according to plan.

"The Iraqi government has even reached the point that it was under the illusion that it was actually gaining power, but the recent events in Basra go to show that it still has a long way to go to attain that objective.

"I don't think that the security situation will ever stabilize as long as the U.S. and Iran are enemies. Mark my words, once -- if ever -- a compromise is reached between these two, you will see a radical shift in the circumstances in Iraq.

"The American people are all about show biz, show them something on TV or the Internet and they'll believe it. The state which they have reached is sad. It's like they have lost touch with reality, and they'll believe anything their government or the media, for that matter, tells them. In my mind, the system there is no different than Saddam's system. The only difference is that they enforce their control in a subtle and clandestine manner while Saddam used to resort to aggressive and often overt forms of control."

Mohammad Hashim, 24, a teacher from western Baghdad:

"Whenever I say the situation gets better, things get worse: sometimes from Qaeda and sometimes the militias are behind the bad situations. We hope the situation becomes better but in reality, it doesn't. The attacks are less than before. The improvements are tangible but Iraqis always feel afraid that the peaceful time is just the quiet before the storm. Although Al Qaeda is paralyzed, the militias are stronger now and have better arms and more people are joining them for different reasons. The elections are the motive behind all the fighting. As long as the militias exist, the situation will not get better but in comparison to the last year, the situation now is good."

Ibrahim Ferid, 34, Catholic Christian, who works as a small-business construction contractor:

"Who is Crocker? What has he done for the Iraqis? Nothing. I mean he's not as bad as Bremer, but in the end there's nothing that he's done that I'm aware of that has had a positive impact on the situation in Iraq.

"Petraeus, he basically subdued the resistance by paying them money for working with them and now they consider him a war hero and genius strategic planner. He's just doing what Saddam Hussein was doing while he was in power, buying the loyalty of the tribes, so has the situation changed? I think the Americans are slowly realizing that they have to revert to the tactics that Saddam was using in order to maintain a semblance of order in this country. But of course they won't admit it. They're just going to act as if they're the ones who came up with the idea.

"This whole reporting to Congress thing is just to please American public opinion. I'll bet you anything that five years from now there will still be a large presence of troops, perhaps less active, and that the political situation will not have been resolved because America is going to have a very hard time finding the right candidates who would implement their agenda in the region unconditionally."

-- Times staff writers