"Not firepower, but willpower" - Reid sets out conditions for security handover in Iraq
In a speech to the Foreign Press Association in London
on 7 February 2006, Defence Secretary John Reid has set out the conditions under which coalition forces can complete the handover of security in Iraq.
John Reid's message was that the coalition would not cut and run - the handover of responsibilities to Iraqi forces would be driven by the security environment, judged by the Iraqi people themselves, rather than by an arbitrary timetable. The most important factors would be a manageable threat from insurgents, Iraqi security forces able to deal with this threat themselves, effective local government supported by strong central government, and coalition forces able to provide support backup to local forces if needed.
Mr Reid outlined the enormous progress already made: the Iraqis now had a constitution which can be amended through a democracy; a fair and representative political process, in which all Iraqis have a say; a growing economy in which the benefits of Iraqi oil are shared by Iraqis. And military forces which worked for, rather than against law-abiding Iraqi citizens.
Handing over security responsibility would not be simple or quick, and the extremists would likely step up their efforts to derail the process as it unfolded. Like any other country, the Secretary of State said that Iraq would not be without its problems, but it would be a free nation with a great future, deserving the support and goodwill of the international community.
The full text of the Secretary of State's speech is below
"Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and thanks for coming.
"I'm very conscious that in the nine months since the PM asked me to take on this job I have not met enough of you, the London
-based correspondents from around the world.
"The FPA, as ever, provides a perfect venue to do this, and it's vital that it should. In a world of shared threats which ignore national boundaries, and of coalition solutions, it is more vital than ever that we speak to each other regularly.
"With this in mind I've asked my staff to ensure that the FPA will, from now on, be provided with a number of seats at the MOD's regular off-camera background briefings.
"I will try to meet as many of you as I can before I go tonight, and I shall be returning to the FPA in a few weeks for another event at which I'll have time to answer more of your questions, but I ask you to forgive the brevity of my time here this evening.
"I want to speak to you tonight about Iraq. Specifically, the year ahead.
"I believe the next twelve months are crucial for the Iraqi people and for all of us in the international community that are joined in helping to support them.
"This is the year when a constitutionally elected Iraqi Parliament and Government, will assume greater responsibility for Iraq's security, its regional and international relationships, and development of its economy.
"If the months go well, they bring the day closer when the Iraqi people can finally take control of their own futures.
"That also means that the time is approaching when the coalition which is helping them achieve this can begin leaving Iraq.
"I fully understand that for you in the media the issues of troop numbers and dates are often the story.
"For what should be obvious security reasons we cannot respond to speculation about this. To do so would be to invite chaos.
"But all of this depends on the conditions we have drawn up and the circumstances on the ground being right.
"We will not cut and run. Our commitment to Iraq and its people is unchanged and we have made significant progress.
"I have already made plain the conditions under which we will handover to the Iraqi government and security forces. Tonight I will set out in specific terms what those conditions are, and how Iraq will look when they are met.
First, we need to see a manageable level of threat from insurgents, be they criminal or political.
Second, the Iraqi security forces must be more able to deal with this threat themselves.
Third, local government bodies need to be effective, while central government supports them.
And finally we, ourselves, must be confident that we can provide support and backup to local forces if needed.
"If and only if these conditions are met and if things in Iraq continue to progress as they are, there will be significantly fewer British forces there by next year.
"I think people generally understand this, but where I think there is confusion is in how people imagine Iraq will look at this point.
"Our purpose in Iraq has never been to create a mirror-image of our own nation. That would never work, and it is not what Iraqis want.
"Our purpose has been to give Iraqis the tools to build the kind of nation they want. It is not for us to say how that nation should look. That is for Iraqis to decide.
"We must not lose sight of the fact that Iraq is a vastly different nation to our own in almost every way. It has never, and probably will never, look like a western European country.
"Alongside that is a different attitude to authority and allegiance. Very strong and ancient family, tribal and religious ties take this well away from what many Europeans and Americans would regard as our modern norm.
"There will be other key differences. The Iraqi judicial system will not look like ours in the UK, for example.
"And no doubt there will still be the potential for abuse by officials, we have to accept this reality. But, the system will no longer reward and promote officials for their brutality but prosecute and punish them. Where it happens the system will expose it not cover it up, and will strip offenders of their positions and jail them.
"But Iraqis do share common hopes with all of us, regardless of where we come.
"They want peace, security and freedom from persecution. They hope for a better future for themselves and their children, and for the opportunity for jobs and to make the best of their lives.
"They are at the beginning of that road: moving towards a nation governed through democracy, representative of all its diverse peoples.
"What we leave behind must be able to grow and adapt to these differences. National pride is something we do share with Iraqis, so we well understand their desire for us to leave just as soon as the conditions are right. We want that too.
"We're well on the way. In four key areas there has been real progress. Iraqis now have:
a constitution – not the arbitrary rulings of a despot; a constitution which can be amended through a democratic and consultative process;
a new, fair, representative political process in which all Iraqis have an equal say in how their lives are governed – not a cruel dictatorship that suppresses any opposition;
a growing economy in which the benefits of Iraqi oil will go to all Iraqis – not to build lavish palaces or fill hidden bank accounts;
military forces working for, not against law abiding Iraqi citizens;
"Progress has been significant. But we must not lose sight of the scale of the task. The enemies of Iraq are formidable, and whilst the police, for example, have made good progress there is still a long way to go.
"Handing over security responsibility is not likely to be rapid or simple. It does not mark the end, only the end of the beginning. The extremists will attempt to step up efforts to derail this process as it unfolds. It is clear the Iraqis must stand firm, with Coalition support where needed.
"The terrorists fear a free Iraq. They fear a prosperous Iraq. They fear an Iraq whose people have genuine hope for a better future. They fear an Iraq where children, girls as well as boys, go to school to learn about the world around them.
"Most of all they are desperately afraid of an Iraq whose people come to see extremism as the enemy of progress not as an answer to injustice
"They fear that spectre because they know that such an Iraq would strike a mortal blow against their campaign to shape a very different kind of Middle East.
"The Iraqi people have conclusively shown that the extremists' template for Iraq is one they utterly reject.
"Every vote cast in December – some 11 million of them -represented a courageous determination to build a better nation that should humble those who take their democratic rights for granted.
"Our job is to help Iraq to reach that point. Our key task is not, as some claim, to defeat the insurgency ranged against Iraq. It is to ensure that Iraqis have the ability to do that.
"This insurgency is not as simple as some would have it.
"Some, are the sort of fundamentalists we see in other parts of the world –ruthless, extreme terrorists.
"Some are senior partners in the former Saddam regime. Both of these are irreconcilable.
"But many of those attacking us and the good work we do are Iraqis themselves. In many cases, their anger stems not from a political or religious difference, but from economic hardship.
"In a few parts of the country the most disturbing truth is that whilst the majority do not, and would not, take part in attacks, they are essentially passively acquiescing.
"These groups are reconcilable, we can advise, but bridging that gap is something that can only be done by Iraqis themselves.
"Ironically, the only result of continued terrorist violence has been, and will be, to delay our withdrawal not to hasten it.
"On all of these fronts the new Iraq will need assistance and advice from all of her neighbours and friends in the Arab world.
"I welcome, for instance, the Arab League's initiative to promote national dialogue. I think there is a growing understanding that regional Arab involvement is an essential part of the solution, and that a failure to engage would leave a vacuum for others to exploit.
"For the wider international community the answer here is not firepower, it is willpower. We must bring opportunity to these people. A wider international partnership including the Arab states can help deliver that. This is a year in which the international community will need to shoulder its responsibility to engage as a partner to a lasting Iraqi government and parliament.
"So how will we know when we have succeeded? When can our people come home?
"Clearly it's more complex than a combat situation, when “victory” is more easily defined.
"In the simplest terms it will be when the Iraqi people, through their elected government, want us to leave.
"That will happen when they are confident that they can deal with their own security issues.
"Iraq will not be without its problems. Nobody is really expecting us to leave behind us a trouble-free society. No such thing exists.
"It will be a free nation, an equal nation, with a prosperous future, with great opportunity, with the goodwill of the international community, with our support.
"But the point at which Iraqis are fully in control of their nation again will not be the point when attacks cease, when infrastructure is without fault, when there is nothing left to do.
"The day we leave will not be the final step on the road for the new Iraq. It will be the first.
"It will be the point when Iraqis have built themselves a fledgling nation beginning to play its part in the world; stable enough to be making economic advances, educating its children, giving support to its poorest; and giving hope and opportunity to all.
"We cannot say what Iraq will ultimately look like beyond that. That is a choice for the Iraqis.
"Our achievement, our hard won success, and one we can be proud of regardless of individual views of the Iraq war, will be to have given a desperate, hopeless and brutalised people the opportunity to make Iraq a free, prosperous and democratic nation state."