Rice: Iraq Isn't Becoming Another Iran

By KEVIN FREKING
The Associated Press
Sunday, August 6, 2006; 1:11 PM

WASHINGTON -- Iraq is not on track to become another Iran despite the disconcerting images last week of Iraqis burning U.S. flags and chanting "Death to America," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday.

"I have no doubt that this is an Iraqi government and an Iraq that is going to be a fierce fighter in the war against terrorism, because they themselves are experiencing the effects of terror on their population," Rice said. "I have no doubt that this is going to be a government that is on the right side in the war on terror."

The protests in Baghdad on Friday were organized by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in response to fighting in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah. Crowds of al-Sadr supporters from across Iraq's Shiite heartland chanted "Death to Israel, Death to America" in the one of the biggest pro-Hezbollah rallies since the conflict began July 12.

Rice, during an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, was asked whether the United States has helped create another fundamentalist Islamic regime in Iraq, such as the one in Iran. Rice said she did not like what the protesters said, but she believes that Iraq today is better off than when sectarian differences were oppressed through the iron rule of Saddam Hussein.

"That people would go out and demonstrate and say what they feel is the one sign that perhaps Iraq is one place in the Middle East where people are exercising their right to free speech," she said. "No. I don't like what they said."

She said she thinks that as Iraq becomes more stable and democratic "you won't have demonstrations of that kind.

"The notion that somehow Iraq under Prime Minister (Nouri al-Maliki) and his government is something akin to Iran is just not right. It's just erroneous," Rice said.

Rice also disputed suggestions that civil war is more likely than democracy.

But two senators appearing on CBS's Face the Nation both gave much more pessimistic assessments.

"This is a civil war. I think the generals, the other day, were cautious in their language. But I think they were telling us something loud and clear to anyone who wanted to listen," said Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn. "I frankly don't believe that U.S. military people can necessarily play referee in that kind of a situation."

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., shared the gloomy assessment.

"I think where we go from here, with all the problems and inconsistencies, is a cold, hard assessment that Iraq is not going to turn out the way that we were promised it was," Hagel said. "That's a fact, not because I say it. That's where it's going, just as the general said it very honestly, I think, this week, before the Congress."

Both senators encouraged more involvement and discussions with other countries in the Middle East. Hagel said President Bush should get his father and former President Clinton involved in a regional summit. But he also acknowledged that the prospects for success would be unlikely.

"There are no good options here, no good options," said Hagel, a possible presidential candidate in 2008.


© 2006 The Associated Press