Here is another argument for my notion of a "democratically-minded Iraqi strongman," prompted by comments today by Secretary of State Colin Powell on "Meet the Press"
SECRETARY POWELL: Of course the Iraqis want the occupation to end. They want the Coalition Provisional Authority to cease its work. And that's what's going to happen when this Iraqi interim government is established. But they need our troops there for some considerable period of time in the future to provide the security environment needed so that they can have free, open and fair elections and have the time to build up their own security forces.
TIM RUSSERT: In those free, open and fair elections, if the Iraqi people choose an Islamic theocracy, similar to what we have in Iran, we would accept that?
SECRETARY POWELL: We will have to accept what the Iraqi people decide upon. …
MR. RUSSERT: But, Mr. Secretary, if the Iraqis opt for an Islamic theocracy, which could easily become a haven for terrorists, how then do we explain to the 782 [Americans] who died, or the nearly over 4,000 who were wounded and injured, that this was worth the fight?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think that's going to be the case. I think that those who have given their lives in the cause of freedom for the Iraqi people will see that the Iraqi people are interested in creating a democracy.
I sure hope that the secretary is right about Iraqi aspirations; but I also worry very much about his sanguine acceptance of a Khomeini-style regime in Iraq, perhaps the one thing that could revive the otherwise dismal fortunes of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The best way to avoid this prospect is to delay elections – at least for the head of government – for some time. If elections need be held immediately, they should be for lesser posts. (May 16, 2004)