LIANE HANSEN, host:
Kenneth Pollack is the Director of Research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. His article, The Right Way: Seven Steps Toward a Last Chance in Iraq, appears in the March issue of the Atlantic Monthly.
The article is based on a set of recommendations by the Iraq Policy Working Group, a team of experts brought together by the Bookings Institution, and Kenneth Pollack joins us in the studio. Welcome to the program.
Mr. KENNETH POLLACK (Director of Research, Saban Center at Brookings Institution): Thank you. It’s great to be here.
HANSEN: You write in the article that we have a unique window of opportunity in Iraq now and that, this year, 2006, is decisive for the future of the country. Why?
Mr. POLLACK: Well, there are obviously two reasons, only one of which we dealt with. The first reason, the one we really didn’t deal with, was American public opinion. It’s very clear that the American public is losing faith and losing patience with the reconstruction of Iraq, but of course the Iraq Policy Working Group that we brought together was a group of non-partisan experts on Iraq, on reconstruction and military affairs.
We didn’t deal with American domestic opinion, and so the main thrust of that point, for us, was that we felt that Iraqi public opinion was equally fragile; that for the last three years, the Iraqis have faced disappointment after disappointment from the reconstruction. We know that there is a low level civil war burning; that there is ethnic cleansing going on. They’re putting up with it because they all know that civil war would be disastrous for them. They want reconstruction to succeed, but as time goes by and their hopes are not satisfied, more and more of them are turning away from the process of reconstruction altogether, and we just didn’t think we had that much more time to get this right.
ISIS is also keen to target Italy now because it’s one of the few major European countries it hasn’t yet struck. They’re hoping to inspire violence there so that they can say, in effect, 'we’ve already attacked your capitals in London, in Paris, and in Barcelona, and now we’ve attacked Rome. There’s nowhere we can’t reach.'