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Former U.S. official: Iraq situation better than media shows

Kidnappings and beheadings seem increasingly common in Iraq, but the situation may not be as dire as portrayed in the U.S. media.

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi spoke to the Joint Session of the U.S. Congress on Sept. 23 and said that elections could be held today in 15 of the 18 provinces of Iraq.

Jim Mayfield, former south central regional coordinator for local government development in Iraq, spoke in support of Allawi’s claim Tuesday in the Hinckley Institute of Politics.

“We’ve done a great service to the Iraqi people,” Mayfield said. “I’m here to tell you that [Allawi] is correct. There are only three provinces in which we couldn’t hold elections…in my year in Iraq, no one ever shot at me, I never saw an explosion and why? Because I never went to those areas.”

The remaining regions of tension within Iraq lie within the Sunni triangle, which extends from Baghdad on the east to Ramadi on the west and Tikrit to the north.

That region includes the constantly publicized region of Fallujah and houses some of Saddam Hussein’s most loyal supporters-the Ba’ath Republican Guard-whom Mayfield calls the major threat to Iraqi peace.

He affirmed, “Many men and women are dying in their struggle against the terrorists that operate within not even 10 percent of the municipalities of Iraq.”

The violence in the majority of Iraq has subsided sufficiently to establish local governments as 16 governors, 221 mayors and heads of school boards have been appointed. In addition, there is some Internet capacity in half of the high schools, according to Mayfield.

While in Iraq, Mayfield said he had a staff of 1,000 Iraqis, 90 percent of which had degrees as engineers and experts in health and education.

“I’ve worked in most of the Arab countries. I’ve worked at the local level. I know the quality and the competency of local government officials, and I want you all to know that the level of competency among the local Iraqi officials is absolutely amazing,” he said. “If there is one thing that Saddam Hussein did right, that was the establishment of an effective university system.”

While most of Iraq is peaceful, Mayfield also acknowledged the severity of what’s happening between the Sunnis and Shi’ites.

“I wish I could describe to you the intensity of this fight, and how it’s being distorted in the press,” he said. “Ongoing violence in Iraq is perpetuated by a small minority of Sunni Muslims obsessed with the potential of a Shi’a leadership.”

There are about 4 to 5 million Sunni Muslims in Iraq, compared to 15 million Shi’ites.

Some Sunnis are “obsessed with the potential of a Shi’ite rebellion, a blood revenge for the brutality and torture Shi’ites endured under Saddam,” Mayfield said.

Many Iraqis who work with Americans are threatened as well.

Mayfield gave the example of one of his employees, an Iraqi CPA, whose wife and children were threatened by zealots who wanted the man to stop collaborating with the United States.

After Mayfield told the man that no job is worth risking his family’s safety, the Iraqi replied, “I was 2 years old when Saddam Hussein came to power, and I have lived all of my life with intimidation and brutality and imprisonment of my family, my friends and my colleagues. My wife and I have decided we are going to stay because we believe local government is the key to the future of democracy in Iraq.”

That situation occurred in 2003 and the Iraqi has since taken over Mayfield’s job.

“The courage and dedication of these kinds of Iraqis never gets covered in the press,” Mayfield said.

The speaker moved on to address the newly revealed tie between al-Qaida and Iraq, which has contributed to the violence in the Sunni Triangle.

Osama bin Laden is a Saudi Arabian Sunni and has declared war on the United States and Shi’a Islam.

Mayfield said there are about 300 al-Qaida operatives in Iraq working with Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi who have assassinated several Iraqi leaders since January 2004, 97 percent of whom were Shi’ites.

The Shi’ites make up just 10 percent of Muslims, but with a 65 percent representation in Iraq, they are the majority in the country.

“Sunnis will fight to the death, and Iraq has a very challenging future with 10,000 extremists willing to kill and blow themselves up,” Mayfield said.

He added that Saddam’s regime reminded him of 1929 Germany when Hitler had only 500 supporters, but was able to take the entire German country.

“Ninety percent of both sides want a non-dictatorial government and Iraqis are pleading with us to allow them their own system of government. We want them to have a democracy based on Islamic ideals” such as equality, justice and non-violence, Mayfield said.

He added that after removing 35 years of horror in a dictatorial regime, Iraqis want the United States to be out after 35 months, after a stable, reasonably secure area has been established.

While the majority of the topics Mayfield addressed involved the Shi’a and Sunni tensions, he added that peace cannot be attained in the Middle East without fixing the problem in Palestine and withdrawing support of dictatorial regimes that give the U.S. cheap oil in return.

Although Allawi’s views go hand-in-hand with those of the United States, Mayfield said even if Allawi doesn’t win, “the U.S. will commit to let that happen.”

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