The White House gave a mixed progress report Thursday on 18 so-called benchmarks for political, military and economic reforms in Iraq. What follows is a look at obstacles confronting some of these U.S.-set goals. The grade in each case is from the Bush administration, and the Associated Press takes a closer look at the realities on the ground.
GOAL: Legislation on ways to restore political, government and military positions to selected members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party.
PROGRESS: Unsatisfactory, according to the Bush administration.
REALITY CHECK: Some draft plans have been discussed among Iraqi parliament members, but there’s been no clear action on any proposal.
GOAL: An oil law to share wealth in “an equitable manner” among Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and other Iraqi groups.
REALITY CHECK: The draft law is bogged down due to wide differences between Sunnis and Kurds on local control of oil fields. No firm compromise is in sight.
GOAL: Allowing Iraqi military and police to operate independently and with “evenhanded enforcement.”
REALITY CHECK: Many complications exist. U.S. commanders say Iraqi forces are not at full strength and training is slowed by problems including desertions and equipment shortages. U.S. estimates say Iraq’s security forces could be months – or even years – away from operating effectively without American reinforcements. The troubles are particularly acute in the national police.
GOAL: Reducing the level of sectarian violence and eliminating militia control of security forces.
PROGRESS: Unsatisfactory, but with some components of progress.
REALITY CHECK: Militias still hold influence over the Shiite-led security forces. Overall violence showed some declines following the launch of a Baghdad security crackdown in February, but bloodshed is climbing again, according to figures compiled by the AP. In July, civilian deaths jumped backed up to levels of violence not seen since December, with an average of at least 75 Iraqis killed each day.
GOAL: Provide three trained and ready Iraqi brigades to support operations in Baghdad.
REALITY CHECK: The units are in place but not at full strength. Kurdish forces show the best capabilities so far. Others lag behind.
GOAL: Review the 2005 constitution and recommend amendments to meet Sunni aspirations.
REALITY CHECK: The review committee has been formed and has held meetings but asked for more time to finish work. Kurds and Shiites want very limited changes.
GOAL: Establishing all of the planned U.S.-Iraq joint security stations in neighborhoods across Baghdad as a way to gain better contact with residents.
REALITY CHECK: Most of the planned stations have been set up, but some have come under attack and questions remain about the effectiveness of the civilian outreach.
GOAL: Ensuring that the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi legislature are protected.
REALITY CHECK: Efforts are stalled as tensions remain very high between Sunni parties and the Shiite-led government. Feuding between Shiite parties also has increased.
GOAL: Laws to begin disarming militias and demanding loyalty to the central government.
PROGRESS: Too early to assess.
REALITY CHECK: Such reforms are extremely difficult to achieve and directly challenge Iraqi cultural and tribal traditions.
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