Viewing cable 05MUSCAT562

05MUSCAT5622005-04-06 08:12:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Muscat
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
¶1.  Embassy Muscat held a digital videoconference with Dr. 
Phebe Marr, Senior Fellow at the United States Institute of 
Peace, on the impact of the Iraqi elections on the future of 
Iraq.  Dr. Marr acknowledgopined that the elections were 
flawed and that sectarian issues played a prominent role in 
their outcome.  Nevertheless, she considered the elections a 
landmark event in Iraqi history that has put the country 
squarely on the road to democracy.  About 20 Omanis 
participated in the exchange, posing thoughtful -- and 
thought-provoking -- questions.  End summary. 
An Important Step 
¶2.  On March 28, we hosted a 90-minute digital video 
conference (DVC) with Dr. Phebe Marr,  Senior Fellow at the 
United States Institute of Peace, an independent, 
nonpartisan institution created by Congress to promote the 
prevention, management, and peaceful resolution of 
international conflicts.  Dr. Marr addressed 20 Omani 
interlocutors from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 
journalists, magazine editors, and members of the Diplomatic 
Institute, on the importance of the recent Iraqi elections. 
¶3.  Dr. Marr pointed out that before Saddam Hussein's 
removal Iraq did not have a promising future, but his 
removal and the subsequent elections have put the country on 
a better pathfuture.  She Marr stressed that although the 
elections were flawed due to an insecure environment and a 
lack of adequate voter education or party-building, they 
nevertheless brought a sense of empowerment to the Iraqi 
people. In addition, she predicted that the electoral 
victory of sectarian party listssectarian election results 
will force the diverse segments of Iraqi society to 
compromise in order to form a representative government. 
Change Won't Come Easily 
¶4.  Dr. Marr stressed stated that Iraq will face challenges 
such as continued sectarian violence and mistrust, a slow 
reconstruction process, the ethnic and religious obstacles, 
and the difficulty ofin drafting a constitution acceptable 
to all groups of the society.  Dr. Marr argued that the 
insurgency is not the biggest threat to a democratic Iraq, 
but is a factor that will delay investment and the return to 
stability.  She also discounted the possibility of civil 
war, citing the willingness of Sunnis to rejoin the 
political process and Kurdish acceptance of autonomy within 
Iraq as signs that key factions have opted to play a role in 
the new government. 
What Do The Neighbors Think? 
¶5.  Dr. Marr opined that the Iraqi elections were a strong 
indication that democracy can take hold in Arab countries. 
She speculated that Iraq could play a role in spreading 
greater openness to Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Syria, 
Iran and Egypt, but acknowledged that these countries would 
not necessarily welcome this influence. She predicted, 
however, that they would not seek to destabilize Iraq 
because an unstable Iraq would not be in their interest. 
Ms. Marr suggested that the smallerArab Gulf Sstates would 
not feel threatened by a democratic Iraq because they have 
already instituted moderate changes that provide their 
citizens greater liberty and increased political power. 
Answering The Hard Questions 
¶6.  Dr. Marr participated in a lively Q&A session following 
her presentation.  In response to a question about U.S. 
interests in the region, she said the Bush administration is 
committed to liberalization and stated her belief that U.S. 
and coalition forces will depart Iraq when the Iraqi 
government asks them to do so.  She noted the impatience of 
the American people for the troops' return.  In addition, 
she stated that it is unlikely that the U.S. will use 
military force to initiate regime change or democratization 
in Iran or Syria. 
¶7.  When asked whether current Iraqi leaders should be 
viewed as legitimate, Dr. Marr noted, "These people have 
lived outside of Iraq for a long time.  I consider them 
volunteers who have come to help rebuild their homeland and 
train a successor generation to take over.  I doubt that 
very many of them will remain in their positions ten years 
from now."  She also rejected a suggestions that Gulf states 
could deflect U.S. pressure to democratize by establishing 
or expanding relations with Israel, stating, "While the U.S. 
wants the countries to have better relations with Israel, 
the two issues are separate." 
¶8. When asked if the U.S. is pushing for "selective 
democracy" in the region, Dr. Marr responded that the policy 
makers in the Bush administration who want democracy are 
committed to it everywhere.  However, she acknowledged that 
the amount of pressure placed on a country might be 
influenced by other factors, such as national security 
¶9. Although contactsaudience members did not always agree 
with Dr. Marr's point of view, they appreciated her 
thoughtful analysis of the situation in Iraq and largely 
shared her assessment that the elections were a momentous 
event in Iraqi history.  Most agreed with her assessment 
that it is time to leave disagreements about the war behind 
and consider ways to rebuild Iraq and help it to advance on 
the road to democracy. 
Getting the Word Out 
¶10.  Linking Omanis directly with a respected Iraq expert 
helped advance our MPP goal of garnering more Omani support 
for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Iraq.  It also 
enabled us to address the misperceptions that the U.S. will 
remain in Iraq indefinitely and hopes to install an U.S.- 
controlled government there.  The program's timing during 
the formation of the new government and prior to the 
drafting of the new constitution provided an excellent 
opportunity to call attention to the positive implications 
of the elections for the future of that country.