Reporting from Washington —
The spokesman for Iraq's Kurdish region criticized the Obama administration Thursday in Washington for not doing enough to end the current political impasse and urged American officials to embark on "intense shuttle diplomacy" between the deadlocked political parties.
Qubad Talabani, who represents the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq, said U.S. officials in Iraq have had limited involvement in efforts by political parties to form a government in the two months since the inconclusive national elections in March.
Talabani said the Obama administration appeared determined to avoid the perception that it is "trying to concoct a democratic Iraq." But, he said, the U.S. must "look out for its interests" to ensure the country has a stable, democratic government.
"It would be a shame to see an undemocratic government, after all the sacrifices," Talabani said in an interview after an appearance at the Nixon Center think tank in Washington.
Talabani, who is the son of Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani, said that U.S. officials have remained largely on the sidelines, but most neighboring states, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey have been "heavily involved" with the politics in Iraq.
"There has got be serious thought given to how the United States applies its leverage," he said. "They've got to help us get our act together."
Christopher Hill, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, has said the nation's Sunni Arabs must be adequately represented in the new government.
Talabani said that although U.S. officials have urged a "stable representative government," they have refrained even from calling for a democratic state. He acknowledged, however, that both Hill and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have stepped up their calls for compromise.
The protracted standoff has raised fears of violence, especially if it appears that the country's Sunni Arab minority will lose out in the new power structure.
Iraq's ethnic Kurds have long worried about domination by the larger Sunni and Shiite Muslim populations, and they have often appealed to U.S. officials to look out for their interests along with what they see as those of the country as a whole.
U.S. officials have insisted that the political standoff would not affect plans to withdraw U.S. combat troops from Iraq by August. But Talabani said that, in meetings with Kurdish officials, U.S. military officials have emphasized that they have flexibility to slow the withdrawal should violence increase dangerously in the country.
He said U.S. military officials have told him that "nothing is written in stone." At the same time, Talabani said, U.S. officials have expressed confidence that they will be able to handle nearly any contingency with the 50,000 troops that will remain after August.