WASHINGTON – Iraq will spend more on jobs and reconstruction to battle the insurgency in the restive west, but neighboring Syria must clamp down on terrorists crossing the border, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh said Thursday.
Saleh met with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and told a Pentagon news conference he did not request more American troops for Anbar province because that would be a military decision.
A senior American commander in Iraq, Marine Maj. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer, said this week the military can't defeat insurgents in Anbar with current troops levels — and that political and reconstruction progress is needed to win over people in the region.
Saleh said it is important to "get our Syrian neighbors to behave more responsibly ... and to clamp down on the presence and activity of some of the former regime leaders who are presently in Syria, as well as some of the terrorists that are going across the borders."
The U.S. and Iraqi governments have long accused Syria of not doing enough to stop insurgents crossing into Iraq to fight U.S. troops. Syria denies that, saying it is impossible to fully control the long desert border.
For his government's part, Saleh said, officials are working to build up Iraqi security forces and are working with tribal chiefs in Anbar to make the "environment ... less permissible for these terrorists and extremists to act."
"And we need to move in fast with economic reconstruction," said Saleh, who was meeting later Thursday with Vice President Dick Cheney.
"I personally met with the governor of Anbar 10 days ago or so. And we have agreed to release a lot of funds," he said. "We need to do a lot more to make sure that people will see benefit with security, as well. It's not just a matter of security operations. People need to see reconstruction and they need jobs being made and so on."
Saleh laid out a timetable for legislation over the next six months that he said also will move Iraq forward, saying for instance that by the end the year it will pass a law that will distribute oil wealth to all sectors of Iraqi society.
Kurds in the north and some Shiite Muslims in southern Iraq — Iraq's two chief oil regions — want regional control over oil production and revenues. But Iraq's Sunni Muslims and much of the Baghdad government want to maintain national control over Iraq's petroleum resources.
Other legislation will focus on investment law, disarming and demobilizing private militias blamed for much of the violence in Iraq and reforming the de-Baathification commission. That body worked on purging members of Saddam Hussein's ousted Baath Party from the military and government, a move some believe helps fuel the insurgency.