WASHINGTON – The Iraqi government achieved "satisfactory" progress on 15 of 18 political benchmarks, almost twice the number it had reached just a year ago, according to a White House report.
In a May 2008 report to Congress obtained by the Associated Press, the Bush administration wrote that Baghdad politicians reached several new agreements seen as critical to easing sectarian tensions.
Iraqi politicians passed legislation that granted amnesty to some prisoners and allowed former members of Saddam Hussein's political party to recover lost jobs or pensions. They also determined that provincial elections would be held by Oct. 1.
Only two of the benchmarks — enacting and implementing laws to disarm militias and distribute oil revenues — remained "unsatisfactory."
One benchmark was deemed to have brought mixed results. The Iraqi army has made satisfactory progress on the goal of fairly enforcing the law, while the nation's police force remains plagued by sectarianism, according to the administration assessment.
Overall, militia control declined and Baghdad's security forces "demonstrated (their) willingness and effectiveness to use these authorities to pursue extremists in all provinces, regardless of population or extremist demographics," as illustrated by recent operations, the report concluded.
Some critics, however, said the White House used a false standard for determining success.
Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., who requested the administration's updated assessment following a report 12 months ago, scoffed at the new findings.
He criticized the report for looking at whether progress on a goal was "satisfactory" rather than whether the benchmark was fully met. He estimated that only a few of the 18 benchmarks were fully achieved.
Even as reconciliation measures continue, it remains unclear how many former Baath members will be able to return to their jobs. And while Oct. 1 had been identified as an election day, Baghdad hasn't been able to agree on the rules, possibly delaying the event by several weeks.
"Iraq has the potential to develop into a stable, secure multiethnic, multi-sectarian democracy under the rule of law," Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said in April when he last testified before Congress. "Whether it realizes that potential is ultimately up to the Iraqi people."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.