March 10, 2010 | By Amanda J. Reinecker
Though there remains much work to be done in Iraq, the election turnout last Sunday suggests that American efforts to promote stability and democracy in the region are paying off. Despite threats of violence, nearly 62 percent of Iraq’s 19 million voters showed up to the polls in what The New York Times describes as “arguably the most open, most competitive election in the nation’s long history of colonial rule, dictatorship and war.”
The news of Iraq’s successful parliamentary elections was all the buzz around Washington. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) joined a number of his congressional colleagues in commending those who made the election possible:
To the men and women who have served in Iraq, this is a testament to your service. To the Iraqi people, well done. Keep trying, democracy is hard, but there is a better way for your children if you continue the course that you’re on. It will be a moderating force in the Mideast at a time when we desperately need it.
But the Iraqi regime still faces many internal and external hurdles. Perhaps the greatest challenge is its larger neighbor to the east: Iran, the foremost state sponsor of terrorism. The Iranian regime is steadfast in its desire to sabotage Iraq’s democratic experiment. Its threat to Iraq’s fledging democracy cannot and should not be downplayed. Were they to succeed, the repercussions would stretch beyond Iraq and into the entire Middle East and even back to the United States.
Maintaining and improving stability in Iraq is largely contingent on how the world responds to Iran and its rogue nuclear program. To succeed, America and its allies will require a clear and well-designed strategy. The Heritage Foundation has outlined Ten Steps to a Free Iran, each of which should be incorporated into this comprehensive strategy:
1. Impose and enforce the strongest sanctions;
2. Drop opposition to U.S. gasoline sanctions;
3. Target public diplomacy to expose the regime’s human rights abuses;
4. Facilitate communications among dissidents;
5. Aid opposition groups;
6. Reduce Iran’s meddling in Iraq;
7. Target covert actions to discredit the regime;
8. Modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal;
9. Expand U.S. military capabilities to defend U.S. interests and allies; and
10. Deploy a robust and comprehensive missile defense system.
In combination, these steps will better enable America and our allies to build upon the Iraqi regime’s success by standing firm against Iran. We should work to preserve stability in Iraq, both because it benefits Iraqi citizens and because Iraq can serve as a model of freedom for the Iranian people.