Kurdish Leader Says U.S. Should Hit the Road

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, June 27, 2003, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Iraqi opposition to American occupation seems to be growing stronger by the day, even among Iraqis who are working with our government. There's even a suggestion that the American army should hit the road, leave Baghdad, and set up camp somewhere else in the countryside.

Mahmoud Othman is a Kurd (search )ish political leader. Earlier, I asked him why he thinks U.S. troops should pull out of Baghdad. That's today's big question.


MAHMOUD OTHMAN, KURDISH POLITICIAN: My point of view is based on the fact that I think Iraqis could run the cities and their population better than Americans, because they know the people, they know everything… It would be much better, there will be less blame and they would gain the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.

If they stay and deal with the population, then there will be a lot of blame on them because the services are not running well and there are a lot of [problems] inside the towns. It is not easy to repair all those things. So, that's why I think the best thing would be for them not to deal directly with the population, but to leave that to the Iraqis and help the Iraqis do that. That would be much better for the U.S.

GIBSON: Mr. Othman, are the Iraqis ready to take over the city of Baghdad? Are they ready to run the electricity, to run the sewer, to pick up the garbage, to run the police department?

OTHMAN: In many cities in Iraq, they did it and the Americans helped them. I think [there's no reason why the Iraqis shouldn't try]. I think Baghdad could be divided into a few sections, and each section could have an administration… Maybe at the beginning, there would be some difficulties. But [the Iraqi administration would overcome those difficulties], just like they did in many other cities.

GIBSON: Mr. Othman, yesterday there were 25 separate attacks on Americans and British forces in Iraq. Do you see this as a coordinated attack by someone giving orders or paying money to these people to launch these attacks?

OTHMAN: Well, most probably yes because the people of the old regime, they are around. They are at large, and they have guns. They have a lot of money, and they say Saddam is around… But [there are other reasons]… [like the] activities of some U.S. or British troops. Like searching or going through houses. Whatever it is, I think at least a part of it is organized and it is [being organized] by the people of the old regime.

GIBSON: If the U.S. were to pull out of Baghdad and leave the running of the city to Iraqis, what would stop these anti-U.S. forces — in fact, Saddam himself — from just taking over the city again, and it essentially becoming a Saddam regime that's just a little smaller than the whole country?

OTHMAN: When I say the U.S. should leave the city, [I don't mean that it should leave completely]… [There would be] U.S. people there helping the Iraqis…

I think a big majority of the people would be satisfied, 95 percent or more, [with such a sceario]. Once we gain the hearts and minds of the people. There are not many people of the old regime, but they are using the dissatisfaction of the population for their sake…

GIBSON: Mr. Othman, you have made a suggestion to Paul Bremer, who's the American authority in Iraq. How has he responded?

OTHMAN: Well, I made this suggestion in a meeting with Mr. Paul Bremer. I think he has done a good job, Paul Bremer (search ). He has been here for six, seven weeks and he has done a good job. But still, [municipal services] are not running. That's what I talked about with him; I don't think he was very positive about it. He thought it may not be a good suggestion. But in the end, maybe that's what it will come to…

We support the U.S. presence because we think if they go away, then the old regime will come back. That's why we support it. And it's a frank proposition from a friend.

GIBSON: Mahmoud Othman, Mr. Othman, thank you very much for being with us.

OTHMAN: Thanks a lot.


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