Eye on Iraq

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," March 3, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: A former spokesman and an adviser to the former Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq joins us now. Dan Senor is a FOX News contributor.

So Dan, first of all, do you believe this story that says the big bang is being planned right now?

DAN SENOR, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I do. I think that Zarqawi's strategy for some time, John, has been to engage in a series of attacks against Shiite holy places, against Shiite political leadership, in the hope that it provokes reprisals — Shiites responding, hitting Sunnis and inflame the country in civil war.

This started in August of 2003 with the attack right by the shrine of Ali Mosque in Najaf, and there have been a number of these attacks over the last couple of years culminating in the attack against the mosque in Samarra just last week, which actually had the desired effect.

But I think Zarqawi has been frustrated that, save for last week's attack, most of the attacks have not provoked any kind of civil war, have not provoked mass reprisals. And so he wants something bigger and better that will increase the odds of provoking a major response.

GIBSON: What is left? I mean, when you blow up the most holy of sites to the Shiites, what else can you do?

SENOR: Most of the terrorist attacks that occur in Iraq, whether they're attacks against police stations or attacks near or around religious sites, on religious holy days, result in 30, 40, 50 Iraqis getting killed at a time.

What if in one incident with multiple improvised explosive devices, vehicular explosive devices, what if you had three, four, five, 10 bombs go off simultaneously in one location rather than 30, 40 or 50 people killed, what if you had 400 or 500, or 1,000 Iraqis killed? What if you had something akin to a September 11 inside Iraq on one particular day?

With their population only 27 million compared to ours of 250-300 million, so if in one day 500 or 1,000 people were killed, proportionate to the Iraqi population that is something much larger than September 11-size attack.

GIBSON: Well, OK, Dan. We have all known that he wants to do this stuff for quite some time. The American forces can't be everywhere, and the Iraqi forces don't seem to be quite up to the job, so what's the best way for the Americans to try to stop this?

SENOR: I actually think the American forces can be more places than they are. The Iraqi forces are stepping up. They are actually doing a much better job. Our approach in many areas has been to take a step back. Our forces have taken a step back and let the Iraqis sort of occupy more space.

When you travel around Iraq — which I didn't see a year or two ago. I did see it a few months ago — when you travel around Iraq today you see Iraqis manning much more of the security checkpoints, doing much of the perimeter security and locations that Americans handled before. That's great for them to substitute.

But in cases where we need to double up so we actually have more visibility and have more footprint, it will mean American security forces taking a more forward-leaning role than they have in the past few months.

GIBSON: Dan Senor, a FOX News contributor, thanks.

SENOR: Good to be with you, John.

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