This is a partial transcript of "Special Report with Brit Hume", June 1, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.
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PRESIDENT BUSH: Today, the reason I'm out here is because this is a major step toward the emergence of a free Iraq. This is a very hopeful day for the Iraqi people. And a hopeful day for the American people because the American people want to see a free Iraq as well.
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BRIT HUME, HOST: That, of course, President Bush in the White House Rose Garden today, hailing the emergence of the Iraqi government. Is this as hopeful a development as Mr. Bush says it is?
For answers we turn to Dr. Walid Phares (search), a professor of Middle Eastern studies and recognized expert on Islamic extremism. He joins us tonight from Florida.
Dr. Phares, welcome. Your reaction to the president's assessment of these developments and your own assessment?
DR. WALID PHARES, PROFESSOR OF MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES: Well, in view of the circumstances and the context in Iraq, and the fight against terrorism in Iraq, this cabinet is simply a brilliant piece of political engineering. Having that president of Iraq an Arab Sunni having the vice president a Kurd, and the prime minister, the real executive a Shiia. And a real about a between all communities in the cabinet is simply something very important in a multi-ethnic society like Iraq. Of course, there will be accident, but now at least, we have an Iraqi face for the situation in Iraq.
HUME: Now, tell me why you think the com — you said you think it's brilliant to have the different religions reflected in different positions. Why is that?
PHARES: But that's the essence of Iraq. The real threat against Iraq is not going to be terrorism; terrorism will be defeated by the Iraqis. It's going to be a future guarantee, an insurance policy that ethnic and religious groups are not going to be used against each other to exploit Iraq from the inside.
Having a head of state, the president a Sunni, is going to tranquilize, if we can say, not just the Sunni Triangle (search). He is a member of the largest Sunni tribe in Iraq, the Shammar, but also most of the Arab world, which is Sunni. The expectation of most Sunnis was last year, right now that the Shiia will overrun the whole Republic, so it wasn't the case. Even though he is ceremonial.
The prime minister of Iraq is a Shiia, and he is also very close to Sistani. That is, indicative that Sistani, after all, will support this government. So is the case with most of the other members. It doesn't mean that everybody is in. Certainly terror forces are out; the former Baathist, the Kohmenies and Al Qaeda (search) sympathizers.
HUME: Now, your sense of this effort. The next thing on the agenda from the administration's point of view is the passage of a U.N. resolution, which would recognize this authority. Is it your view that that U.N. resolution will be obtained?
PHARES: These are the indications I can see. No. 1, the engineer behind that is no one else than Lakhdar Brahimi. Despite the criticism from certain quarters, he is representative of the secretary general of the United Nations. And he directly — remember he is also representative somewhat of the Arab League (search). At the end of the day, it is an Iraqi government, which is going to stand an Iraqi delegation to the United Nations. We're not going to be lobbying as much as the Iraqis are going to be for themselves. That's what actually the French, Russians, and others wanted to see, an Iraqi face.
So there are greater chances now that there is a complete government made by Iraqis, that we may obtain a United Nations Security Council (search) resolution, which is going to make our job in Iraq much easier. And call on all those who did not participate in the beginning to come now.
HUME: Now, the turnover of sovereignty doesn't happen until the end of the month, and yet the Iraqi Governing Council up and quit, dissolved itself. How do you see that development?
PHARES: That is not the bad development, Brit, because I watch and I hear what Iraqi politicians, including those parts of the government have been saying. They want to show the world that the passage from occupation to independence was done by a government, which is not linked to the occupation. I mean these are highly symbolic issues, very important to Iraqis, to the Arabs, to the region as a whole.
And at the end of this month, basically we're not going to see an abrupt change from things on the ground. What we're going to see is day after day an increasing participation of Iraqis. And most importantly, of Iraqi soldiers, of Iraqi security agencies in the maintaining of stability in Iraq — Brit.
HUME: Now, the — the U.S. administration, President Bush said it again today. You hear it continually from American officials, is that the Iraqis have this hunger to have an election. Do you believe that's true?
PHARES: Absolutely. More than a hunger, they have starvation. Not because of the occupation, because of decades of rule of the ruthless Ba'ath regime. And even before that they didn't have a functioning democracy, at a time where they saw the collapse of the Soviet Union, the emergence of Eastern Europe. They saw democracies everywhere. Even they saw the United Nations helping the East Timorians to elect.
They want that for themselves. They know, though, it's very difficult. They need a transitional time; they need a transitional body, which is the current government. They know that the terrorists are going to attack. But you know, violence by terrorists are not — is not going to defeat elections. It will happen next year. And there will be an elected body in Iraq, and it will rule the country.
HUME: Administration officials say, as you do, that the terrorists' attacks would not be — would not be enough to prevent an election. There have however, been larger outbreaks. We saw it in Fallujah. We saw it in Najaf, and in that area still working to put some of that down. Do you see the possibility of further uprisings on that scale between now and the time of an election, which would be January at the latest?
PHARES: Brit, it has been much easier for Al Qaeda, the Kohmenies of al Sadr, the former Baathists to legitimatize attacks against coalition forces. It will be more difficult from them, from a political standpoint, to attack an Iraqi government. They will try to, but that will be terrorism. And at the end of the day, when you launch your political process, you will have more people interested in the political process. You will have more people wanting to become candidates. And therefore, that would defeat the purpose of the terrorists.
HUME: Well, I understand that. Do you think there could be further uprisings on the scale that we saw for a time in Fallujah and in the Najaf area?
PHARES: It all depends on how the minister of defense of this new Republic of the coalition, behavior in general, during the summer. There will be attempts. All I can see is that Al Qaeda wants to do more and more. Will they be able to get more people to help them as in Fallujah? I don't know. I don't think so by instinct because Fallujah was the maximum that they could carry.
HUME: Dr. Phares, thank you very much, as always. Thank you for being — thank you for coming in.
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