How Can Iraqis Help Coalition Forces in Iraq?

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This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, August 29, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

HEATHER NAUERT, CORRESPONDENT: General John Abizaid (search), the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is saying that he doesn't need more U.S. troops to keep the peace in Iraq. The ultimate goal, he says, is for Iraqis to take more responsibility in rehabilitating the country.

Earlier today, I spoke with Entifadh Qanbar (search) of the Iraqi National Congress (search), a group with ties to the Iraqi Governing Council. I asked him, could Iraqis do more to help with security? And that's today's big question.


ENTIFADH QANBAR, IRAQI NATIONAL CONGRESS: The Iraqis can do much more to help. In fact, the security issue is basically an issue of Iraqis. Without establishing an Iraqi civil security force, we will not be able to maintain security in Iraq.

Security is not only a matter of using force. Security requires knowledge of the society, knowledge of the Iraqi layers of society, the ins and outs. We Iraqis can distinguish criminals and bad guys much easier than American officers.

NAUERT: But security forces aside, just in terms of regular, everyday Iraqis, what could they do more to help rebuild the country and help better maintain security in the area?

QANBAR: Iraqis find it very difficult to bring information to the coalition. That's why we believe that establishing an Iraqi security force is important.

It is much easier for an Iraqi to go up to talk to an Iraqi fellow as the Iraqi security force rather than going to an American.

Entering an American security center or Army center is not an easy thing for an Iraqi. It requires a translator. Sometimes a translator is not available. Sometimes soldiers are too apprehensive. That's why I think establishing an Iraqi security force is an immediate need and top necessity.

NAUERT: But we know with the U.N. bombing last week that that appears to have been an inside job. How can those forces be vetted so that something like that won't happen again?

QANBAR: Very easy. Whoever was connected with the previous regime, again, the vetting can be done by Iraqis much better.

What happened at the United Nations center that kept guards [with loyalties to Saddam Hussein] without vetting them in the United Nations… all guards who were working during Saddam's regime were all connected to the — or most of them — connected to the Iraqi intelligence. They have an interest to see this building attacked.

What should happen is that these guys should be replaced with new, young Iraqis, who are allies and friendly to the United States.

We Iraqis know our society. We know who is the bad guy. We know family-wise, we know tribal-wise. And we know where those bad guys are hiding. But it's very difficult for you Americans to understand what is inside and outside of the Iraqi society and this is very natural.

NAUERT: Let me ask you about the religious leaders there. Not long after the war started and the looting was taking place, religious leaders came out and said "stop the looting" and that seemed to help.

Should religious leaders be doing more to encourage Iraqis, not only to give up intelligence, but also to encourage them to have their neighbors not strike against coalition forces?

QANBAR: Where would they say that? We don't have an Iraqi media presence. There is no Iraqi TV that is reasonable. The only Iraqi TV available, owned by the coalition provisional authority, is a failure. There is no reasonable radio.

NAUERT: But what about in the mosques?

QANBAR: There have been many calls. I met with 20 clerics [yesterday]… and I brought one of the Pentagon representatives in Baghdad to meet with them.

Every one of them said, "We support the United States. We support the liberation of Iraq and we support President Bush." Some of them even said we must have a statue for President Bush in Baghdad.

There are many voices who are pro-American, pro-democracy and anti-Baathist and anti-terrorist. However, they need to be empowered. They need to be given a place where they can voice themselves. They need to be put in action and at work through an Iraqi security force.

NAUERT: OK. Mr. Entifadh Qanbar, thank you much for joining us from Baghdad this evening.

QANBAR: Thank you.


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