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[casi] Chalabi: The View From Iraq

The View From Iraq

By Ahmad Chalabi
Sunday, August 31, 2003; Page B07

Saddam Hussein has been removed from power, yet he continues to inflict
terror on the Iraqi people. There is no question that his network of
loyalists carried out the car bomb attack that killed Ayatollah Syed
Mohammed Bakr Al Hakim and scores of others in Najaf on Friday. By
assassinating this respected Shiite religious leader, Hussein has succeeded
in inflaming the country. Southern Iraq is in turmoil, and the people's
shock, sadness and anger risk boiling over.

The Iraqi people are overwhelmingly grateful to President Bush and the
American people for helping us liberate Iraq. We have great respect for
ambassador L. Paul Bremer for his courageous and wise decision to outlaw
Hussein's hated Baath Party, army and security services. In the light of
this murder, however, the United States needs to act quickly to defuse the
current situation, reinforce security across the country and win back the
trust of the Iraqi people.

Hussein did not have a military strategy to confront forces on the
battlefield. What he did have was a post-defeat strategy to conduct
terrorist attacks against U.S. forces and the Iraqi people. His ultimate aim
is twofold: to turn the Iraqis against their liberators and to create a
"body bag problem" for the Bush administration. He thinks he can force an
eventual U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and has often pointed to Vietnam, Lebanon
and Somalia as examples of America's inability to withstand casualties.

Hussein's terror operation is not large -- it consists of a small minority
of the Iraqi people and a few hundred foreign jihadists -- but it is
well-organized, well-armed and well-funded. Regime insiders confirm that
Hussein used his last months in power to prepare a network of loyalists,
safe houses, arms caches and vehicles to conduct a covert campaign. In March
he stole over $1 billion from the Central Bank in Baghdad to support this

There is no need for more American or foreign troops in Iraq today. Only one
force can defeat the Saddam Hussein network -- the Iraqi people. The United
States has thus far failed to unleash and use the huge and latent
anti-Hussein sentiment among the people. It is only by involving the Iraqis
as true partners that the United States will be able to salvage the
situation. The Iraqi people must feel they have a stake in their governance;
they must feel that they are in control of their own land.

Iraqis welcome liberation but reject occupation. The key to empowering the
Iraqi people to win back their homeland is the restoration of Iraqi
sovereignty. The people need to see an accelerated timetable for the
restoration of sovereignty to reinforce the national pride and self-respect
that stem from self-government. The Iraqi Governing Council must quickly be
developed into a genuine provisional government sharing the burden of
security with the coalition while directing the transition to democracy.

An extended occupation under the coalition leading to a popular resistance
provides the political power to Hussein's plan and plays into his hands. The
politics of occupation is well practiced in the Middle East -- the coalition
would be wise to avoid it.

There are other steps the United States needs to take immediately to combat
the Hussein network and improve security:

. Crack down on Saddam supporters at large in the country. Coalition forces
need to move quickly to arrest and question thousands of people: Baathists,
Saddam Fedayeen and former members of the security services and the
military, as well as their brothers, sons, nephews and cousins. The Iraqi
National Congress and other pro-coalition groups can provide lists and
locations of these people and assist in their interrogations.

. Conduct a security sweep through the towns where resistance is
concentrated. Coalition forces should surround these towns and give
residents a 48-hour deadline to hand in illegal weapons, after which
house-to-house searches will be conducted. If a cache of weapons is found in
the house, then all male residents between 15 and 50 will be arrested. These
searches would also be useful in finding fugitives.

. Control Iraq's borders. Foreigners are entering Iraq at will with
virtually no questions asked. Strict controls must be implemented and
foreigners from certain countries may have to be stopped from entering
altogether until the situation stabilizes.

. Move quickly to establish an Iraqi security force that can take on the
burden of many of these tasks. We have in mind a truly national paramilitary
force akin to the Italian carabinieri -- more heavily armed and mobile than
police yet far quicker to establish than a new army, which is at least a
year away. The Iraqi Civil Defense Corps now being established by the
coalition could provide the base for such an effort.

. Engage friendly Iraqi forces such as the INC, the Kurdish parties and
others much more closely in the hunt for Hussein and remaining senior regime
officials. Every breakthrough that the United States has made in the hunt
for the Iraqi "most wanted" has been as a direct result of actions taken by

Some of these steps will cause disruption to innocent people and will spawn
some short-term resentment towards the coalition, but they must be taken.
The longer they are delayed, the more the situation will spin out of

America must reach out to its friends and allies in Iraq to share the burden
of defeating Saddam once and for all. You have the firepower and mobility,
we have the local knowledge and intelligence. Only if we work as true
partners will we achieve the victory that is so vital to both our countries.

Ahmad Chalabi is a founder of the Iraqi National Congress and a member of
the Iraqi Governing Council.

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