May 14, 2007
Contact:
Anna Christopher, NPR
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DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF IRAQ BARHAM SALIH
ON NPR NEWS ALL THINGS CONSIDERED
TODAY, MONDAY, MAY 14

SALIH ASSERTS THAT IRAQIS
NEED TO ASSUME MORE RESPONSIBILITY FOR COUNTRY;
SAYING “WE NEED TO DO BETTER”

TRANSCRIPT BELOW; AUDIO TO BE AVAILABLE AT WWW.NPR.ORG


May 14, 2007; Washington, D.C. – Barham Salih, the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, tells NPR’s Michele Norris that Iraqis need to assume more responsibility for progress being made in their country, saying “we need to do better, we need to demonstrate progress on a different scale. The world’s greatest democracy is helping us, wants to help us, but we need to demonstrate that they have a much more effective partner in that."

In the interview airing today on NPR News All Things Considered, Salih adds: “It is important that we enter a different level of partnership between the Iraqi government and Iraqi leadership and the United States, because ultimately it is about Iraq leadership. I can tell you this readily, and I have said this back in Baghdad, Americans cannot deliver for us; we have to deliver for our own country.”

On the length of time U.S. forces should remain in Iraq, Salih said: “As more Iraqi troops come online, they assume more responsibility and our reliance on the Americans will be less than before. I hope we will reach a stage where Americans will not be needed for daily combat operations, where the Americans will be redeployed to a strategic posture where they will be there as an asset to fight in a strategic sense where they are needed to fight the extremists and the terrorists, or to deter regional interferences. I think that is not impossible to imagine in the foreseeable future.”

On why he disagrees with setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, Salih said: “I don’t think there should be an open-ended commitment. The reason I am avoiding a timeframe per se is because I don’t want to let the enemy know what the timeframe will be, and I don’t want him just to simply wait us out. If people think that this can be fixed in any given American cycle – political cycle – they will be proven wrong. This is very much like the Cold War. This is a long-term struggle.”

On whether he thinks the surge is working, Salih said: “On a security level, yes. Many districts of Baghdad have been cleared of terrorists and militias; many important discoveries of weapon caches and bomb factories. New phase of the operation has started. And I have to remind you also that the full deployment of forces has not taken place yet. The surge gives us the time to lock in a political settlement, a power-sharing arrangement that will create the political coalition needed to defeat an al Qaeda and supporting and enhancing our military capabilities. The surge, so far, so good, but we need to do better on the political track.”

A rushed transcript of the interview with Deputy Prime Minister Salih is below. All excerpts must be credited to NPR News All Things Considered. Television usage must include on-screen credit with NPR logo. The audio of the interview will be made available at www.NPR.org at approximately 7:00 p.m. ET.

All Things Considered, NPR's signature afternoon news magazine, is hosted by Melissa Block, Michele Norris, and Robert Siegel and reaches 11.5 million listeners weekly. To find local stations and broadcast times, visit www.NPR.org.

-NPR-

MICHELE NORRIS: Congress is still wrestling with the question of funding the Iraq War. The House has already passed a bill that would parcel out funds in installments, and this week the Senate will probably vote on a bill of its own. For the last week one of the most prominent Iraqi political leaders has been in Washington meeting with lawmakers. His name is Barham Salih. He's a Kurd, and he's one of Iraq's Deputy Prime Ministers. Salih's been hearing first hand from members of Congress, and why many of them are running out of patience with Iraq's leaders. And he's also been making the case for why an early U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would be disastrous.

BARHAM SALIH: I can understand that perhaps the present posture of American troops in the urban centers of Iraq, and American kids in Humvees wandering the streets of Baghdad may not be an image that Americans can tolerate for much longer. I can understand this thing. But this is a battle against an enemy called al Qaeda, and international terrorism that is transcending borders and it is attacking here in the United States; it is attacking us in Iraq. We cannot afford – we have to adapt in a way that we can win it in time. It is important that we enter at different level of partnership between the Iraqi government and Iraqi leadership and the United States because ultimately it is about Iraq leadership. I can tell you this readily, and I have said this back in Baghdad, Americans cannot deliver for us; we have to deliver for our own country.

MS. NORRIS: You say Iraq needs to deliver for itself, to stand on its own. Until it’s able to do that, if you are against any kind of timetable for withdrawal, how long do you think the U.S. should or would be involved in Iraq?

MR. SALIH: I think more and more reliance will have to be placed on the Iraqi side, and we are witnessing that. When we assumed sovereignty in 2004 – June 2004 – we had no forces. Now Iraqi police and Iraqi military are nearly 400,000 or so.

In terms of time, I can tell you the vision that we have – and this is something that we and the administration are on accord on this matter – is that we build Iraqi forces. As more Iraqi troops come online, they assume more responsibility and our reliance on the Americans will be less than before. I hope we will reach a stage where Americans will not be needed for daily combat operations, where the Americans will be redeployed to a strategic posture where they will be there as an asset to fight in a strategic sense where they are needed to fight the extremists and the terrorists, or to deter regional interferences. I think that is not impossible to imagine in the foreseeable future.

MS. NORRIS: Now, Dr. Salih, I didn’t hear in that answer a timeframe, because for many Americans, what they’re uncomfortable with is this open-ended commitment.

MR. SALIH: I don’t think there should be an open-ended commitment. The reason I am avoiding a timeframe per se is because I don’t want to let the enemy know what the timeframe will be, and I don’t want him just to simply wait us out. If people think that this can be fixed in any given American cycle – political cycle – they will be proven wrong. This is very much like the Cold War. This is a long-term struggle. We need to be honest about that, clear about it, but I am readily willing to accept that the present posture of American deployment in Iraq may not be sustainable from a domestic point of view. How can we change that process so that it will be sustainable so that we can win it and not let time be used against us?

MS. NORRIS: Is the surge working?

MR. SALIH: On a security level, yes. Many districts of Baghdad have been cleared of terrorists and militias; many important discoveries of weapon caches and bomb factories. New phase of the operation has started. And I have to remind you also that the full deployment of forces has not taken place yet.

The surge gives us the time to lock in a political settlement, a power-sharing arrangement that will create the political coalition needed to defeat an al Qaeda and supporting and enhancing our military capabilities. The surge, so far, so good, but we need to do better on the political track.

MS. NORRIS: If the political framework is so important, there is one issue that has left many members of Congress scratching their heads: Why are lawmakers planning a two-month summer break when so much key legislation is still at a stalemate?

MR. SALIH: Well, there is a saying that one has also to be careful what one wishes for. We wished for a democracy in our part of the world, an independence of the legislature, and our legislature is powerful and they have a mind of their own – actually 275 minds of their own. These are the numbers of Iraqi parliamentarians.

I’m glad to tell you that I spoke to the speaker of parliament a couple of days ago. He told me that he and the prime minister have had a discussion about this thing. They have decided to postpone their recess so that they will remain in session in July, awaiting proposed legislation to go to them from the government.

MS. NORRIS: I want to return to something you had said. In your estimation, you’re saying the surge is working, but might this be a temporary breakthrough in the areas where they’ve actually been able to actually provide some measure of security if the extremists or the insurgents, or whatever you call them, are merely leaving the area and planning to wait out the U.S. and Iraqi forces and return the minute they let up pressure?

MR. SALIH: That is the danger. How can we sustain the military gains? It’s not just a matter of clearing a neighborhood for a day and then relieving it and creating a vacuum. We are working now on measures by which these military victories, these security measures, could be sustained beyond a search.

MS. NORRIS: What is the message that you leave with after your visit here and your many meetings?

MR. SALIH: I leave with a message – and it is a helpful message, by the way; it will help me debate this issue in the Iraqi cabinet and with my parliamentarian colleagues – one of frustration and one of waning patience with this transition in Iraq, that we need to do better, we need to demonstrate progress on a different scale. The world’s greatest democracy is helping us, wants to help us, but we need to demonstrate that they have a much more effective partner in that. I believe it’s a positive message; it’s not damning. I have not heard, by the way, from anybody that they want to throw in the towel with these guys, as such. I mean –

MS. NORRIS: But are you getting a message that patience is wearing thin?

MR. SALIH: Is wearing thin, but they need to see progress. And Americans should understand it is not only the government of Iraq at the other end receiving this message. Other interested parties are also receiving this message, some of whom are liking it and they want to feed your frustration and want to escalate the conflict in Baghdad or in – (unintelligible) – and Basra so that they can grow this frustration in the United States. The question is how we win this thing. The fate of Iraq is not only important for Iraq as it is important for the rest of the region as well.

MS. NORRIS: Dr. Salih, thank you for coming in to talk to us.

MR. SALIH: Thank you for this opportunity.

MS. NORRIS: That was Barham Salih, the deputy prime minister of Iraq.

(END)