An Iraqi Perspective on Ending the War

Steve Inskeep talks with Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, about the Iraqi response to calls for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now as we heard, the president rejected calls to set a timetable for US withdrawal. Some of those calls come from Iraqis themselves. At a conference in Cairo, Iraqi leaders signed on to a call for a timetable. That proposal was one subject that came up in the latest of our conversations this week about ending the war in Iraq. We called to Baghdad to Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, who is Iraq's national security adviser.

Mr. MOWAFFAQ AL-RUBAIE (National Security Adviser, Iraq): The government is not part of this communique in Cairo. The government, the president, the prime minister, the national security adviser, the ministers, they have taken part in the opening session of this conference. And they communicate, `Well, they should buy the political parties.' So it does not represent the government view. The government's view is that as follows which is very, very clear. We're basically negotiating an agreement based on conditions. Once these conditions are fulfilled in the cities or towns or provinces in some parts of Iraq, then the multinational forces can withdraw from these places.

INSKEEP: It sounds like the Iraqi government's position is very similar to the American position here. You said, however, that Iraqi political parties have called for a more specific timetable, which is an interesting distinction since Iraqi political parties are positioning themselves for an election here in a couple of weeks. That would seem to suggest the parties think that the Iraqi public wants more concrete action to get American troops out.

Mr. AL-RUBAIE: I think it's very well said, but it's very difficult to do a proper assessment while we are going to the election from public relation exercise, the media. Everybody is positioning themselves, taking hard lines here and soft line there. And it's very difficult to make any sort of intelligent analysis while we're going to the election in a couple of weeks' time.

INSKEEP: And let's talk about the conditions that are being created. The withdrawal of US troops depends on the success of Iraqi security forces to replace them. This week, both The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times are reporting that members of Iraqi security forces loyal to Shiite militias have been killing Sunnis. What do you know about that?

Mr. AL-RUBAIE: I'm sorry. I don't agree on this. It's not short assessments and very highly selective assessment of journalists either from sitting in the Green Zone or in their hotels in Baghdad and doing these reports. What I know for sure is that the Iraqi security forces will reach the critical mass level where we have turned the tide around and the insurgents and the terrorists are on the run and we are chasing them. We're...

INSKEEP: I'm sorry. Sir, are you saying the reports are false, that Shiite militias, people loyal to Shiite militias, have not killed Sunnis?

Mr. AL-RUBAIE: Well, there might be isolated incidents here and there. The Iraqi security forces are doing their job and they're doing their job jointly with the multinational forces, and at the same time, we're facing a fierce, ruthless beast of these Islamic terrorists who are basically slaughtering our innocent people.

INSKEEP: Is it still true that most Iraqi security forces are organized and divided along ethnic or sectarian lines?

Mr. AL-RUBAIE: I don't agree on that. In our recruitment, we have a very scrupulous vetting procedure in training and in recruiting our people. We try to keep the balance, the ethnic, the religious, the sectarian mix. We try to keep it balanced. But you need to concentrate on loyalty and trustworthy with these new recruits.

INSKEEP: Mowaffaq al-Rubaie is Iraq's national security adviser. He's in Baghdad. Thanks for speaking with us.

Mr. AL-RUBAIE: Thank you very much for having me.

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