Exit strategy


Panorama: Exit strategy. Broadcast
BBC One, Sunday, 30 January 2005
at 22:15 GMT

As Iraq holds historic elections,
Panorama presents a major film examining
the state of Iraq today.
Will the elections put the country on
the road to peace - or
push it deeper into war?


JOHN SIMPSON: This is how we had to come into Iraq this time, hitching a lift on an RAF Hercules of the kind that crashed today, the crew watching for a missile attack. No question of going in by road, that's far too risky. Almost two years after the invasion it wasn't intended to be this way. Flying into Baghdad's old international airport as Iraq prepared for its elections was an alarming experience. Entire sections of this country are in chaos. The motorway from the airport to the city centre is probably the most dangerous stretch of road in the entire country. This is one of the most difficult moments of any tour of duty in Baghdad. We are on the main road between the airport and the centre of the city, out here in the open, without any kind of protection. There have been literally dozens of suicide bombings along this road, and of course we, as a foreign television crew, are at real risk of being kidnapped. We have an armed guard with us, although he keeps his weapon out of sight, but our hearts beat a little faster along this part of the road and you're always really grateful to get to your destination. As today's votes are cast, Panorama considers what likes ahead for Iraq. Can a democracy be so easily built from the ruins of a ferocious dictatorship, and can the United States and Britain find an exit strategy of their own? This is how America thought it would be - US troops greeted as liberators. After almost 40 years of one party rule and brutal dictatorship how could people not welcome them with open arms?

General WESLEY CLARK Supreme Allied Commander NATO 1997-2000 The theory was that we'd go in and it would be like post World War II France. There'd be cheering throngs in the streets, they'd chase the rest of the Saddam Hussein gang off, everybody would come out and they'd have elections.

SIMPSON: And instead?

CLARK: Instead we've seen the results. This is a very, very difficult protracted problem.

DOUGLAS FEITH US Under Secretary of Defense We did liberate Iraq and it is quite clear that the Iraqis have a future now that is a lot brighter with freedom and prosperity in prospect. It is much brighter than it was under Saddam Hussein and it is quite clear that most Iraqis recognise that.

SIMPSON: Well in central Iraq this is the daily reality of life. I've spent a lot of time in Baghdad now and I haven't yet found an ordinary Iraqi here who would agree that life was better than it was under Saddam. People are desperate for peace and security. But today's elections which are supposed to be the start of real democracy have cost hundreds of lives. The insurgence have declared war on the elections and they've been murdering those who support them. Their actions become bolder by the day. As they prepared for today's vote a team from the Iraqi electoral commission was ambushed in Baghdad's main shopping street. The insurgents didn't even bother to hide their faces. They dragged the men out of their car and shot them one by one.

US OFFICER: [addressing troops] Situation: current enemy tactics and the insurgents operating in individual fire teams, elements conducting hasty and deliberate ambushes with the use of small arms fire, RPGs and IEDs. You can expect to be engaged throughout the entire route. Remember if you've…..

SIMPSON: Whenever you move around in central Iraq danger is never far away. These troops risk death or injury every time they leave the relative safety of their base in Baghdad. As we moved out in our armoured Humvees the tension rose culpably.

JOHN SIMPSON So we're heading out of Baghdad to the north now, towards the Iraqi army base at Taji, it's about 10 miles away. Only last February or March we'd have done this journey maybe in an ordinary car without any kind of escort. Not any more. For a westerner it would simply be too dangerous. At first our journey passed without incident, our army vehicles forcing the Iraqi civilians aside, the gunners in their turrets constantly scanning for danger. But then there's trouble. As we stop, there are three muffled booms ahead of us.

US SOLDIER: [driver of vehicle, communicates with base over radio] Hey doc, I got small arms fire ahead. Three more explosions up ahead. We need to get up there, it's an ambush.

SIMPSON: Our escort is trying to find out what's going on. Their Warlock radio system, designed to stop people detonating bombs electronically keeps cutting across. US OFFICER: Roger and out… hey, shut those goddamn Warlocks off now!

SIMPSON: A couple of minutes later we reach the site of the ambush. It's pretty bad. Several Iraqi national guardsmen are lying dead. Their wounded comrades are being tended next to them. The insurgents have attacked the convoy by setting off a roadside bomb.

US SOLDIER: [Driver of vehicle, to base over radio] It exploded and took out three Iraqi national guard soldiers.

BASE RESPONDS: Do they have plenty of medical attention over there?

VOICE OVER RADIO: Yeah they got plenty of…..

SIMPSON: Our escort can't do anything to help and we're forced to move on. We later found that we had also come under attack as we approached the scene. Finally we reach our destination but and our escort can start to relax.

Does something happen most times you go out?

Sgt KELLY MEGGISON J-3 Convoy Section, US Army A lot of times, you know.. 50% of the time I guess, you know, you hear or see explosions and hear small arms fire. It may not be directed against you but it does happen a lot, and we've only had.. we've only been tackled a couple of times and that was a big mistake on their part but.. you know.. beyond that.. yeah basically it's not routine till you're back and dry.

SIMPSON: What people outside this country often ask is: "Are Iraqis glad that the Americans overthrew Saddam?" But that's not really the right question. This is a country where, after all, people's lives often depended on spotting who was winning and who was losing. So who's winning here? Well, until last spring I suppose people thought that the Americans were bound to win because they were the strongest country on earth. Now they look round and see the advances that the insurgents are making and they're not so sure. Conditions for the Americans have worsened sharply in central Iraq in the past few months. As security has deteriorated the Pentagon has had to raise troop numbers to 150,000 – more than took part in the invasion. The current cost is over $4 billion a month. The army are so stretched that almost 40% of troops here are from the reserve or the National Guard. The head of the reserve warned recently that it was rapidly degenerating into a "broke force." General Wesley Clark led the successful NATO war in Kosovo in 1999 but he's consistently opposed this war and its handling, and he feels that even 150,000 troops are too few.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK Supreme Allied Commander NATO 1997-2000 It's very hard on the United States armed forces, and if we're going to continue to do this we've got to increase the size of the active duty US Army, maybe the Marine Corps but certainly the Army by 50 to 100 thousand troops.

SIMPSON: That's a real commitment though, isn't it. It's a commitment we're looking at for.. what, 4-5 years if the job is to be done properly.

CLARK: Sounds like it. Sounds like it might take longer. There's no short cut in this case.

SIMPSON: Of course it's not just American troops here in Iraq. Britain has the second largest presence in the coalition and it too would like to leave. There are 9,000 British troops policing the Shiite south with a lighter touch than the Americans. For most part the insurgency has been kept at bay there, though 76 troops and 30 British civilians have been killed. But as other nations pull out of the coalition Britain is having to help fill the gaps, and that increases the risk that it will be drawn deeper into hostilities. Edward Chaplin is the British Ambassador in Baghdad. I asked him about Britain's own exit strategy from Iraq.

EDWARD CHAPLIN British Ambassador to Iraq We'll stay as long as the Iraqi Government feels that we're needed, both to provide the secure environment for the political process which we've been doing, and also to build up the Iraqi security forces because what they want and what we want is that as soon as possible Iraqi security is in the hands of Iraqi security forces. But it takes time and we'll leave when they're comfortable that that time has come.

SIMPSON: But what is that – years?

CHAPLIN: Can't say. It's going to take time.

SIMPSON: President Bush once said he'd stay in Iraq as long as necessary and not a day more, but when will that day be? How can the Coalition extract itself from Iraq while meeting at least some of its objectives. Douglas Feith, a leading Pentagon Neoconservative, was an architect of the Iraq invasion. He's just announced he'll be resigning later this year, perhaps an indication that the policy that he had advocated is no longer in favour. But when we spoke to him he was keen to define America's policy in Iraq.

DOUGLAS FEITH US Under Secretary of Defense The enemy fears progress on the political front even more than he fears our military power, and we believe that that's why it's necessary that our strategy have more than a military component. It has a military component but it also has the component of economic reconstruction and extremely importantly the component of progress on the political front.

SIMPSON: This was Iraq's last experience of voting. In 2002 Saddam Hussein held a referendum on his rule. He claimed that every adult Iraqi voted and voted for Saddam. Given the kind of regime he ran it might even have been true. Spool forward to today and this time there are dozens of parties and thousands of candidates. A big majority of Iraqis want to vote for their own future and think it's important. Since the invasion everything has changed. Iraq now has an energetic free press. The lifting of sanctions has seen a huge growth in ownership of everything from cars to fridges to satellite dishes, and most people are free to express their hopes and aspirations.

WOMAN: Yes, very happy. Fantastic.

MAN: Iraqi people make Iraqi future this day.

MAN: We make future for us and children.

MAN: This day is the first for the future of the country.

SIMPSON: The Coalition has been helping to devise an elaborate constitutional system which is intended, at any rate, to make sure that all the main population groups get their fair share of political power and you can see from the map of Iraq why that's so necessary. Down here in the south the Shiites constitute perhaps 60% of the population, and yet in spite of that they've always been rigorously kept out of political power. No wonder they're so keen on these elections now. The same is true of the Kurds up in the north and north east. They stand to gain not only their share of national power but also a regional assembly. The problem comes here in central Iraq, the Sunni heartland. Now the Sunnis constitute only 20% of the population and yet they've always had the main share of political power, that's what they stand to lose now. No wonder they're not at all enthusiastic about the election. Dr Adnan Pachachi was Acting President a few months ago. Now he leads his own political party. He's a Sunni Muslim. I asked him about the impact of a low Sunni vote.

DR ADNAN PACHACHI Iraqi Independent Democrats The main aim really is to have inclusive elections because for to have elections in which large segments of Iraq's population and important areas of Iraq are left out will give a very distorted picture.

SIMPSON: But putting off the date of the election would have been a victory for the insurgents, wouldn't it.

PACHACHI: Yes, I agree with that, but we had to choose really the lesser of evils, either give them a victory.. a propaganda or a moral victory or ensuring that we are going to have.. you know.. elections, inclusive elections.

SIMPSON: This advert urges Iraqis to have the courage to vote. But many Sunnis believe the elections were bound to be unfair and boycotted them. Admittedly the campaign has been pretty surreal. Candidates, who dared not be identified, canvassing the support of people who dared not say if they'd vote. But if the Sunnis haven't played a full part they'll lose out badly. The transitional assembly elected today not only appoints the new government, it also draws up a new constitution. Sunnis could be more excluded than ever. By contrast the Shia community has undergone a rebirth. Saddam suppressed the Shiites for decades, slaughtered them by the tens of thousand. Now the great religious cities of Najaf and Karbala are once again the centre of an awakening political confidence. The Shiites spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Sistani, insisted that elections must be held, but the Coalition seemed to be wavering. Any delay might have provoked a Shiite uprising. So now we have a situation which no previous ruler of Iraq, the British to Saddam, would have permitted. Sunnis weak and divided, the Shiites bursting with confidence. This election and the whole constitutional process that it's part of, are designed to keep people together, to keep them talking, to keep the horse-trading. So we mustn’t expect that there'll be one single clear winner out of this election. Well at least the British and Americans are desperately hoping there wont be. This is Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, pro Iranian Shiite Cleric who is close to Grand Ayatollah Sistani. In this sermon he's urging the Americans to leave Iraq. Now he's standing for election and his alliance should win a large share of the vote. His enemies say, if he does help form a government Al Hakim will not only be taking order from Iran, he'll try to introduce religious rule. A few days ago I went to meet him at his headquarters in Baghdad. The journey wasn't without it's risks. Only a few days earlier there had been a big car bomb here. Mr Al Hakim is at the top of the insurgents assassination list, and his brother, an ayatollah, was murdered in 2003.

Of course many people, in the Unite States in particular, are worried that you're too much influenced by Iran.

ABDUL AZIZ AL-HAKIM United Iraqi Alliance This is untrue and we would never accept carrying out the wishes of others. We believe in the independence of Iraq and in our own independence. Iraqi decisions must be taken by the Iraqis only.

SIMPSON: I think many people outside the country would expect that if you did well, you would want to bring an end to secular democracy in this country.

AL-HAKIM: These of course are simply accusations. We're working to build a democratic pluralist Iraq which believes in freedom and human rights and which respects the Islamic identity of the Iraqi people. An Iraq in which minority rights are respected and where women play an important role in the social and political life, and we don’t accept, nor do we wish for, a religious government.

SIMPSON: Britain and the United States are working hard to balance Hakim's alliance with the man they hope will remain the chief deal maker. Iyad Alawi is the interim Prime Minister, he's a secular Shiite and a former exile and he was close to both British and American intelligence before the invasion. His party supplied many of the now discredited claims about weapons of mass destruction. He's got many advisors supplied by the Bush and Blair governments. There are clear signs that the kind of public relations and spin doctoring familiar at the White House and Downing Street have been imported into Alawi's Iraq.

Obviously you would prefer it if Iyad Alawi won a decent majority and was able to carry on in power.

JOHN NEGROPONTE US Ambassador to Iraq Well for us the important fact is the fact of the elections for this 275 person National Assembly which will have the role of both drafting a constitution and selecting a new presidency. We are not backing any individual candidate for election to the Assembly.

SIMPSON: Although the election is over, Iraq's new transitional government wont emerge for a while. There'll be a lot of deal making behind he scenes and perhaps a power struggle between the secular and the religious Shiites. But those who emerge as winners will have to grapple immediately with the greatest problem for everyone here.

COMMUNIQUE NO. 6 THE MEDIA PLATOON OF THE ISLAMIC JIHAD ARMY ON THE 27TH OF SHAWWAL 1425 H THE 10TH OF DECEMBER 2004 M VIDEO: It is our duty, as well as our right, to fight back the occupying forces which their nations will be held morally and economically responsible for what their elected governments have destroyed and stolen from our land.

SIMPSON: This is one of hundreds of insurgent videos posted on the internet. It emerged recently, voiced in English.

VIDEO: These are only a few of the lives that these criminals present.

SIMPSON: There have been over 17,000 attacks on the coalition forces in Iraq and thousands more than that on Iraqis. 30,000 insurgents have allegedly been captured or killed, yet the resistance keeps growing. Iraq's intelligence chief estimated recently that there were 40,000 fighters and another 160,000 active supporters, twice as many as the estimates last autumn.

NEGROPONTE: I think that we've got to keep the situation in perspective. The northern part of the country is relatively secure, the southern part of the country is relatively secure. In 14 out of the 18 provinces in this country there are less than five enemy attacks a day, so what we're talking about is the concentration of these types of activities in a relatively limited area of the country, and even there significant efforts are being made to bring that situation under control.

SIMPSON: But the four provinces most affected contain 40% of Iraq's population. The United States has so far lost more than 1400 troops in Iraq and over 10,000 have been wounded. Iraq now draws in the kind of foreign fundamentalists who used to head for Afghanistan. Syrians, Saudis, Egyptians, even British fighters have been captured or killed here. These foreigners and their local allies probably make up less than 10% of the insurgency. Their attacks have a particular brutality. But the great majority of insurgents are Iraqis. They belong to something like 40 groups of Baathists and old style Nationalists opposed to what they see as the foreign occupation of the country. To try to understand their motives further, Panorama put questions to a leading Baathist insurgent from a group which has carried out many attacks.

Iraqi insurgent leader This resistance came as a result of the bad deed committed by the Americans and the British. They harmed the citizens, and when they harm a citizen, beat him and beat his brother and kill his son, what do the occupiers expect him to do? Do they want the honourable, loyal citizen who loves his country to throw flowers at them? No, he fights them with all the means and force available to him.

SIMPSON: Does the American way of fighting actually encourage this kind of resistance? In November 2004 American troops launched their second overwhelming attack on Fallujah in six months. A quarter of a million civilians were obliged to leave. Insurgents have turned Fallujah into their main base. This is where most of the western hostages were held and murdered. Many of the car bombs which have cost so many lives in Iraq were prepared here. American aim was to smash and disburse the insurgence before today's elections.

US SOLDIER: We've got the enemy right where we want 'em. He's coming to us and we are killing 'em.

SIMPSON: The attack was ruthless. Around 1200 alleged insurgents and more than 70 US troops have been killed. Even today Fallujah is mostly closed to its own people. Eye witnesses say 70% of the town has been damaged or destroyed. Ali Al- Qaisy and his family used to be supporters of the American and British invasion, but they were among the refugees who fled the attack on Fallujah.

ALI DHAHI HAMAD AL-QAISY Fallujah resident My house had two floors. When the bombing started the top floor collapsed. People fled. We had a lorry and my family all got into it and drove away. Then we were attacked by coalition forces. Suddenly I heard my son, Hamza, say: "I've been hit!" He was martyred, God bless his soul and the soul of all Muslims. We buried him and received condolences from our relatives.

SIMPSON: Many insurgents were killed and captured but the operation was so well signalled in advance that most of them got away before it even started. Many Sunnis regard Fallujah as a disaster, as a war crime indeed. No one knows how many civilians were killed altogether. Estimates run into many hundreds. Quiet support for the insurgency has grown markedly.

AL-QAISY: God willing we are hopeful the Americans will be defeated because we have a just cause. We are defending our country, our city, our Koran and our mosques.

General WESLEY CLARK Supreme Allied Commander NATO 1997-2000 For whatever reason people in the White House, people in the Neoconservative Movement, maybe in the Pentagon, the civilians, some of them may have believed that you could fix political problems by the application of strong US striking power, and I think what this shows is that you've got to be very careful. The military is pretty good at breaking things and blowing stuff up and hurting people. But if you don’t put that military force in a strong container of diplomacy and politics and international law, you're unlikely to the real battlefield or theatre outcome that you're looking for.

SIMPSON: So what is the best way to deal with a growing insurgency that appeals to so many disaffected Sunnis? Well the government of Iyad Alawi has been holding talks in Jordan with senior figures who are close to the insurgents, and now leading politicians in Iraq itself are beginning to suggest that maybe the insurgents should be brought slowly into the political process.

Dr ADNAN PACHACHI Iraqi Independent Democrats The large majority are those who feel that they have been marginalised, they have not been treated fairly, they have not had any share in the new Iraq, those who feel that.. you know.. they want to avenge for the killing of some of their relatives against the Americans. These people we have to move them away from these fundamentalist parties or factions to see whether we can address some of their concerns and try to reintegrate them into the whole political process Iraq has started.

Iraqi insurgent leader A political solution would be possible if there were national reconciliation. Our main aim is to drive the occupiers out. Once they leave, everything is possible. We want a democratic, free Iraq, where all the parties are represented and where there is no difference between one party and another, we all work to serve Iraq. In the past, all the sects were represented within the Arab Baath Party.

SIMPSON: But of course, when he talks about democracy, what he really wants is a one party state, just like the old days. The United States, still conducting its War on Terror, normally condemns talking to people it regards as terrorists. But Iraq, it seems, is a special case.

Would you approve if the new government, whatever it is, wanted to talk to the insurgent?

JOHN NEGROPONTE US Ambassador to Iraq The sovereign government of Iraq is obviously free and welcome to do whatever it wishes with respect to the insurgency and those who oppose it. I would point out that some of those kinds of discussions have already taken place between government leaders and those who are opposing it, so yes, a dialogue very definitely can be part of this situation, especially if it is supportive of the democratic process.

SIMPSON: But the powerful Shiite Alliance doesn't accept this. If anything it would intensify the war against the insurgence if it succeeded in dominating the new Iraqi government.

ABDUL AZIZ AL-HAKIM United Iraqi Alliance You cannot negotiate with these people, they are the enemies of the Iraqi people. They reject any change in Iraq and prefer the unjust balance of power that existed before to remain. This is in contrast to the will of the Iraqi people.

SIMPSON: Can they be destroyed?

AL-HAKIM: Yes, it is possible.

SIMPSON: But by military means rather than by negotiation then?


SIMPSON: As ever its ordinary people who are paying the heaviest price. Thousands of civilians are thought to have died at the hands of the insurgents and of the Coalition. Thousands more have died in the general lawlessness which has swept the country. It's a really strange thing, I could give you an absolutely exact figure for the number of Coalition soldiers who have been killed in this whole conflict. I could give you a pretty clear idea how many foreign contractors and how many Iraqi soldiers and policemen have been killed. I can even tell you how many insurgents the Coalition claims it's killed. But when it comes to deaths among the ordinary Iraqi civilians, the people, after all, for whom this whole things was supposed to have been fought, but it's really hard to find anybody who can be bothered to get a precise figure for them.

How many civilians in Iraq do you think has died since the…

NEGROPONTE: I really do not.. ah.. know that..

SIMPSON: But you get those figures, don’t you, get those figures?

NEGROPONTE: I think you'd have to ask the Iraqi Ministry of Health for whatever estimates it might have but we.. I do not have the… I do not have that information.

SIMPSON: We did speak to the Iraqi Ministry of Health which released to Panorama its latest statistics covering the period from July 1st 2004 to January 1st 2005. These deal with casualties from the fighting as reported by public hospitals. The ministry classifies them as being from either terrorist incident or military actions. over 1200 Iraqis are reported to have been killed in identifiable terrorist – i.e. insurgent attacks – over 4000 are reported injured. At the same time, more than 2000 people are reported killed in military action, that is during Coalition and Iraqi Police and Security Force operations, as well as in clashes between the military and insurgents; over 8000 people are reported injured. These casualty figures include civilians and Iraqi Security Forces and may includes some insurgent deaths. So how many civilians have died overall since the invasion? Medical journal The Lancet published a study which estimated that up to 100,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed. This figure was widely dismissed as too high. The British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, instead cited the figures of Iraq Body Count, a group which records those civilians killed by the Coalition or insurgents though he doesn't regard their figures as being totally reliable. They, conservatively, report almost 18,000 civilian deaths but believe the true figure is more likely to be in the tens of thousands.

Something between 25 and 30 thousand civilians have been killed during the fighting. Does that sound more or less likely to you, that figure?

Dr ADNAN PACHACHI Iraqi Independent Democrats Could be. I mean really I thought more myself but I mean I think that's a pretty accurate number I think.

SIMPSON: Of course that figure has never come from the Coalition forces, they've never produced any sort of figures.


SIMPSON: Why do you think that is?

PACHACHI: Well for obvious reasons, isn't it, they don’t want to show that so many people have been killed.

JOHN NEGROPONTE US Ambassador to Iraq My impression is that the largest amount of civilian casualties definitely is a result of these indiscriminate car bombings. You yourself are aware of those as they occur in the Baghdad area and more frequently than not the largest number of victims of these acts of terror are innocent civilian bystanders.

SIMPSON: But if you don’t innumerate the cases how can you know how many people are being killed by one side or another?

NEGROPONTE: Well… I don’t think I have anything further to say on that.

SIMPSON: This is what the Americans call "The Bone Yard" the place where Saddam Hussein's old tanks have been brought and left to rust. Once upon a time of course it was tanks like these which made his army – notionally at any rate – the fourth most powerful in the world. Then it was comprehensibly destroyed, and now it's absolutely essential for the Coalition's exit strategy that the Iraqi army should be built up again. If the Americans are to pull out of this country in good order then they have to build up its army so that it can defend the country, patrol its streets and fight its enemies properly. Nowadays Iraq's army is only 8000 strong and there are another 40,000 National Guardsmen hastily trained and poorly equipped. From the vehicles in this scrap heap, each adorned with GI graffiti the new Iraqi army is salvaging what it can. We went to see an Iraq passing out parade. The men looked quite impressive, and even now it's a competitive business to be selected because the pay is good in a country where jobs are in short supply. But these troops, like their colleagues in the police, face a dangerous future. They are particular targets for the insurgents. No fewer than 4000 have so far been killed. To try to sort all this out and to hasten their own exit, the Americans have put one of their best and most thoughtful men in charge of training the Iraqis, Lieutenant General David Petraeus. How would you rate the way that it's going and your achievements so far?

Lt Gen DAVID PETRAEUS Security Transition Commander Iraq There has been progress but there have also been setbacks along the way. The performance of a whole host of Iraqi Security Forces throughout the south, virtually all of the nine southern provinces has been quite good and they are developing really right on track, in some cases a little faster than we had hoped. There are pockets of real goodness in the Iraqi National Guard, the armed forces, the police and so forth in areas in the six Sunni provinces, but there have also been some real disappointments there.

SIMPSON: We were invited to watch some novice soldiers take part in a training exercise to show how they might be deployed in the run up to today's elections. It's reasonably impressive but these are smoke grenades, not real ones, and the pressure from both the interim government and the United States to push these men out to fight is intense.

US OFFICER: [instructing troops] Okay, if we take fire, you know you need to get on the radio and tell us which direction it's coming from.

SIMPSON: In Saddam's old army it was dangerous to show initiative. Here the Americans are trying to encourage it. The man in charge is Major Haydar Jabbar The hopes of many Iraqis rest on men like him.

1st Iraqi Mechanised Brigade For me personally I believe in this new army because after Saddam's era it signifies a new beginning whereas the old army stood for the oppression of the people and not for defending the country.

SIMPSON: But suppose the new government gave you an order which you felt wasn't right, what would you do then?

JABBAR: I'm a loyal and obedient officer in the army, but there are new procedures now which didn't exist at the time of Saddam. For instance, you can now say "No" and show your disagreement in a civilised way, for example by resigning, if you consider what's being asked of you is against your beliefs or principles and you feel you cannot obey the order.

SIMPSON: There's a small team of US military advisors attached to them, men like Lieutenant Dave Flynn of the US Marines, with a real commitment to helping the Iraqis. There are only a few hundred of them at the moment but there are plans to increase the number of military advisors maybe to around 10,000.

How long do you think it'll be before the Army that you belong to will be ready to operate on its own, that it wont need the Americans?

JABBAR: As far as providing weapons and training, I think within five years, at least, that's according to my personal estimation.

SIMPSON: The top ranks in the new Iraqi Army are also getting help from NATO which is increasing its presence here. The senior officers are doing a really dangerous job which is why they didn't want us to show their faces. Dozens of them have been murdered and there are always disturbing suspicions that agents inside this building are passing information about them and their movements to the insurgents.

Lt Colonel RON GREEN NATO military adviser They're under duress sir, these are real patriots, but every day they risk their lives, and every day they go through checkpoints that they could be shot at. They leave their house where they could be assassinated. I'll give you an example. One of the colonels here, his daughter… the insurgents went into his house, they had rigged up the refrigerator so that there would be an explosive go off when the refrigerator was opened. Well he did not open up the refrigerator door, his 13 year old daughter did. Now luckily she only received second degree burns but it was on 90% of her body, and luckily he was able to get her to a Coalition hospital. But he still comes to work, and I mean he knows that there is a future for Iraq.

SIMPSON: At this point it's perhaps worth reminding ourselves just how bad the attrition rate is for the Iraqi Security Forces. Just on this one day as we've been here filming the NATO training programme the following losses have been reported. A police brigadier general and a colonel killed in south Baghdad. A police captain and an ordinary policeman killed just north of Baghdad at A’azamiah. A police colonel killed at Beji on his way to work. Seven National Guardsmen killed at Hitt when their minibus was ambushed. A judge killed during fighting at Ramadi and a police colonel and a police colonel killed just north of Tikrit. That's 15 dead, 6 of them senior figures whom it will be hard to replace and it's just in one day. For America's exit strategy to work the new army and the police will have to stand up for themselves and quickly. But some of the omens aren't good. This is Mosul, Iraq's third largest city, a volatile mixture of Arabs and Kurds live here and it was a big Baathist centre. This is where Saddam's sons were found and killed. So the insurgency has always had a strong presence. To counter that the Americans poured troops and money into Mosul. Thousands of police were trained up. The city was spoken of as a model for the way Iraqis might manage their own security. But last autumn the insurgents launched a number of major attacks here. Many police stations were destroyed, cars were torched. For days the insurgents were in control of much of the city. Most of the policemen who weren't killed simply ran away.

Lt Gen DAVID PETRAEUS Security Transition Commander Iraq Certainly there's been a downturn in large part because of intimidation which has really taken its toll, a much greater toll as it turned out on the leadership of the Mosul police force than again was really appreciated, and a once courageous police chief and leaders turned out just not to have what it took that night, and without that kind of leadership it spiralled really out of control.

SIMPSON: In fact, the police chief was suspected of selling out his own men. Americans have boosted troop numbers by 50% here in an effort to contain the violence but there were more than 4,000 police in Mosul last November, now there are only a 1000.

PETRAEUS: What it means is, for a while, an arm right around them, sometimes around both sides, sometimes in front of them. But gradually that arm can come out from around them and that’s always tricky to determine when that should be, and how far do you want to recede from them. But for some very long time, in the difficult areas, that arm is going to be required.

SIMPSON: What it may come down to is the need to get American troops off the street where they seem to create so much hostility and to allow better trained Iraqis supported by American military advisors to sort things out. The rest of the American forces could then withdraw to the huge camps they've been building far away from the main cities. But of course Iraq's people have their own views on what kind of country they'd like. Few want the Coalition here, and in the end the exit strategy may be rather simpler. A new government might ask them to leave.

JOHN NEGROPONTE US Ambassador to Iraq Security Council resolution 1546 speaks to that issue. It talks about the mandate of the multinational force in Iraq. It says that that mandate will expire at the end of the political process described in the resolution, that is to say the elections that are scheduled to take place at the end of 2005, and it also says that that mandate could be ended sooner if requested by the government of Iraq.

SIMPSON: Would you as you ask the Coalition Forces to leave Iraq?

ABDUL AZIZ AL-HAKIM United Iraqi Alliance We have a set of guiding principles. No people will welcome the presence of foreign troops in a country and Iraq is no exception. So nobody in Iraq wants these foreign forces to remain here, and so this topic needs to be deliberated by the strong Iraqi government which will be elected. Their decision will be firm and feasible because it represents the will of the people and it can take that decision.

SIMPSON: A lot of Iraqis must have reflected today that these elections would have been far more peaceful if only the Coalition had agreed to hold them before the Sunnis were so alienated and the insurgency grew so strong. I don’t think it ever occurred to me in all the years I've been coming to Baghdad, that the first time Iraqis were able to cast their votes in a free and fair election that it would be in an atmosphere like this, half empty streets and the noise of explosions every now and then, and a general sense of anxiety and fear. But I do think it's important not to assume from what's happening today that the entire process is bound to fail, in fact on the contrary I think it's bound to succeed. It's just that it's been so badly botched along the way by so many people.

DOUGLAS FEITH US Under Secretary of Defense If the Iraqis achieve the creation of a proper government as the international community is trying to help them do, and they create a country that is free with a representative government and has the enjoyment of the prosperity that is possible because of its resources, and it's living at peace with its neighbours, this effort, with all of its difficulties will be deemed to be worthwhile.

EDWARD CHAPLIN British Ambassador to Iraq Iraq could be, should be, one of the power houses of the region, and I think what we and the rest of the international community want to see is an Iraq which is contributing to regional security, not destroying it as has been the case so often in the past.

Dr ADNAN PACHACHI Iraqi Independent Democrats We are learning democracy the hard way. It's not an easy lesson. It's a bitter pill really, but it's necessary I think. It's a sort of a medicine that you have to take no matter how painful it may be at the beginning.

SIMPSON: The Coalition needs these elections to set Iraq on the road to stability. They'd like to say the Iraqi forces will soon be able to fight the insurgents on their own, but the things you break can't always be that quickly mended. At some stage the Coalition will face a hard choice, either stay here indefinitely, or pull out and leave the Iraqis to it.

Next week on Panorama, the story of four violent criminals, and the man who connects them and got away with abusing them as children.

If you want to comment on tonight's Panorama, please contact us on our website.

Dubbing Mixer ANDREW SEARS
Production Co-ordinator TAMARA KAYE
Web Producer ALEX MURRAY
Post Production Co-ordinator LIBBY HAND
Production Executive EMANUELE PASQUALE
Transcribed by 1-Stop Express, 3 Southwick Mews, London W2

Source: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info

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