- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2003

LONDON — Iraq’s political factions have agreed to establish what they are calling an “antiterror front” to confront the anti-U.S. insurgency, with an organizing committee to meet before the end of this month.

Plans for the force were detailed in a telephone interview with Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leader who currently is president of the Iraqi Governing Council.

Members of the antiterror front, which would take over some duties from coalition forces but not immediately replace them, “will come from both inside and outside” the political parties and factions that make up the Governing Council, Mr. Talabani said.

He said a “security committee,” which will meet by the end of November, would choose both fighting men and intelligence officers, who would be drawn from existing militias such as his own Kurdish pershmerga, the Iraqi National Council’s militia and the Shi’ite Badr Brigade.

The 60,000 pershmerga guerrillas would not be deployed in Arab areas as peacekeepers, but could be used to guard facilities and patrol the borders, he said. That would free up Sunni and other forces for operations in the Sunni Triangle.

Mr. Talabani said the overall antiterror force should include members of the old Iraqi army, including generals.

“But we will not take from Iraq’s former intelligence services,” he added.

The widely criticized decision by the chief U.S. administrator, L. Paul Bremer, to disband the Iraqi army had “demonstrated great wisdom,” Mr. Talabani said.

Many observers have argued that disgruntled army members form a recruiting pool for pro-Saddam Hussein or Islamic terrorists. But Mr. Talabani rejected the idea put forward by other Governing Council members that the army should be recalled.

“Those advocating the recall of the former Iraqi army are propounding the ‘stability first’ policy that President Bush has rejected,” he said. “The Iraqi peoples were victims of the ‘stability’ imposed by the Iraqi army.”

He said that the Iraqi army had “a record of internal repression and external aggression,” and that the decree abolishing the Iraqi army had “struck at the roots of the Arab nationalist militarism that plagued Iraq even before Saddam.”

He also argued that a swift handover of the anti-insurgency war to newly trained Iraqi forces would be more effective.

He commended the United States for “resolutely striking back at the vicious remnants of Saddam’s regime and damaging the network of Ba’athists and foreign Islamists.”

But, he warned, “These gains could easily be forfeited if we Iraqis do not bear the brunt of the fighting. … By taking up arms and routing the terrorists, Iraqis will own their new democracy.”

Mr. Talabani, like most Iraqi leaders, favors a much quicker transfer of power and authority to Iraqis. He predicted that Iraqis will regain their sovereignty before the mid-2004 target date set by Mr. Bremer this month.

Yesterday, Mr. Talabani sought the United Nations’ recognition of the timetable for Iraqi self-rule. In a letter to the Security Council, he asked for a resolution reflecting plans for an accelerated transfer power to June and elections by the end of 2005.

Security Council members already are discussing the need for such a resolution.

As more power is handed over, Mr. Talabani said, the various political parties and ethnic groups will become more forthcoming in revealing the whereabouts, operations and structures of the insurgents.

“We and other parties have people who know what’s going on within Saddam and the Ba’ath Party and Islamic groupings. But until now, parties have had other priorities,” he said.

Mr. Talabani also maintained that the bomb attacks that have shaken the country are localized and have not stood in the way of substantial economic and political progress in most of Iraq.

“Iraq is making impressive progress by any standard. Our battle against the terrorists will be long and painful, but while we fight, we will continue to rebuild,” he declared in a written statement made available at the time of the interview.

Mr. Talabani, who was in Turkey for talks at the time of two suicide bombings this month, said he had told European ambassadors that Turkey had not been attacked because of its pro-American leanings.

Rather, he said, the bombings were conducted by “a common enemy of all our societies and are part of a war across the world” being waged by Islamic extremists against all Western or moderate Islamic countries.

He said Turkish authorities had agreed to train Iraqi police and security men despite a history of tension between the Turks and the Iraqi Kurds because of a Kurdish uprising in eastern Turkey.

Mr. Talabani said he had assured the Turks that a sovereign Iraq would not support any anti-Turkish activities.


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