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Despite Insurgency, Things Better in Iraq, Rumsfeld Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2005 – Despite the insurgency, things are getting better in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told the BBC's David Frost in a June 13 interview.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Sir David Frost (left) of the BBC interviews Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in the Pentagon on June 13. Most of Frost's questions dealt with the situation in Iraq. Photo by R. D. Ward

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Statistically, the security situation in Iraq is unchanged in recent months. DoD officials said between 50 and 60 attacks a day take place in the country. But Rumsfeld pointed to the increase in trained and equipped Iraqi security forces as an important security and political milestone.

Rumsfeld said Syria is the neighbor country most aiding the insurgents, while Iran is most interested in influencing events in Iraq.

The secretary said it makes sense that the insurgents would make a large push now. "If you think about it, the violent extremists who are engaged in these numerous acts of killing large numbers of mostly innocent men, women and children -- Iraqis -- they have a lot to lose when the (Iraqi) constitution is finished and when the election takes place," Rumsfeld said.

"If the extremists were able to defeat the coalition and defeat the Iraqi security forces, it would be an enormous victory, so they're determined to try and not let (the election) happen," he said.

The secretary confirmed to Frost that contacts continue between members of the Iraqi government and members of insurgent groups. This is related to the complicated tribal situation in the country, he said. "You have areas and relationships that go on for decades," Rumsfeld said.

The tribes have people who take positions all along the political spectrum, the secretary said. "You have people who are in the government and committed to it," he said. "You have people that are on the fence; you have people who are opposed to the Iraqi government, and you have people who are running around trying to kill people. It isn't just two groups."

Rumsfeld said he is pleased that the Shiia majority, the big winner in the Jan. 30 election, is reaching out to the Sunni Arabs in the nation. "They reached out to the Sunnis, and the Sunnis, instead of thinking that they were smart not to participate (in the election), almost uniformly admit they made a mistake and they should have participated," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld said the United States built the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in response to the uncertain nature of the violent extremists being captured on the battlefields. "It is clearly a different world when people have the ability to kill 3,000 men, women and children -- innocents," he said. "We know they have declared war on the civilized world. We know they have a financial apparatus. We know they are seeking more powerful weapons, and at some point we have to ask ourselves, 'What do we do about that?'"

Violent extremists could get the capability to kill many more than the 3,000 killed on Sept. 11, 2001, Rumsfeld said. "The president of the United States and the White House decided to use military commissions and a detention approach, because it was not law enforcement, it was a need to gather intelligence and information to stop the next terrorist attack," he said.

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Donald H. Rumsfeld

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