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Rumsfeld: Overcoming Insurgency Key to Iraq Assuming Security Mission

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2005 – It's impossible to know exactly when Iraq's security forces will be fully ready to take over their country's internal security and the coalition can leave Iraq, but several factors will play a role, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today during interviews on the Sunday morning talk shows.

The secretary said during interviews with four networks that the Iraqi security forces' readiness will depend largely on the insurgency. And affecting its effectiveness will be the extent to which the political process will "tip people" toward supporting the new government, actions by Iran and Syria, and the money sources that bankroll terrorist activities.

"Economic progress [and the] political progress going forwardwill determine the level of the insurgency, and the level of the insurgency will determine the speed with which Iraqi security forces will be capable of managing [their internal security]," Rumsfeld said on ABC's "This Week."

Rumsfeld reiterated that this condition, rather than an artificial timetable, will be key in determining when coalition forces will withdraw from Iraq.

Iraq's Jan. 30 elections proved to be a solid step forward for the country that Rumsfeld said he hopes will garner increased support for new government. But still uncertain, he told ABC, is the extent to which "the political process is going to tip people away from supporting [the] insurgency or being on the fence to supporting the government."

Nevertheless, the secretary said he believes the election "had to have given heart and encouragement and inspiration to the Iraqi people," he told CBS' "Face the Nation."

Rumsfeld told ABC it's unknown if Iraq's neighbors Iran and Syria are "going to be helpful or unhelpful" as Iraq strives to overcome the insurgency. Both are being decidedly "unhelpful" right now, he acknowledged on CBS, which he said could further inflame the situation and "makes our task more difficult in Iraq."

The secretary said he supports diplomatic efforts under way to encourage Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons efforts, which, if successful, would pose a destabilizing force throughout the region. Current knowledge is that Iran is on a path of seeking a nuclear weapon but don't have yet have it, the secretary told CNN's "Late Edition."

Rumsfeld said the United States is hopeful that the Iraqi people will continue striving toward President Bush's stated vision for that country: "an Iraq that is liberated, at peace with its neighbors, respectful of all the elements within the county and not engaged in terrorist activities with lethal weapons."

He said the United States will support whatever outcome the Iraqis decide in forming their new government, and said it's doubtful that the country will opt for a strict Islamic theocracy like Iran's.

Iraq has "a wonderful opportunity," ahead, Rumsfeld told NBC's "Meet the Press." "It has water, it has oil, it has intelligent people, and I think they have a good future."

And the recent elections "have to give everyone great encouragement," he said. "I just hope and pray that they stay on a path that is constructive. It will be a wonderful thing for the Iraqi people and a wonderful thing for the region."

Rumsfeld told CBS he's a firm believer that "the sweep of human history is for freedom."

"People want to be free," he said. "And that's a powerful force."

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

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