Transfer Won't Immediately Stop Violence, Rumsfeld Says
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
ISTANBUL, Turkey, June 28, 2004 Today's transfer of sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government probably won't bring an immediate stop to terrorism plaguing the country, but it's likely to succeed over time as the Iraqi people support their new government, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today.
The secretary, here for the NATO Istanbul Summit, said the terrorists in Iraq were determined to prevent the handover of power from happening.
"A successful Iraq that is peaceful and democratic and respectful of all the religious and ethic groups in that country is exactly what the terrorists don't want," the secretary said. "And therefore, they will continue for awhile to try to stop it."
But Rumsfeld said he expects life to become "increasingly difficult for the terrorists" as Iraq's security forces get stronger and its intelligence- gathering capabilities improve. He noted that NATO agreed today to help Iraq achieve that goal by training and equipping Iraqi security forces.
"We believe deeply that the Iraqi people will want this government to succeed," the secretary said. He said he expects the Iraqi people who have watched terrorists kill many of their family members and neighbors to offer information "about what is happening in their neighborhoods" to bring an end to the violence.
Rumsfeld said there's been no request yet from the Iraqi government to transfer physical custody of former dictator Saddam Hussein. "And as long as they know he is well kept and treated properly and will be available for trial, I don't know if that would be the highest priority on their list," he said.
The secretary shrugged off the "surprise" element of the sovereignty transfer, which occurred two days ahead of schedule at the request of Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Once the Iraqi interim government was ready to assume sovereignty, Rumsfeld said, it simply didn't make sense to hold off until the long-anticipated June 30 date.
"It's been under discussion for some time, and we've been moving responsibility for the ministries to the Iraqis over a period of many, many weeks," he said. The Iraqi government assumed responsibility for the last several ministries June 24.
"Once the prime minister decided that in fact they were ready, he requested that (the transfer of sovereignty) be done," Rumsfeld said. "Why wait? It would be a better thing to acknowledge the reality, because they were, in fact, administering the government already."
Rumsfeld said the coalition agreed that it was "a good idea" to transfer sovereignty when the Iraqis were ready rather than waiting for the anticipated June 30 handover date. "And it turns out, they were ready a couple days before the 30th, which is a good thing," he said.