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Interview: Iraqi VP Adel Abdul Mahdi

Dr. Mahdi talked to Monitor correspondent Jane Arraf about upcoming national elections, Iraq's security and economic issues, and relations with Iraq's neighbors.

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So there were differences on how to deal with the security issue and I think Wednesday [Aug 19] was a setback, as we said, was a blow to the concept, the vision of how some people were seeing security in this country. And...there was a campaign to lift the barricades and the cement blocks, etc., [and] ease the police, the checkpoints - a lot of checkpoints. I can't see why we have checkpoints every 2 kilometers. If the first one is not adequate, there is no point of a second one. Either we have a good checkpoint or it cannot be replaced by many checkpoints. This will be a very weak security policy.

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Do you think security has suffered at all from the Americans withdrawing their combat troops from the cities?

This should be reassessed once again, whether it was too early, whether it was adequate. This should be assessed and asking three hours after the bombing for Americans to come to the scene is something that should be studied. Why [did we] ask them to go out and then ask them to return back?

By ‘reassess,’ is it possible a reassessment would find you would want more troops in the cities again?

No this is not the point, but [rather] how to use the troops already there. [Not] to neglect them, to make them functional, the way they should assist Iraq, help Iraq. There was a policy to put them completely aside. Whether that was mature or premature one should reassess and study, and I think if it is reassessed we will find many weak points there.

And what would be the solution, the remedy for that, if you find those weak points?

Well, let’s first reassess the whole situation there so we can find solutions.

Are you envisioning then, if it were reassessed, it could potentially involve bringing more troops in?

No, I think [the issue is] how to use better those troops who are still there.

(Are you referring to a reassessment) within the existing framework of the security agreement and working within that framework?

Yes, first it should be reassessed and then the experts shall put the remedy and the solution for that.

It seems to have been very much a political decision to say, 'June 30 there are no American troops. We’re not going to ask for help' – is that what it was based on? That reluctance to ask for help?

Well in Iraq, everything is political.

What’s your view on what’s happening with Syria? How serious is that?

We have a problem with the Syrians. It is not a recent problem – it is a problem since 2003. There [is] opposition in Syria, and they are using the Syrian territory to send those opposition, to send people [attacking] Iraq. We were negotiating with the Syrians all these years on how to control these opposition groups, especially Baathists, and there had been some progress. We signed a strategic agreement with Syria Tuesday, so we have to separate how to deal with the presence of the opposition, especially those who use the Syrian territory to [attack] Iraq – any other opposition should be accepted, any peaceful opposition, we should expect that.

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