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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Discussion Of What Needs To Be Done In Iraq, Israel

Aired August 21, 2003 - 20:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We begin tonight with a region in crisis.
Before the war in Iraq, President Bush said ousting Saddam Hussein's regime would help bring stability to the entire Middle East. But in the wake of deadly bombings in Baghdad and Jerusalem, such stability seems as far away as ever before.

I am joined now by former Defense Secretary William Cohen. He joins us live from Washington tonight.

Always good to see you, sir. Welcome.

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Good evening, Paula.

ZAHN: Good evening.

So, Bill, in the near term, do you think there is any hope of stability in Iraq?

COHEN: Well, I think there is hope for stability, provided we have more of the Iraqis taking over their police forces and also the security apparatus, as such. But it's not going to happen in the short term.

We're going to have to have a greater international presence. I know that we have some 22,000 international forces, so to speak, but -- from some 22 countries. But most of them are from Great Britain. And so we shouldn't make too much of the international aspect of it. What we need to have is far more participation on the part of our friends and allies. And it's going to be up to us to persuade them it's in their interest, as well as ours, that they should be there.

ZAHN: Well, there doesn't seem to be a great deal of enthusiasm for this multinational force, does it? So, realistically, what kind of a timeframe are you talking about here to build these kind of forces that would make a difference?

COHEN: Well, it is going to take months to build the Iraqi forces. In the meantime, I think we have to have a much greater international presence as such, so it's not simply the United States and Great Britain and perhaps our Australian friends, now some of the Polish allies that we have there as well.

But we are bearing the largest burden by an overwhelming margin. And what we have to do is to have other countries involved, preferably some Muslim countries as well, preferably having India, Pakistan and others participate. That may take a resolution coming out of the United Nations. And I think, frankly, we should be willing to go to the U.N. to say that we need assistance here and it's in your interests, meaning the world interests, as well as the United States.

ZAHN: Let's also talk about some of the changes in forces you think would be -- make a difference. There was a Pentagon briefing today. And this is what General Abizaid had to say about those transformations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: The question always comes up after a major incident, do we need more troops? And I think, before, I've answered the question by saying, there's a lot of things that we need. Sometimes, you have to change the way that you're using your troops. So you do tactics, techniques and procedures differently.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Do you agree with him? And what kind of changes would you make immediately?

COHEN: Well, one would always want to give deference to the commanding general who's on the ground witnessing what is taking place.

Personally, I prefer more to less. It gives you a greater deal of flexibility to deal with contingencies. But assuming that General Abizaid is correct, what I think he's talking about also is a need to reconfigure the forces, so we have lighter, more agile, more mobile forces, and also perhaps even more military police, but to reduce the size of the heavy forces that were so successful in winning that quick victory as far as the major combat was concerned.

But now we have to have a different shape of that force. And that means more of the peacekeeping type of forces, which we are, I think, in need of adding to. And that's where some of these allies who do have peacekeeping forces come into play. So I think, in the short term, we could have infusion of additional forces of the right kind that could support the United States and our British friends in this regard.

The numbers, at this point, I would defer to General Abizaid. If he needs more, he should get them very quickly. And personally, again, I would rather have more in the short term than have to come in and make a request three or four months from now and do it by kind of a slow accumulation of additional forces. I think that would be difficult politically, to be sure, and I think counterproductive.

ZAHN: Bill Cohen, thanks very much for your insights tonight.

COHEN: My pleasure.

ZAHN: Always appreciate your dropping by.

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