During his tour of Iraq, Obama met with leaders of the awakening councils and tribal leaders in Al-Anbar province. According to Al-Arabiya TV, Dubai, during the meeting: Ahmad Abu-Rishah, head of the Iraqi Awakening Council, called on the Democratic candidate, Obama, to avoid talking about a near withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, ... saying the US withdrawal should take place after building up the Iraqi forces is completed in order to be ready to defend the sovereignty and the homeland, away from partisan, tribal, and sectarian affiliations."
At 1510 gmt, Al-Arabiya anchorwoman Maysun Azzam carries a three- minute live telephone interview with Ahmad Abu-Rishah, from Al- Ramadi. Following from BBC News is the full translation of the interview:
[Azzam] Does not this demand contradict the support that Obama received through statements by Iraqi political leaders on the importance to set a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops?
[Abu-Rishah] We stressed the need to support the Iraqi forces and security agencies in order to be able to protect the country after the US forces leave. We also stressed the need to provide economic and scientific support so as to rebuild infrastructure, which has been damaged because of wars. Thirdly, we stressed the importance of preserving the unity of the Iraqi people and land and denounce any plan to partition Iraq.
[Azzam] Excuse me, but cannot these requirements be met within a specific timetable for the withdrawal of US troops? Many countries depend on US military training and financial and economic support while US troops are not actually present on the ground.
[Abu-Rishah] As I told you, we stressed the need to support the Iraqi forces to be able to protect the country after the withdrawal of US troops. We also said it is necessary to implement the agreement between us and President George Bush on reinstating the former Iraqi Army on national and professional bases.
[Azzam] You say that the withdrawal should not take place unless the Iraqi forces are capable of taking control of the situation on the ground, while Obama speaks of withdrawal after two years. Does this mean you are pessimistic about the chances of the Iraqi forces taking control of the situation on the ground?
[Abu-Rishah] If things go seriously, the Iraqi forces can be built within a year. In the Iraqi war [word indistinct]. We used to form brigades in the army within months. Should things go seriously, the Iraqi Army would be built in a year. In the present, we do not have an army that can protect the country after the US forces leave. This army is not capable enough. We need to support this army by providing it with weapons and supplies. The Iraqi defence minister complains about the rise in the prices of weapons. Sometimes he takes weapons from Al-Ramadi. We want weapons from one country and the entire Iraqi Army should be trained on these weapon. It is not right to have part of the army trained on weapons from Al-Ramadi while the other part trained on Italian weapons, for example. We want weapons from the US Army that can be effectively used to protect the country, and the Iraqi Army should be fully trained on these weapons."
Originally published by Al-Arabiya TV, Dubai, in Arabic 1504 22 Jul 08.