Accessibility links

Interview with Roberta Cohen, The Brookings Institution - 2003-05-28


Inside Iraq, security, stability, and unemployment are becoming larger problems. VOA-TV’s David Borgida speaks with Roberta Cohen, a Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution about the current and future needs to restore order and rebuild Iraq’s governmental institutions.

MR. BORGIDA
And now joining us from the Brookings Institution here in Washington to discuss Iraq, analyst Roberta Cohen. Ms. Cohen thanks for joining us today.

I hope you heard the last part of that package. It was interesting because, as we talk about security and stability inside Iraq, unemployment is becoming a bigger and bigger problem. What do you think about that?

MS. COHEN
Well, one of the security problems is that hundreds of thousands of former soldiers, and you have a million people who used to be employed by the government ministries, and they don't have salaries and they don't have jobs. And this of course makes for a tremendously volatile situation. I would say that security is one major factor, salaries is another, and basic services is the third, the triple-S I would call them. And this is really a problem in Iraq right now.

MR. BORGIDA
Ms. Cohen, but again, the overall security situation - and we have discussed it on our program for many weeks now - is not good. It's a tough situation, obviously, for coalition forces and U.S. troops. What do you think they're going to be doing in the weeks and months ahead to make some progress?

MS. COHEN
Some of the progress is already taking place. Military police, at least 4,000, are coming now. It's been slow, but they will be coming out, because they need to be patrolling the streets and creating a secure environment. And the Iraqi people are urging and appealing for that kind of security.

We are also sending out more troops, I understand at least another 18,000. I don't consider that to be enough. I think you need several hundred thousand troops to really restore public security in a country like Iraq that has gone through such tremendous military and political traumas over the past decades.

MR. BORGIDA
On the military front, really, one of the unanswered questions is where are those chemical and biological weapons labs and so on? And I must note to you, in some of the news that we've been reporting today, that the U.N. nuclear agency, the IAEA, is now reporting it will return some inspectors to Iraq next week to see if there is radioactive material stolen or spilled anywhere. Do you think that they have some chance to make some progress and perhaps answer this unanswered question?

MS. COHEN
Well, some of the looting that took place was of radioactive materials, which was very upsetting, because they found in the hospitals that there were people actually suffering from radioactivity and they were sick from this. So, one of the problems with the lack of security for so long was that arms were stolen and radioactive material was stolen from nuclear plants. It wasn't just some of the looting of statues of Saddam Hussein that were brought down but arms were taken and hospitals were destroyed. And it's important that the IAEA come back in.

MR. BORGIDA
How would you assess the progress that Paul Bremer has made so far since he has arrived in country?

MS. COHEN
Well, he certainly asserted an authority that was needed. And he has very strongly urged that we have police patrolling, that an Iraqi army and an Iraqi police force are set up, and that a political process begin to be underway. And he is arresting looters and arranging a system of law and order and showing some muscle and strength. At the same time, there are problems developing, because there is a resentment among certain parts of the population to having an occupation at all.

MR. BORGIDA
But in order to break down that resentment, Ms. Cohen, what does he have to do? Is it just a matter of providing some of the basics, food and fuel and electricity and clean water and so on? Is that going to break that impasse?

MS. COHEN
Well, restoring law and order is going to allow humanitarian assistance to come in better. It's going to allow the economy to be jump-started. After all, if you cannot repair oil pipelines and you cannot repair water and sewage treatment plants, you're not going to get that clean water. And one of the reasons that there is so much insecurity is that you cannot get workers doing it or they're doing it and then it's looted again. So, the emphasis on restoring law and order is tremendously important.

Jump starting the economy is the other. And there the oil industry, actually the revenues from oil, are going to be what is going to make Iraq again get back on its feet. The oil production is beginning. It's projected that in June there should be at least 1.4 million barrels a day, which is not as big as what it was before the war but at least that is considerable. And that's very important, too. And then getting some of the government ministries running again and getting people to work and paying salaries, that's also being organized.

So, there is a tremendous, monumental challenge that Mr. Bremer faces. I think that one positive sign, too, is that he will be working with the U.N. The U.N. has tremendous experience in putting countries back together again. And the U.N. is now supposed to play a role in helping with the reconstruction and coordinating humanitarian assistance and helping put into place a political system.

MR. BORGIDA
It is a tall challenge for all involved. Roberta Cohen over at the Brookings Institution in Washington, thanks for your time.

MS. COHEN
Thank you.

XS
SM
MD
LG