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Iraq: Intelligence Chief Says More Cooperation Needed To Stop Attacks

Al-Shahwani says better interagency cooperation is needed to thwart terrorist attacks (file photo) (epa) BAGHDAD, July 19, 2007 (RFE/RL) – The director of Iraq's National Intelligence Service, Major General Muhammad al-Shahwani, says that the failures of other government agencies to respond to intelligence reports of threats are responsible for some of the success of groups carrying out bombing attacks.

RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq correspondent Imad Jassem spoke with al-Shahwani on July 16 about the structure of the intelligence service and the challenges it faces.

RFE/RL: The complications of the Iraq security affairs, according to many of those involved, require the use of advanced techniques to deal with them. There are some who attribute the failure in controlling this multipronged file to the absence of an intelligence effort. How do you respond to such charges?

Muhammad al-Shahwani: Our reports are clear, and most of the [government's counterterror] operations in Baghdad are based on our reports. There are many things we have known about before they happened: for example, the bombing of the Samarra shrine was reported by us one month before it was carried out. I personally informed the ministerial committee and the prime minister that this was about to happen. Although discussions on the matter were held, the appropriate measures were not taken to ensure protection, and it happened.

Security is not all intelligence work. Security is partly intelligence, and partly the work of other security agencies that act on our information in pursuing the terrorists. We hope that those agencies will develop themselves so that they can go out and carry out arrests based on our information.

RFE/RL: What are your ideas for developing the National Intelligence Service further?

Al-Shahwani: You know that the Iraqi Intelligence Service is, I believe, the only agency that is not politicized and nonsectarian. It includes all the various affiliations, and they all work together as brothers, and that is why our product is clear. We do not have any internal problems.

RFE/RL: Are there any plans to reinstate former intelligence officers from the deposed Ba'athist regime?

Al-Shahwani: No, we had a few of them in the beginning. When we [took over] there were a number of intelligence officers that had been appointed by the [U.S.-led] coalition -- those who were above suspicion -- whose [Ba'ath]-Party rank did not exceed that of "member" or "team member." There were a few of higher rank, and we dismissed them. We were able to develop a new cadre of young men -- university graduates -- and we now have a good cadre.

RFE/RL: Is there cooperation with other countries that have highly developed experience in the intelligence field?

Al-Shahwani: Of course, we have relations with the United States, obviously, and with Australia. We send groups for training in Australia and Italy.

RFE/RL: Does the cooperation include working with sophisticated equipment?

Al-Shahwani: Yes, on sophisticated equipment, which is basic to intelligence work. First, there is basic training, and then they move on to specialize: such as surveillance, case officers, [etc.]. As you know, these require experience, and the advanced countries have the prerequisites for such training.

We have courses being held in Jordan; actually a large number of training courses in Jordan. Some courses are conducted here [in Iraq]; we have a training center. Thank God, we are always trying to develop but -- I can't say that we are the best of the security services -- but we do have an impressive cadre.

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THE COMPLETE STORY: RFE/RL's complete coverage of events in Iraq and that country's ongoing transition.