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Iraq Uprising Growing, Powell Says

Successful Elections Seen as Way to Alleviate Muslim Anger

By Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 27, 2004; Page A14

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday that the insurgency in Iraq is getting worse and that the U.S. occupation there has increased anti-American sentiment in Muslim countries, but he said successful elections in Afghanistan and Iraq would turn the situation around.

"We have seen an increase in anti-Americanism in the Muslim world. We'll not deny this," Powell said on ABC's "This Week." "But I think that that will be overcome in due process because what the Muslim world will see . . . is that in Afghanistan, 10 million people who have registered to vote will vote on the ninth of October and bring in place a freely elected president.

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"And I think we're going to do the same thing in Iraq if we stay the course, if we defeat this insurgency," Powell said.

He acknowledged that "yes, it's getting worse, and the reason it's getting worse is that they are determined to disrupt the elections."

But he rejected the notion, put forward recently by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, that it would be sufficient to hold elections in most, but not all, of Iraq.

"For the elections to have complete credibility and stand the test of international scrutiny, I think what we have to do is to give all the people of Iraq an opportunity to participate," Powell told "Fox News Sunday." "Just as we would have difficulty with partial elections here in the United States . . . I think it has to be throughout the country."

In contrast, Gen. John P. Abizaid, U.S. commander for the Middle East, told NBC's "Meet the Press" that the goal is that "the election will be able to be held in the vast majority of the country."

The election, to be held by Jan. 31, will create a national assembly, which in turn will pick a new government to replace the one headed by interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. The assembly will also oversee the writing of a new constitution.

"I am not predicting victory by January at the end of the elections," Abizaid cautioned. "I am predicting that we'll have elections. We will fight our way through the elections. It will be tough. It will be hard. But it will move us a step closer to ultimate victory, which is when Iraqis control their own destiny."

Abizaid said he found the CIA's recent assessment of Iraq's future over 18 months to be "overly pessimistic." The classified National Intelligence Estimate, which Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee have asked the CIA to declassify, predicted a tenuous stability at best and, in the worst-case scenario, civil war.

Powell, on Fox News, said the CIA report "wasn't a terribly shocking assessment. It was something that I could have written myself."

The assessment contrasted with President Bush's and Allawi's more optimistic portrayal of Iraq's short-term future.

Abizaid criticized news reports that the insurgency was spreading among the general population. "The constant drumbeat in Washington of a war that is being lost, that can't be won, of a resistance that is out of control, simply do not square with the facts on the ground," he said.

Statistics compiled by Kroll Security International, a private security firm working for the U.S. government, indicate the attacks against U.S. troops, security forces and private contractors are greater than reported by the U.S. military and have spread to parts of the country that have been relatively peaceful, according to a report Sunday in The Washington Post.

Powell confirmed a second report in The Post that military plans are underway for a fall offensive aimed at regaining control of the most volatile cities in the Sunni Triangle, including Fallujah and the provincial capitals near Baghdad, such as Ramadi to the west, Samarra to the north and Baqubah to the northeast.

The plan calls for opening up these areas so that Iraqi forces can move back in and secure the towns in preparation for balloting.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company