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Jon Lee Anderson
Jon Lee Anderson is a staff writer for The New Yorker. The author of The Lion's Grave: Dispatches From Afghanistan (2002) and other books, he is currently working on a book about the fall of Baghdad to be published later this year. His most recent article for The New Yorker, "The Candidate," about Abdul Aziz al-Hakim and the Shiites of southern Iraq, appeared in the magazine's Feb. 2, 2004, issue. In this interview he speaks with FRONTLINE producer Martin Smith about the Shia, their leaders, the forces holding Iraq together -- and those potentially tearing it apart.

 

Sheikh Gazi al-Essawi
Sheikh Gazi al-Essawi, a Sunni Arab, is a leader of the Bu Essa tribe in Falluja, one of the largest and most powerful tribes in Iraq. In late November, Sheikh Gazi's warehouse in Falluja was raided by soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division looking for explosives. In this interview, he explains how such raids are perceived by members of Iraq's tribal Arab society. "In my view," he tells FRONTLINE producer Martin Smith, "the political solution is better than the military one. ... We know how mighty the Americans are and how tough they are, so they do not need to parade the streets and search here and there. ... They don't need to intimidate us. If they want to prove their strength, they should help me politically."

 

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim
Abdul Aziz al-Hakim is a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and the leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a large, influential, and moderate Iraqi Shiite political organization. Having long opposed Saddam Hussein and operated clandestinely against his regime, SCIRI did not interfere with the U.S.-led invasion, and it has since formed a tactical alliance with the Coalition Provisional Authority. Al-Hakim is also believed to be the commander of SCIRI's militia group, the Badr Brigade, renamed the Badr Organization for Development and Reconstruction. Along with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the Iraqi Shiite spiritual leader, and other members of the moderate Shiite establishment, al-Hakim says that he does not favor a theocratic Islamic state on the model of Iran, but rather a constitutional democracy that respects Islam while guaranteeing political and human rights to all Iraqis. "To respect Islam is one thing," he tells FRONTLINE, "and to establish an Islamic government is something else."

 

Col. William Mayville
Mayville is commander of the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade, operating until recently in and around Kirkuk -- a key, oil-rich city in northern Iraq that is claimed equally by Arabs, Turkomen, and Kurds. Mayville's job has been not only to stabilize the security situation in the area, running military operations against insurgent cells, and to facilitate reconstruction projects, but also to help sort out the competing claims of these ethnic groups. He worries that the ethnic tensions could lead to civil unrest, with implications for all of Iraq. Asked if the Army is being required to take on too much, Mayville responds, "You get in a situation, and you suddenly find a mountain that you've got to negotiate to get to your objective. Does the military say, 'Oh, I'm sorry, we don't do mountains?' You know, 'We do streams, we do valleys, we do jungles. We just don't do mountains?' The mountains here are the social and political issues that we're facing."

 

Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi
Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi al-Modarresi, a Shiite spiritual leader in the sacred city of Karbala, is one of Iraq's five living grand ayatollahs. Like Iraq's preeminent Shiite leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, al-Modarresi is considered a moderate who believes in the compatability of Islam and democracy, and counsels patience with the U.S.-led occupation. Yet he warns that if Sistani's demands for direct elections of an interim Iraqi government are not met, the U.S. risks disaster. As a strong critic of Saddam Hussein, he spent years in exile in Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon, and Iran, before heading home to Karbala shortly after the collapse of the Baath Party regime. While Modarresi was in Iran, Syria financed and supported his dissident group.

 

Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno
Odierno is the commander of the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division, headquartered outside Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, where the former dictator was captured by 4th Infantry Division troops in December. Tikrit, located in the so-called Sunni Triangle north of Baghdad, is a place where Sunni Arabs and their tribal society have long dominated and where loyalty to Saddam and the former Baathist regime still runs strong. Here, Odierno talks about the prospects of winning the loyalty of people in the Sunni Triangle, and the role of reconstruction -- and the security and funding necessary for reconstruction -- in that process. He also addresses the challenges posed by tensions along the "ethnic fault line" between Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites, and other groups. "In Kirkuk," he says, "you have Shia and Sunni Arabs, you have Kurds, you have Turkomen. That's a microcosm of the entire country. If we can prove a point in Kirkuk and make that work, you can make the whole country work."

 

Adnan Pachachi
Adnan Pachachi, the former foreign minister of Iraq and ambassador to the United Nations before the 1968 Baathist coup, is now president of the Iraqi Independent Democrats and an influential member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council in Baghdad. As a Sunni with secular liberal-democratic views, Pachachi has been mentioned as a potential Iraqi leader favored by the U.S. In this interview, he discusses the secular-religious divide among the Iraqi people and the influence of Shiite clerics such as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Moqtada al-Sadr, yet he insists that Iraq does not have a history of ethnic violence. "This is not Northern Ireland," he says. "It's not Lebanon. It's not Bosnia." Still, Pachachi believes that religious and sectarian tensions need to be addressed before Iraq can have viable elections.

 

Maj. Gen. David Petraeus
Petraeus is the commanding general of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division, known as the "Screaming Eagles," and was based in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from April 2003 to February 2004. Petraeus and the approximately 18,000 soldiers under his command moved into northwestern Iraq in late April, and in early May presided over Iraq's first postwar elections. Having launched some 4,500 reconstruction projects and used tough military tactics to quell security threats, Petraeus had the kind of success in and around Mosul that Washington had hoped for, making Mosul a showcase for visiting congressmen. Here, Petraeus describes the challenges he and his division faced, the complexities of the political and social dynamics of Mosul and northern Iraq, and why he sees reasons for optimism. "We're just trying to get the cattle to Cheyenne," Petraeus says. "We're trying to accomplish the mission that we've been given. ... This is basically all about hard work, common sense, and just keeping your nose to the grindstone."

 

Barham Saleh
Barham Saleh is prime minister of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the two major Kurdish political parties, in Suleimaniya. He has previously served as a representative of the PUK in Washington and is favored by some to become Iraq's representative in the United Nations. In this interview, he explains why the Kurds should be part of a unified Iraq, provided they receive equal representation in Baghdad. "We all know we have nowhere to go but to be together," he tells FRONTLINE producer Martin Smith. "In a way, we are condemned to this country together. We have to live together."

 

Editor's Note: An interview has been removed from this page to protect the individual's security.

 

 

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posted february 12, 2004; updated august 24, 2004

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