Leading Iraqi Shiite politician Abdul Aziz al-Hakim has urged U.S. forces to use a stronger hand against Sunni-led insurgents. Al-Hakim discusses his reaction to the Iraq Study Group report, as well as Iraqis' desire to take control of security forces as soon as possible.
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Abdul Aziz al-Hakim is leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the biggest party in the Iraqi government. He's one of the country's most important Shiite power brokers. The only Shia leader with whom the administration talks directly, he was in Washington this week and met at the White House with President Bush.
GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: And we talked about a lot of important issues. I appreciate so very much his eminence's commitment to a unity government.
ABDUL AZIZ AL-HAKIM, Iraqi Shiite Cleric (through translator):
Our conversation today focused on ways to advance the work of the Iraqi government, elected government, as well as to advance the whole situation in Iraq and move it forward.
A descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, al-Hakim is a fierce rival of a fellow Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr. Al-Hakim spent more than 20 years in exile in Iran, helping form the Supreme Council to overthrow Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime.
His ties to Iran were highlighted in the Iraq Study Group report released yesterday. The report also said the military arm of al-Hakim's party, the Badr Corps, has infiltrated the Iraqi police force and has carried out attacks on Sunni-Arab civilians.
I interviewed him in Washington earlier today with the help of two translators.
Eminence, welcome to the program.
ABDUL AZIZ AL-HAKIM (through translator):
Thank you for providing this opportunity.