U.S. mobilizing scores of Arabic translators to Iraq

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

The Bush administration has approved the hiring of scores of Arabic translators for the stabilization of Iraq.

Officials said the hiring of Arabic-speaking personnel was decided to fill what was determined as a shortage of Americans who can engage Iraqis. They said the shortage has been reported in both the U.S. military as well as in the Coalition Provisional Authority, responsible for the stabilization of Iraq.

The request for the Arabic translators was relayed by L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. chief administrator for Iraq. The hiring of the personnel is being done in cooperation with the State Department, which will send Arabic speakers to Baghdad.

Reuel Marc Gerecht, a resident fellow at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute who has returned from Baghdad, stressed the importance of Arabic-speaking U.S. personnel in Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported. Gerecht urged the State Department to move Arabic-speaking consuls and other staff from U.S. embassies in the Middle East to Iraq.

"It would be a very good idea if the department and the CIA now stripped U.S. embassies and consulates of their fluent Arabic speakers for assignment to Iraq," Gerecht, a former CIA officer, said. "As important as these individuals may be to the various missions in Yemen, Egypt, or Algeria, their presence in Iraq would be vastly more important to America's future in the region. The State Department ought to embrace this responsibility and start playing for keeps."

"We are in the process of identifying individuals, including those with Arabic language training, to supplement the numbers of department staff already on temporary assignment to the Coalition Provisional Authority," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Boucher said Bremer requested State Department help for additional speakers in a meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell. The coalition authority is financed by the Defense Department.

Officials said State Department employees sent to the CPA office in Baghdad will be funded by the department. It is not clear how many Arabic-speaking employees are left in the department.

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