Chalabi Interviewed by Stephanopoulos
George Stephanopoulos interviewed Ahmad Chalabi on ABC’s This Week Sunday morning. Here are some excerpts from the press release issued with the transcript afterwards:
‘ · When Mr. Stephanopoulos asked why Prime Minister Allawi’s government failed to stop the insurgency and how the new government will deal with the same issues, Dr. Chalabi responded: “…The Iraqi government failed to stop those killers because the security plan that the United States and the coalition put together for Iraq for the period after sovereignty did not work. The government did not take the issue of the sovereignty of Iraq seriously. Iraqis must take control of the Iraqi armed forces from the recruitment, to the training, to the deployment.”
· When Mr. Stephanopoulos asked about a “Time” magazine report on US military officials negotiating with former Saddam regime elements leading the insurgency, Dr. Chalabi responded: “I know nothing about such negotiations. Those negotiations will in no way bind the elected government of Iraq because it’s not part of them. And I don’t know whether the report is accurate or not. But the issue here is not negotiating with the killers who are killing the Iraqi people and who are murdering tens of Iraqis on their most religious occasions like this, like what happened yesterday and the day before. I believe that the Iraqi government will defend the Iraqi people and will stop the killers and stop the terrorists.”
· When Mr. Stephanopoulos asked if the US military should stop negotiating with these regime elements, Dr. Chalabi replied: “The U.S. military is free to do what they want. But what is binding on the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government is regulated by agreement that exists now and by the fact that Iraqis are a sovereign state and will have an elected government very soon.”
· When Mr. Stephanopoulos asked how the status of US forces will changes under the new government, Dr. Chalabi responded: “I believe that the agreement will deal with the issues of how the Iraqi armed forces work, how the command structure of the forces in Iraq to be organized, where the U.S. forces will be deployed, how they will deal with emergencies in Iraq, and where will they be. All these issues need to be clarified.”
· Dr. Chalabi on the withdrawal of US forces: “As for the time when U.S. forces can begin to withdraw, I would say to you that this is contingent upon the training and the making Iraqis’ armed forces effective in fighting the insurgents and identifying the enemy and fighting them, and not negotiating and giving them (inaudible) fighting them. We need to do it politically and militarily. And also, the United States forces can begin to withdraw when the Iraqi security forces are able to assume more and more of the burden in doing this. Iraqis are perfectly willing to fight the killers and the terrorists. And I think that they have not been — no structures were in place to make them effective so far. So we need to improve on that.”
· Dr. Chalabi on the issue of detainees: “The agreement will deal with the right or how those U.S. forces detainees Iraqis. There are thousands of Iraqis now detained by U.S. forces. We don’t know why. We don’t know how. And we don’t know under what legal structure they are being detained. I believe that this process should be an Iraqi process.”
· When Mr. Stephanopoulos asked if he was in the good graces of the US again, Dr. Chalabi responded: “I hope to be a friend. I’m a friend of the United States, and I continue to be a friend of the United States. And I am grateful, as are most Iraqis, to the American people for helping liberate Iraq and also, young and old men and women of the United States Armed Forces in Iraq who have done a great job in helping us have elections, and also for the leadership of President Bush.”
· When Mr. Stephanopoulos asked if he thought he would be the next Prime Minster of Iraq, Dr. Chalabi responded: “That’s up to the United Iraqi Alliance parliamentary bloc, and they will decide on that through a democratic process… I believe I have a majority of the votes on my side right now.”
· Dr. Chalabi on the newly formed government: “We want to change the way Iraq is governed. It’s no longer — it will no longer be the government of a leader with everybody else not counting very much. We want to have a cabinet form of executive authority in Iraq, and I am perfectly willing to cooperate, as indeed are my other friends and colleagues who are competing the job of prime minister.”
· When Mr. Stephanopoulos asked about Iran’s relationship with Iraq, Dr. Chalabi responded: “The Iraqi people will assert themselves as an independent people. They have elected an assembly which ran on this platform, independence, sovereignty. And I believe that the Iraqi people will not accept to be part of Iran. And the Shia of Iraq will not accept to be under the influence of Iran. But that does not mean we have to be enemies of Iran. Iran has a long border with Iraq, and we intend to have the best possible relations with Iran based on non-interference in each other’s affairs, and also good neighborly relations, and no terrorism from either side against the other.”
· Dr. Chalabi on Israeli-Palestinian relations: “…I believe myself that the issue of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute will be solved by negotiations. And I’m glad to see the negotiations are progressing between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government under the new leadership in the Palestinian Authority. And we look forward to the day when there is an independent Palestinian state at peace with all its neighbors so that we can resume — we can put this problem behind us.” ‘
What all this tells me is that Ahmad Chalabi still has a highly vindictive, almost violent attitude toward the Sunni Arab community, many of whom were Baath Party members even though most were not guilty of actual crimes. I personally can’t imagine a process through which Chalabi emerges as prime minister from the United Iraqi Alliance, or at least not a process that did not involve a lot of bribery. But if such a disaster occurred, it is obvious that he would throw the country into further chaos immediately.
It is absolutely outrageous that Chalabi blames US policies for the guerrilla war. He was the one who pushed for punitive policies toward the ex-Baathists and for dissolving the Iraqi military, and he and his Neoconservative cronies in the Pentagon bear a great deal of the responsibility for the mess in Iraq today.
By the way, it seems pretty obvious that aside from Stephanopoulos, a lot of television news leaders are trying to dump the Iraq story. Despite massive bombings and loss of life on Ashura in Iraq on Saturday, there is so far relatively little about it on the Sunday afternoon talking heads shows.