Dr. Al Rubaie Q & A, Sept 12, 2007
Wednesday, 12 September 2007
QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION BY DR. MOWAFFAK AL RUBAIE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR TO IRAQ.
TOPIC: TESTIMONY SITUATIONAL UPDATE
LOCATION: THE COMBINED PRESS INFORMATION CENTER, BAGHDAD, IRAQ TIME: 11:00 A.M. EDT
DATE: WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2007
Salaam aleikum. Yesterday we disappointed some of our friends of not answering some of their questions. But today we will try to, we'll keep our promise. It was only for technical problems actually that's why we postponed the press conference for today. As we said yesterday, we welcome the report issued by and discussed by Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus. And we hope that the Multi-National forces- the presence of the Multi-National forces in Iraq is important and they still have a good and a big role in fighting terrorism and extremism in addition to support democracy in Iraq. We said that the Iraqi government achieved a great progress particularly the national reconciliation government and they made a progress in different aspects like security and economic. And we've talked about this yesterday. And we mentioned two points, and two important points. The first was that we expect a decrease of the troops within the next coming months and hopefully by the mid of next year, according to the circumstances by next year we hope that we reach the pre-surge level which is about 130,000 troops. And this depends on the circumstances that the country passes through or goes through according to the size of threats whether they were internal or regional. Also we can say that the Multi-National forces, by the end of next year, they will reach a number that is less than 100,000 by the end of next year and all this depends on the circumstances and the security threats that Iraq faces. And also depends on the readiness and good training and equipment of the Iraqi security forces as we said yesterday. Because we said yesterday we said the Iraqi security forces made a good progress yesterday during the whole year and even during the past three years but particularly last year ever since the national unity government started, we made some good progress, exceptional progress in training, in conducting operations. As we said yesterday, that 80 percent of the operations are being conducted by the Iraqi security forces.
The second point that we mentioned yesterday and unfortunately most of the journalists missed to report this was that the Iraqi government, and the Iraqi parliament, Iraqi people will not accept freezing some of the attempts and also plans that target the Iraqi people like freezing the Iraqi constitution and freezing the Iraqi laws because these are actually one of the achievements and some of the achievements that the Iraqi people done. And the Iraqi people was able to elect this good parliament. So these things haven't been noticed yesterday but so that's why I'm trying to stress these points again to the media.
I'd like to give space to the journalists now to start their questions.
Q Concerning the report. In the report that was published during the past two days, in addition to what the prime minister said and the council of representative at the armed groups in Anbar, so before all these reports there was another report in America that talked about violations inside the security forces in the ministry of interior. So the question is, the armed groups that have been formed to fight al-Qaeda in Anbar, who could guarantee that these groups could be loyal to the government and who could guarantee that they will not violate or this will not form any kind of new violations?
AL RUBAIE: We have a security committee that -and when we receive some lists of those who are trying to join the Iraqi security forces like the army or the police, there is a committee that will look for those people, for their backgrounds to check if they were involved in crimes, and they work on making investigations so that these names go to the criminal records at the minister of interior and intelligence so that we can check about the backgrounds of those peoples. So of course, all this, we said that the only way to win and achieve victory on al-Qaeda will be that the people in the neighborhoods will standup against al-Qaeda. And this is what happened. And this is what happened in Ramadi, and this is what's happened also in Diyala Province, and also in NinevehProvince. And so all the areas, all the people are standing against al-Qaeda. Could those violate the security forces? Yes, this is possible. Which is why we have set a committee that will check the security background about those people and give them permissions. Not everyone could join and could be approved to join the security forces. But the majority of those who joined are actually welcomed. So when they abandon the al-Qaeda and joined the Iraqi security forces to fight al-Qaeda, this is the biggest guarantee that we have that those people are actually Iraqis, and they're loyal, and they want to join the government. So, we welcome them.
Q Question from al-Hurra TV. Yesterday you welcomed to the report by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker and you said that they're actually true. In the report that Petraeus mentioned he said that Iran is the most dangerous country on Iraq since it supplies the armed groups and the militias by weapon. Does the Iraqi government approve this opinion? And the second question has to do also with the report. General Petraeus said that any kind of withdrawal, any kind of quick withdrawal for the American troops in Iraq will be disastrous. Do you think that this is an exaggerated statement?
AL RUBAIE: Concerning the neighboring countries and particularly Syria and Iran, they know what they have to do concerning the security situation in Iraq. We deal and always interact with those countries and Prime Minister Maliki visited those countries and he had serious talks and honest talks with those two countries. And both countries have promised to work. They promised to work on the violations of the borders. And they also promised that both countries would also present help in stabilizing the situation in Iraq.
As for your question about the withdrawal, no rational person could talk about a quick withdrawal or a non-organized withdrawal. I don't think there's anything like that of course because this will effect the security situation in Iraq. What we say is this. Our stance is clear. As the Iraqi security forces become ready, the chances of our need to the need of the Multi-National decreases, in particularly the American forces. So we think that during the coming six months or nine months until we think that the development of the Iraqi security forces and arming those forces and equipping them will be in a way of decreasing the need to the Multi-National forces and particularly the American forces. And we think that the 30,000 soldiers within the nine coming months will not be needed. And now we started working on constructing the 13th , and 14th, and 15th Iraqi Division. So constructing the Iraqi armed forces is going on and by this continuous constructions of these Iraqi security forces the need for the Multi-National forces will decrease. And as I told you by next year we will reduce the MNF troops 130,000 probable 100,000. And when we reach 2009, we could talk about numbers that are less than 90,000 among the MNF. But of course this depends essentially on the security changes and the security circumstances at that time and of course also on the help from the neighboring countries which is a very important and an essential point. Because we've said that many times that the struggle in Iraq is not a struggle among the people in Iraq but it's a regional and an international level struggle through making use the extremists of both sides. I'd like to say that I don't want to say like a supporting collar but to divert attention from al-Qaeda attention that actually threatens all countries and not only Iraq.
Q So do you think Iran is the most dangerous country on Iraq as Petraeus said?
AL RUBAIE: As I said, Iran is a very important country in the region and we think Iran could help in stabilizing the situation in Iraq. Iran could support the Iraqi government more and the Iranians know exactly what they have to do. And they know exactly what they have to do when it comes to stopping or ceasing any support to the militias or smuggling weapons. And we think that they could have a positive role.
Q Question from Medat(sp) Newspaper. You talk about an important point is that there are some sides trying to freeze some laws and constitution. What do you mean sides who are trying to freeze the constitution and some laws?
AL RUBAIE: It's obvious that we are going through a tough time and we're facing huge problems but our determines and our persistence is unlimited. Some of us get tired by the process, either by being ignorant of the goals of the achievements or due to some personal interests that that side have or has. We think that the Iraqi people and the parliament can not allow this. The people who resisted Saddam Hussein for 35 years will not allow this of course. So the Iraqi people will not tired. They will not surrender against al-Qaeda. So and we have now from the elected government and the constitution so all this outcome no one can change all this, except the Iraqi government and through the constitutional methods. Anything other than this, except this is not acceptable.
Q Hurriyah TV. The Iraqi government a few days ago issued a strategic order plan called Iraq First. Will this plan or strategy will go against the Bush's strategy?
AL RUBAIE: I think that this strategy is called the Iraqi National Security which is not the American one. Of course, we are allies with the American, with the United States and we coordinate our political work and our stance and our security stance also with the United States and we also expect support. But this strategy sets a path for Iraq for the next coming four years. And it also takes into account the interest of the neighboring countries and also the interests of the allies and friends. But, the very first interest that we take into account is Iraq's interest. That's why we call it Iraq First. And we're trying to create, through this strategy to create, so that the Iraqi ministries could follow and adopt these strategies for the next four years. And I believe that this is the first strategy in Iraq ever since the establishment of the Iraqi government which is a [inaudible] and a new strategy in the history of Iraq.
Q Tina, Los Angeles Times. The [recording fading in and out] in Washington [recording fading in and out] about the accuracy [recording fading in and out]
AL RUBAIE: I think that there are numbers that are issued by the minister of health and also some other numbers by the minister of interior and also have numbers issued by some provinces. I'd like to admit that these numbers are not unified and there was an order issued by the ministerial national security so that we could unify these numbers and could present a unified number of the Iraqi casualties, and even the Iraqi militaries. But the civilians, the number of the Iraqi civilian casualties is not exact. But I'd like to tell you something. The numbers that are actually being presented abroad are actually exaggerated in a very big way because there's a network. The national security studied these numbers by different ministries and it didn't reach the number that people outside or abroad or some of the media reports talk about. They are actually against the war in Iraq. So these numbers are actually exaggerated.
Q Question from Bilad(sp). Doctor, General Petraeus mentioned yesterday that next year there will be a gradual withdrawal of the American troops in the Iraq. In a previous report by Prime Minister Maliki, he mentioned that in a response to a question of the readiness of the Iraqi forces in case the American forces withdrew he said that we are ready at anytime to fill the vacuum or the gap of the American troops in case we were surprised by any kind of quick withdrawal.
AL RUBAIE: The Prime Minister's answer is actually correct. Prime Minister Maliki said or what he meant is this. That we are ready for any kind of probability. For instance, which is actually not possible. If there was an American resolution of withdrawing the American troops, all of the American troops tomorrow, we should have set plans to diminish the casualties and the damages due to such a quick withdrawal or sudden withdrawal. But all the expectations and the rational reports never talk about a sudden withdrawal.
But what we agreed upon with the Coalition forces is that the gradual withdrawal would be coordinated with the readiness of the Iraqi forces. And this is the whole idea. Of course, all this depends on the security situation. If I was talking to you a year from now or let's say or even before Maliki's government and his request for national reconciliation, I would tell you that the Anbar tribes will fight al-Qaeda. You will imagine that this is just an imagination. But we believed in this. That's why we presented the national reconciliation program and these are the outcomes that you see today. I don' think that there is any national, any patriotic person who doesn't want the foreign forces leave as fast as possible. But, when we talk about the possibility, is it possible for those troops to withdraw? What Prime Minister Maliki said was that we are ready for any kind of possibility. That's why we set plans for any possibility so that we can work. But now we work on the most accepted and rational possible option that will happen which is the foreign troops will decrease as the Iraqi troops get ready to take over the security situation.
Q Hello Dr. al Rubaie, Jim Randal with the Voice of American. How concerned are you that the democrats, the majority party in the US House and the US Senate, are very skeptical of the report and very critical of Iraq's government. How concerned are you that the slow or no political progress on the oil law, the de-Baathification law those sorts of things, how concerned are you that that's going to erode political support for Iraq's government in the US Congress?
AL RUBAIE: Let me tell you something which is really bothering us. Is our real problem here is people do not understand how difficult and how complicated the situation in Iraq is. And this is the crunch of the problem. People always tend to over simplify what is going on in this country. We are talking about 1,000 year legacy of problems and you cannot do this. You cannot sort out this problems over the next three or in three or four years time. So we need patience and that's why we call it strategic patience. At the, and on the legislation you mentioned, the four or five legislations do you think we don't want to do it? Of course, we want to do it. But they are so complicated.
In your country for example, in the United States, the immigration law. For years and years, I remember when President George Bush started his first presidency, he started the immigration law. And it hasn't been passed until now. And all these legislations you mentioned and others we're already implementing in practice. We're applying these in practices. For example, the national reconciliation. Thousands and thousands of former regime officers and soldiers came back to the new army. We call them- and the former regime elements and the de-Baathification, there are so many people in- and already they are former Baathist. They're already in the government. And I'll tell you there are also some Baathist, senior Baathist, even in the security institutions and in the minister of interior and in ministry of defense. So, actually we are implementing these legislation already pending, waiting for the council of representative, our parliament to approve them. Thank you.
Q Hi thank you for that. Marie Calvin, Sunday Times. I wanted first to follow up Tina's question. You were talking about the fact that you've seen estimates or reviewed estimates from the various ministries on civilian deaths which is very important to us. I wonder if you could give us your best estimate of a real figure in terms of civilian deaths since 2003? And secondly you said several times that Iran knows what it has to do. I wonder if you could give us one example of what you see Iran Thank you. has to do in terms of stopping the arms smuggling and the help for militias?
AL RUBAIE: Thank you very much. On the first question, I think I don't have a figure for the civilians death since 2003. But I can say one thing that you probably will be correct if you remove one zero from the figures which is in the public domain or is published by the uh- - So I believe this has been exaggerated for political purposes. And most of these figures are done by organizations which are based outside Iraq.
And this is on Iran issue, I think this is very clear. The prime minister made it absolutely crystal clear in his last visit to Iran that they should stop the arms smuggling through the borders to the- and they should stop supporting the extremists and the militias. And we hope, we very much hope that Iran will take this seriously. We are also, on this although it is on a different issue, we're very hopeful and but we're cautious in this, cautiously hopeful on the statement which was made by Muqtada Sadr by the Sadr Trend that he is suspending all the security operations or military operations against the Iraqi security forces as well as the Multi-National force.
Q Sorry. There's a study. What would your reaction be a study that's coming out, a poll coming out today in London. It's been done by a British organization again using pollsters in Jordan and in Iraq saying that there's been one million Iraqi citizens have died since 2003, mostly civilians. What would your reaction to that figure be?
AL RUBAIE: That remind me of the ridiculous study which was done by the Lancet a few years ago. And I don't think- these figures are not substantiated and they are very, very, very exaggerated and I believe we need- I admit, we the Iraqi government has a responsibility to go back to our records and to go back to and do this properly and openly with the help of and transparently as well and try to produce a figure which is a credible figure.
Q Question from Radio Sawa(sp). Dr. Mowaffak, I hope you pardon us for being persistent particularly, you said that you don't allow or you don't accept of any kind of freezing the constitution and when you answered the question of one my colleagues in Madah(sp) you weren't clear in your answer. I'd like to answer do you mean by freezing constitution what's going on through attempts by Sadr Trend of rejoin from the United Iraqi Net Alliance or is there another trend or another idea of the Islamic party from not making any clear stance of Petraeus' report? So I'm just wondering all these indications, do you mean that - how could they try to freeze the constitution since we have a political process and we have a constitutional amendment committee? I'd like to understand what do you mean by freezing the constitution?
AL RUBAIE: What I'd like to clarify to all the people is that there is - we cannot choose any path other than democracy in Iraq. And this path, we're committed to this path. What we have from the constitution, we have a constitution but yes we need some amendments. And the national unity government, all these achievements that the Iraqi people have done during the political process we're committed to it. Of course, we need to develop all this. Of course, we need to develop the constitution, to amendment it. But any kind of conspiracy against the constitution and against the political process is not allowed and is not accepted no matter, regardless of any side whether it was from political sides or religious sides or by some- we like those sides that there's Iraqis suffered and made a lot of sacrifices so that they can be free. And this freedom now that they are enjoying today cost a lot. So they cannot choose any other path.
Q Question from Iraqi TV. Will there be a security plan in Nineveh Province like Anbar? Will there be a new security plan in Nineveh like we have minorities like Turkmen and Chevicks(sp) have been displaced there so?
AL RUBAIE: Actually, two days ago there was a meeting for the crisis committee and the minister of interior and the minister for defense and also the commander of the armed forces also presented their report to the prime minister about recommending forming a commanding operation in NinevehProvince. And this commanding operation will be under, will have two divisions in addition to the Iraqi police and of course in addition to some intelligence forces will be sent there. And we have some real and serious cooperation with the Arabic tribes in Nineveh to Nineveh Province so that we can have some awakening on an awareness to vision and we have some, we've heard some good news coming from Nineveh Province. And the Iraqi government does not neglect Nineveh Province. We always think about Nineveh Province but we are still waiting an order from the Prime Minister Maliki to form this commanding operation so that they can coordinate with the Iraqi tribes in fighting al-Qaeda and driving out from that place forever. Thank you very much.
I congratulate the Iraqi people of Ramadan month and we ask almighty God that could secure and always keep an eye on our people on this holy month. Hopefully this month will pass in a good way, in a secure- I'm so grateful for you.
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