London, Asharq Al-Awsat- During Iraqi Prime Minister Dr Ibrahim Jaafari”s short visit while en route to the United States to deliver Iraq”s speech at the UN General Assembly, he gave this exclusive interview to "Asharq al-Awsat" yesterday:
(Q) You visited Tal Afar town. What is happening there and in the border town of Al-Rutbah?
(A) Presently Tal Afar has entered the second phase. What is happening over there is military operations to defuse the problem. The problem in Tal Afar did not originate from the town or the people themselves but from a group of terrorists who infiltrated it. A lengthy discussion lasting more than two months was held with the people of Tal Afar to reach a peaceful solution before the military one. I sent a group led by a personal envoy and it met the Turkoman and Arab Sunni and Shiite citizens and they asked us to send our armed forces and they also sent me a memorandum bearing their signatures. The most noticeable point in that memorandum was their request to resort to the military solution to purge the town. We prepared a plan for the operation that has now entered the second stage. It was successful from the start until it ended and no person was killed during it other than two persons who were slightly injured. I was there today (yesterday) and saw with my own eyes what was happening in Tal Afar and met our military units and also spoke to the division commander and officers. They gave me detailed reports and I was briefed on the prevailing atmosphere. The operation will now enter the third stage, that of rebuilding the town, compensating the losses, and returning the population to their homes.
(Q) Were terrorists arrested there or did you find remnants of their presence in Tal Afar?
(A) We found booby-trapped vehicles, explosives and weapons hideouts, and workshops confirming that the terrorists held training courses in them to booby trap vehicles and prepare explosives. This means that Tal Afar would have become the incubator and base for instigating damage in other areas. At the same time, the terrorists undermined the civilized social infrastructure of the town”s citizens that were established over time. The Sunni and Shiite Turkomans of Tal Afar have been brothers for a long time and we are making efforts to restore the situation back to normal.
(Q) Do you not think that the military interventions in Tal Afar and other areas in western Iraq are similar to what happened in Al-Fallujah and Al-Najaf?
(A) No. These operations are very different from what happened in Al-Fallujah and Al-Najaf. First, we did not start bombarding the town and we gave the people enough time to be evacuated. Secondly, we responded to the demands of the town”s population. The operation was generally clean, totally clean. It is the first time that I read, before I saw, of a military operation carried out so precisely and of the forces entering their specific targets and arresting persons without any victims, thank God. The division and other commanders there explained to me today the reality on the ground.
(Q) Defense Minister Sadun al-Dulaymi accused Syria of encouraging the passage of Arab terrorists to Iraq. What is your opinion of this?
(A) There are accusations against more than one neighboring country. Syria denies having any connection with the terrorists” infiltration or says that as far as it concerns us, we are not allowing anyone to infiltrate into Iraq”s territories. This is what they are saying. We had telephone contacts and I explained to them our suffering from the presence of armed elements that are operating freely in Syria. On their part, they are denying this. As far as we are concerned, terrorism is terrorism, whether it comes from this or that country, from outside or inside Iraq. Terrorism does not pose a real danger to our people only or just to Iraq but to the entire region and world. It has been proved that the stage for terrorism is anywhere there is a human. The Iraqis are confronting terrorism with its sophisticated methods on behalf of the entire humanity.
(Q) Are you still reproaching Arab diplomacy and the absence of its real representation in Iraq?
(A) The reproach is undoubtedly there. However, I am the type who considers reproach a way for opening doors widely, not closing them. I walked with my feet to the Arab countries when I was the first chairman of the Governing Council and entered the Arab League”s halls. We do not know the reason for this delay in the presence of real Arab diplomatic representation and why Iraq is not getting a response. Yes, the reproach remains. Why, all the countries in the world sent representatives and ambassadors, the US President visited Iraq, the British prime minister visited Iraq, the Danish prime minister did the same, and foreign ministers from European countries and America visited Iraq. Ambassadors came from all parts of the world.
(Q) How do you assess the Iraqi internal situation, especially in the services and security issues?
(A) If we make a fair and transparent comparison between the internal situation as it was before and what we have now, we see that we have made considerable strides, specifically in the security situation. When we compare the number of booby-trapped vehicles that scattered the victims” limbs everywhere, we see that the situation now is totally different, especially in the governorates. There were two incidents in Basra and the perpetrators were apprehended. The number of booby-trapped vehicles in Baghdad went down and we arrested a large number of terrorists who confessed their crimes. The citizens are now reporting anyone who is suspicious and giving information. This is despite the difficulties we are facing, particularly in building the security apparatus. Yet I consider this to be level with our aspirations.
(Q) Was the case of the assassination of Abdul majid al-Khoi closed following the release of two persons involved in the crime?
(A) The case was not referred to us officially. We cannot decide on it even if it is referred because the case concerns the judicial authority. I am proud that we are personifying the separation of powers. We protect the powers from interference or having influence exerted on them. Right should be upheld, and wrong vanquished. The law in this state is above everything. As the prime minister, I do not exempt anyone in Iraq who comes under suspicion from the judiciary”s right to question and investigate him, but in a civilized and correct way so that the evidence is gathered based on the principle that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. I know there is a file for this case (al-Khoi”s- assassination) and this is the prerogative of the judicial authority. I protect fair justice and the decisions the judiciary reaches must be applied in full. I will not allow anyone whatsoever to interfere in the judiciary”s affairs and neither I nor any other person has the right to interfere in them.