London, Asharq Al-Awsat- US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said that the letter, which Ayman al-Zawahiri, deputy of Osama Bin Laden, sent in June to Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Land of the Two Rivers, sheds much light on the organization”s strategy and on the hotels massacre in the Jordanian capital.
The US ambassador to Iraq was speaking to a group of London-based Arab press representatives at the US embassy in central London. He said that Al-Zarqawi and his group regard Iraq as just one-step on the road and they believe that Iraq must be the starting point, not the ultimate target, in order to spread chaos and corruption in the entire region.
He added, As was evident in the letter, which Al-Zawahiri sent to Al-Zarqawi that was published by the US authorities in October, the aim of Al-Zawahiri and Al-Zarqawi is to cause a civil war in Iraq. However, our continuous efforts both at the political and military levels will foil their terrorist plans.
Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said: "Al-Qaeda now focuses on Iraq because it is the closest country to the heart of the Arab world. The organization”s leaders are working to wage a civil war, but they will fail."
He added that as far as Al-Zarqawi is concerned, Iraq is not the end of the road because he has a greater plan to shift chaos and terrorism to neighboring countries.
Zalmay Khalilzad said he came to the capital, London, to reach understanding with the British partners on the future of Iraq, security, economic, and political issues, and the upcoming elections. He added that he met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and a number of British officials.
He said, "Al-Zarqawi”s success in Iraq will prompt him to deploy his terrorist network in neighboring states. Our duty is to block his efforts and foil his plans."
He noted that Iraq needs a united and strong government that depends on constitutional institutions and enjoys trust among all sects of the Iraqi people, in addition to a powerful parliament representing the Iraqi sects.
The US ambassador to Iraq said, "The US military forces do not intend to stay in Iraq forever. They will leave when the Iraqi Government will be able to stand on its feet." He asserted that US military operations in Iraq will not cease until the terrorists have been eradicated.
He pointed out: "It is important to build new institutions in Iraq, whether army and police or various ministries. However, building such institutions takes time. We are extremely eager to enable Iraq to return to its normal situation as soon as possible."
He said, "We do not seek to set up permanent bases in Iraq. We have no ambitions against Iraq”s wealth. This wealth belongs to the Iraqis. Our goal is to make Iraq succeed. When it succeeds, we will have succeeded because this success will have a positive effect on the situation in the region. Thus, security will be established in the world."
Speaking about the Iranian interference in Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad noted the existence of a confused role. He referred to the Iranian leadership”s statements that assert Iraq”s security and stability; while on the other hand, "we see substantive evidence of an Iranian intervention with money and weapons to support particular sects in southern and central Iraq."
He said, "There are parties, which do not want Iraq to be stable and to achieve progress like the neighboring countries."
The US ambassador to Iraq refrained from criticizing the government of Ibrahim al-Jafari. However, he said, "Iraq needs a powerful government that enjoys approval by all Iraqi sects."
He spoke about what he called the reasons behind the United States” failure to track down the terrorists in Iraq. He said. "Regular forces cannot track down individuals experienced in terrorism, even if their number was in the thousands."
He added, "Winning the Iraqis over within the political process will have greater effect than the use of military force in chasing after terrorists."
The US ambassador noted that the rich and educated people flee the areas that come under terrorist attacks or US military operations. As a result, he added, the reconstruction process comes to a halt and living conditions deteriorate in these areas.
Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad drew a comparison between the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan through his experience as an ambassador who served in the two countries.
Asharq al-Awsat asked how safe he felt at the US embassy in the capital Kabul where he served before coming to Iraq and how safe he felt in the Green Zone in central Baghdad. He replied, "There are security problems in both countries. Nevertheless, our goal is essentially to confront terrorism and attempt to restore security and stability to the country where we serve, by convincing the Iraqis from the entire political spectrum to unite to foil the terrorists” plans."
The US ambassador explained: "The diplomatic efforts are aimed at isolating the terrorists and Baathist who seek to undermine stability in Iraq."
He said, "There is a group of Baathist who believe that they can turn the clock back and that Saddam can return to power or play a role in the political process in the future."
However, the US diplomat noted, "The insurgents and terrorists are still strong and pose a great challenge in Iraq. But they are on the bad side of history while people, including the Sunni sect, move away from them. These terrorists will be defeated when they are blockaded. The terrorists will be defeated in the end. It is the question of when, not if, this goal will be achieved."
He added: "The problem will not be resolved by military means alone." He spoke of a "comprehensive vision to defeat the terrorists, a vision that includes making progress at the political and diplomatic levels in Iraq."
Also, he spoke about establishing Iraqi military forces belonging to the army and a powerful police force and supplying them with the most advanced equipment to eliminate terrorism.
He called for the need to exert some kind of pressure on the countries neighboring Iraq that allow the passage of fighters, in order to tighten the control on their borders.
Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said: "The insurgency and terrorism movements impede the reconstruction process in Iraq. However, the focus is currently on projects that will be implemented in the future and the projects that came to a halt because of the war on terrorism, in cooperation with Iraqi companies to give hope to the Iraqi youths who search for jobs. Iraqi teams will be set up in the provinces. These teams will undertake responsibility for the reconstruction process."
Turning to the security issue, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said, "We introduced changes to the security issues. Currently, we are reinforcing the Iraqi army and police”s capabilities. This is not an easy process. Rather, it is a lengthy one that requires patience."
He added, "To date, we have trained 212,000 men and officers in the army and police."
He said, "The aim behind US forces” military operations is to restore security and stability and defeat the terrorists, not to attack residential neighborhoods, as the oppositionists claim."
The US ambassador added, "Iraq is passing through a difficult time because the Iraqi people suffer numerous problems, amid lacking security, daily terrorist attacks, and economic problems. Also, there are problems in services and the infrastructure."
He continued: "Like the rest of peoples in the world, they want to live in a place where they can ensure safe life for their children and secure schools and medicine. They want to live a normal life, like the rest of the peoples in the region."