Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat- Ahmad Chalabi, chairman of the Iraqi National Congress and head of the Debathification Commission, has affirmed that pressure applied by the United States and the security situation have brought back Baathists to important security positions in the country, and that they might win 40 seats in parliament in the forthcoming elections.
In statements to Asharq Al-Awsat, Ahmad Chalabi pointed out that, “since it was established, and thus far, the Debathification Commission has realized two objectives. First, there was the dismantling of the Baath Party organization in Iraq, in the political, security economic, and information fields. The commission has been able to put an end to the existence of this regime that was in control of all the organs of Iraq for 35 years. Second, the commission ensured the protection of the Baath Party members from random acts of revenge and from the anger of many Iraqis. Also, it placed the case of dealing with the remnants of the former regime in an official, methodological, and legal context, which protected many Baath members.” He estimated that there are 1.2 million of them.
With regard to reports that Baathists are now in positions of power, Ahmad Chalabi stated: “Yes, they are. This happened extensively after 2007 because of the security situation and the American pressure that prompted the Iraqi Government to seek the help of Baathists, who used to belong to certain groups and command services, and to place them in important security positions, without referring to the commission. Likewise, ministries recruited many Baathists without consulting us. We found this out by chance. They should have consulted us beforehand.”
Concerning accusations that the commission has appointed important [former] Baathist leaders to important posts, Ahmad Chalabi stated: “This is an unfair accusation. Those concerned are just 40 Baathists who were appointed by a director who has the authority to sign appointments. However, this was remedied as none of them is now employed, and exceptional measures have been cancelled. Nonetheless, this case was held against the commission, and used for other purposes. In fact, hundreds of Baathists were appointed to sensitive posts without any consultation with us. At the same time a decision was made to freeze the work of the commission, and the same decision was used to prevent it from denouncing and reporting the appointment of the people concerned to important posts. Besides, the Debathification Commission has asked parliament to allow us to continue our work, as the freezing of our activity is illegal.”
Asked about the “Debathification” appellation being changed to “questioning and justice,” and whether Baathists have been tried in courts, Ahmad Chalabi replied: “The commission has nothing to do with lodging lawsuits against Baathists but it helps anyone who wants to do so. However, what is not known to everybody is that the “accountability and justice” law is harsher to the Baathists than the “Debathification” one. Anyone who used to work for the Saddam security and intelligence services, as well as the [Saddam] fedayeen, and others are immediately pensioned off. This means that there are 10,000 people who are concerned with Debathification and who should be pensioned off. The commission has given Baathists a 60-day delay to register their names and benefit from the possibility of applying for retirement. We received 16,000 applications, but they were all frozen by decisions made by parliament and the government, under the claim that the commission has a managerial job. We agreed to the application of 1,400 people for retirement. They were members of certain organizations and groups, but the Chamber of Representatives halted the operation. The same people who attacked the commission and accused it of persecuting the Baathists are the ones that have deprived the latter of retirement.”
Ahmad Chalabi added that Baathists and remnants of the [former] security services are now seen on the street. He said he expects that they have got support and that this will guarantee that the Baathists will have 40 seats in parliament in the forthcoming elections. The reason, he continued, is that, “in the past, the Debathification Commission was able to introduce obstacles that prevented Baathists from penetrating parliament, by revealing documents condemning certain candidates [for legislative elections], who were discarded. But now there prevails a state of ambiguity, and it is not clear who will deal with the issue of the entry of Baathists into parliament, and with whether they will be allowed to be candidates or not.”
In his answer to a question about meetings between the Americans and the Baathists, Ahmad Chalabi stated: “The Americans have admitted to this, and the Iraqi Government or part of it is privy to it. The Americans consider that bringing back the Baath Party to the Iraqi political scene will permit the return of Iraq to the Arab security organization, which they support, and that includes Israel. But this is not feasible in Iraq because the Iraqi people reject it and are opposed to the return of the Baathists, which is banned by the Constitution. These meetings are secret, and, had the Americans not been unsure of this and afraid of a popular reaction, they would have made the meetings public and named the negotiators. They would have named who has negotiated with whom in Turkey.”
Ahmad Chalabi continued: “All this is secret, intelligence activity, and it is not acceptable in Iraq. In Iraq political action is overt, and anyone who wants to get involved in it is welcome, except the Baath Party, which is barred from such action.”