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Established in 2006 as a Community of Reality

Welcome to the Neno's Place!

Neno's Place Established in 2006 as a Community of Reality


Neno

I can be reached by phone or text 8am-7pm cst 972-768-9772 or, once joining the board I can be reached by a (PM) Private Message.

Established in 2006 as a Community of Reality

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    In his latest appearance... Paul Bremer admits that two decisions he made while he was in charge of

    rocky
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    In his latest appearance... Paul Bremer admits that two decisions he made while he was in charge of  Empty In his latest appearance... Paul Bremer admits that two decisions he made while he was in charge of

    Post by rocky Sun 19 Mar 2023, 7:13 am

    [size=30]In his latest appearance... Paul Bremer admits that two decisions he made while he was in charge of Iraqi affairs were wrong
    [ltr]2023.03.19 - 13:30[/ltr]
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    Baghdad - Nas   
    In his capacity as head of the “Coalition Provisional Authority” after the Iraq war declared by US President George Bush on the night of March 19, 2003, with the aim of overthrowing President Saddam Hussein’s rule in Iraq, the “kisangered diplomat” sat alone in the White House, face to face with the president who assigned him. Two great missions: running the wheel of the economy, and forming a new path for governance in Iraq.   
      
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    Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper conducted an interview with Bremer, who was affiliated with Nass (March 19, 2023), as follows:  
      
    Now, as the 20th anniversary of the war in Iraq approaches, how do you view that moment?  


    - You know, many people talk about looking back 20 years; So I actually looked back. My main point is that it was the right decision by President Bush; To move to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The second point is that I believe that despite the difficult situation that the Iraqis find themselves in today, and looking at the matter from a relative perspective, Iraq after 20 years now is better off with Saddam gone.

      

    The price paid by the Iraqis was very heavy, and so were the Americans!

    - Yes, that is true, but the benefits were also very huge for the Iraqis; They can now choose their government. We in the United States are no longer faced with the return of Saddam Hussein to his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, as he had planned. We know from documents we seized after his ouster that he was planning to resume his efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction.  

    Is the region getting any better off? Do you think so?

    - In fact, the region is in a better condition, because if Saddam remained in power, the region would be facing today a nuclear-armed Iraq standing in front of a nuclear-armed Iran. We would not have had an Iranian agreement to stop the nuclear program, which was achieved during the Obama administration. The Iranians would have continued their nuclear program, which would have made the region much less stable, and we would have faced at least two nuclear powers: Iran and Iraq.  

      
    Do you think that might have encouraged, in your opinion, Iran more to produce nuclear weapons?  


    When I was in Iraq, US intelligence agencies concluded that Iran had slowed (rather than halted) its program out of concern. We now know that the agreement the Obama administration struck with Iran is being undermined every day by the Iranians. Now, we have a very real threat of a problem there.  

      
    The United States failed to obtain the approval of the United Nations Security Council for the war. So the war was illegal; Do you see it that way, or do you have a different opinion?  


    I have been involved in foreign policy for 50 years, and as a general rule it is always preferable to have broad international support. However, I do not believe that the United States needs to obtain the approval of the United Nations when the danger threatens the interests of the United States.  

      
    The Russians are now using what Secretary Powell showed before the Security Council to say that there are weapons of mass destruction and other things. There was nothing there. I was in Iraq, and you didn't find anything. Were you aware of that?  


    No, I wasn't aware. It is important to be precise about things here. Intelligence reported that Saddam was actively pursuing weapons of mass destruction, and this was clearly not true. However, it is important to remember that not only were the US intelligence agencies confident that Saddam was developing these weapons, but also the French, Germans, British and Russians. The intelligence agencies of these countries all agreed with the United States. So, I guess even if I said now: Well, wasn't that wrong? I believe that any American president after 9/11 - a great and shocking event for the American people that claimed the lives of 3,000 Americans - including Al Gore, if he had won the 2000 elections, would have looked at the American intelligence estimates and said: We have to do something about Saddam . Now, one final point here. To say that we found nothing to be false, Charles Duelfer, a very capable investigator, stated that Saddam had kept plans, personnel, and WMD projects, and was determined to resume them.  



    You just mentioned, Mr. Ambassador, something very remarkable; American interests take precedence over international law.  


    - No, what I said is that there is no international law that stipulates that we must obtain approval from the United Nations in order to defend American interests.  



    What is the legal basis for war then?  



    The legal basis within the United States was a presidential decision.  



    So, was President Bush the mastermind behind the war? I mentioned in previous interviews that this was done not only to overthrow Saddam Hussein, but also the Sunni rule that lasted for a thousand years in Iraq. This will have profound repercussions not only in Iraq, but in the entire region.  



    First, the president is the one who makes the decisions. As for my review after that, long after I left Iraq, I concluded that after the terrorist attacks of the 1990s and the attacks of September 11, any American president, Democrat or Republican, would have agreed to what the intelligence offered Bush. It is interesting to find (if you go back to the US Congress) that the majority of politicians, by a large margin, agreed to launch an attack against Iraq. Whether in the House of Representatives or the Senate.  



    So, this was not a one-man decision.  


    - No no.

      

    The United States has concluded that this is something that must be done.  


    Right, I think it's fair to say that there was a political consensus across the country when Bush made this decision.  



    Correct me if I'm wrong... How can you, being a Kissingerian diplomat, in the sense that you believe in realpolitik, implement a neoconservative plan inside the United States... How is that?  



    - I did not implement a plan for the neo-conservatives, the old conservatives, or any other party, but I implemented a plan under the guidance of the President of the United States, who told me: You have two tasks in front of you: the first is to try to run the wheel of the economy again for the benefit of the Iraqi people, and the second is to help the Iraqis take the path of representative rule . These are the two orders given to me by the President, and the two orders I have fulfilled.  

      
    Was that just an advertisement?

    No, it wasn't just an announcement, but the president only invited me to have lunch with him in the private little dining room attached to the Oval Office to talk. It was just me and him, no one taking notes, no one else but us.  



    But you know that the president was saying a lot about the "Greater Middle East" and other things related to the Iraqi invasion. The President has also spoken publicly that this will have repercussions that could last for decades, not only inside Iraq, but in the region. 20 years later, he was proven right.  



    Yeah, well, I don't think the president took that decision lightly. And I think he understood it would have repercussions, but I also understood his purpose. His goal was to help Iraqis restore their country economically and politically.  



    Well, I replaced Garner (Jay Garner, the US general appointed by his government as governor of Iraq after the invasion) shortly after Saddam's fall. how did that happen? Why did he decide to leave?  



    - I have great respect for General Garner, and I think he did a very fine job under very difficult circumstances. As far as I know, somehow my name is on Secretary Rumsfeld's desk.

      

    You do not know how?

    - I didn't know he had my name. He had a list of 12 or 14 other people's names. I don't know what process he went through for selection. Anyway, he eventually recommended me to the president.  



    You may have mentioned it in your book, My Year in Iraq; Garner wanted to organize an election within 90 days of the invasion. It didn't sound realistic. Did it sound realistic to you?  



    - No no. In my meetings with the President, the National Security Council, the Vice President, and the Secretaries of Defense and State before I left the country, the only clear message from the President and others, including Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Secretary of State [Colin] Powell, was that we would have enough time. I was asked about that and I said: I agree that this will take at least a year, maybe two. It will take a long time, and we have to be patient. And I heard on the radio that Garner had just told everyone he was going to appoint a government in 10 days. I said it in my book: “It was at this point that I nearly swerved on the highway.” I was so astonished.  



    Your dispatch to Iraq has been expedited. What was the best advice you received before you left?  



    - Well, that was the best advice people gave me; To try to bring some economic benefits to the Iraqi people as quickly as possible. Saddam effectively destroyed the Iraqi economy anyway. And when I arrived in Baghdad, and I'm just giving an example here, we were producing nationwide only 300 megawatts of electricity. And this amount is not sufficient, as you know, for a small village.  

      
    Yes, the country was under siege. So, the least that can be said is that this did not happen overnight?  

    - No... the country has suffered in some way because of the sanctions imposed by the United Nations, although we soon learned of the corruption in the "oil-for-food" program. When Saddam came to power, the GDP per capita was higher in Iraq than in Spain. The World Bank told us that in 2002 Iraq's gross domestic product declined to less than that of Angola. The second piece of advice I received, in order to answer your question, was to ensure that I talked to a wide range of Iraqis about what kind of government was possible, and what kind of government they wanted.  



    Of course, I mentioned who I met at the time on the American side. Did you meet anyone from the Iraqi opposition that was here in the United States?  



    No, I don't remember meeting anyone. You may have met one or two people.  



    Do you know Kanan Makiya? He was critical of the US decision to form the Coalition Provisional Authority, instead of holding elections and choosing a democratic entity.  



    Well, I have great respect for Makiya. People who thought there was an alternative could not tell me about it. No population census has been conducted in Iraq since 1957, there were no boundaries for constituencies, and there was no actual separation between the legislative and executive powers. It was a complete dictatorship. There was no way to quickly hold elections in Iraq.  



    So arguably, General Garner was wrong about that.  



    - I think Garner misunderstood. He was not informed of Washington's thinking.  

      
    Now, I went to Iraq and issued a long list of orders and decrees, two of which had far-reaching repercussions; The first is the dismantling of the Baath Party, then the decree dissolving the Iraqi army. Were the two decisions taken according to a specific plan? And why did you do that? The two decisions left the country in very poor shape.  


    In fact, I don't think that any of the two decisions left Iraq in a bad situation at all. And I think they were the right decisions. As for where they came from; In early 2002, a year and a half before the invasion, the State Department published a study prepared in Washington under the leadership of an Arabic-speaking American diplomat, Brian Crocker, who had worked at the US Embassy in Baghdad in 1980. Ambassador Crocker led a year-long study titled "The Future of Iraq," during which he and his colleagues from the State Department, the Ministry of Defense, and intelligence agencies met with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Iraqis, most of whom were in exile, and talked about what the future of Iraq should look like. The study concluded with two conclusions: the first is that there can be no place for the Baath Party in post-Saddam Iraq. Why? Because the Baath Party formed the political tool in the hands of Saddam to control and terrorize his people. The Baath parties in the Arab world, as you well know, were built on the model of the Nazi Party. However, Saddam continued to rule for a period of 3 times the period of Hitler's rule. Accordingly, the result was that there is no place in post-Saddam Iraq for the Baath Party. Exactly the day before I went to Iraq, I received a draft order from Dow Feith, the number three inside the Pentagon (the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy) under Rumsfeld. This was a draft document for the dismantling of the Baath Party. And it was completely consistent with the conclusion of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs study and approved it. Faith handed me this document and said, “We are thinking of issuing this tomorrow.” It was a Sunday, and I replied, “Well, wait a minute. I would like to talk to some of Garner's workers (in the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid) in Iraq. After that, I issued the order for the Baath Party, which was formulated on the basis of the decisions taken by America, as the occupying power inside Germany in 1945, at the end of World War II. They had a program to dismantle the Nazi Party, which was very wide, and no one with any connection to the Nazi Party was allowed to have any role from top to bottom. In contrast, the de-Baathification formulated by the US government targeted only 1 percent of the party's leaders.  



    However, I made a mistake here when I shifted the responsibility for implementing an order whose scope was very narrow to Iraqi politicians, because then it turned into a tool for fighting between different parties between the Iraqis who tried to expand the scope of implementation and expel as many Baathists as possible, such as teachers, from their jobs. What I should have done (…) was to choose a committee of 5 Iraqi judges and tell them: You will supervise the dismantling of the Baath Party. However, I made the mistake of turning this task over to the politicians, and when I heard that they were sacking hundreds, even thousands of teachers, from their jobs, the Minister of Education came to me. So, I had to restore this decree. So, this was wrong.  



    And the dismantling of the Iraqi army, you made a mistake in this matter.  



    - Yes and no. The study “The Future of Iraq,” which I told you about earlier, examined the question of Iraqi military power. The Iraqi army, the modern army that was built after the Second World War, played an appreciative and responsible role until the Baathists and Saddam Hussein came to power. After that, the Iraqi army became an essential tool for coercive control over the Iraqi people. Once again, the study “The Future of Iraq”, which was in essence discussions between Iraqis, stated the same thing: There is no place for this army in post-Saddam Iraq (…) When Baghdad fell on April 9, 2003, the “Pentagon” and the American generals and General John Abizaid said There is not a single battalion of the Iraqi army stationed with its weapons inside Iraq. The military personnel went home. The Iraqi army was as large as the American army, and included about 700,000 men. The core of the army's officer corps is for the most part Sunni. As for the recruits, they were mostly Shiites. This army was involved in what the United Nations considered a war of extermination against the Kurds in the eighties, including the use of weapons of mass destruction against the town of Halabja in 1988, and Saddam Hussein took advantage of the same army, specifically the Republican Guard brigades, in suppressing the Shiite uprising in the south after the first Gulf War... and if She asked me: where was the mistake? I will tell you that it was the choice of the verb "solve". The question was: Should we call up the army? Some American officers talked about the possibility of calling the army. And when the Kurds heard this, the leaders of the Kurds told me; Barzani and Talabani: If you summon the Iraqi army, we will separate from Iraq. This would have sparked a civil war. The Shiites who were cooperating with the coalition, at the direction of Ayatollah Sistani, heard the same rumour. And Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Hakim said to me: We will not cooperate if you return that army.  

      
    Mr. Ambassador, you sought to build a democratic Iraq...

    - That's right.

      

    Instead, the country sank into civil war under your leadership. I don't know how wrong you are describing, but that's what happened.  


    - No, it is not a civil war. What happened was the emergence of Al Qaeda. We know that this is true because it was written by Al-Zarqawi in a letter he sent to bin Laden. Al-Qaeda's goal was to ignite a war between Shiites and Sunnis. This is very clear, and you should see Al-Zarqawi's letter. So he mentioned by the way the reason behind the horrific attacks they carried out, while I was still there and the Coalition was there. First: the attack against the United Nations headquarters that led to the death of Sergio de Mello, and then there was a major attack against a mosque in Najaf, on August 30, 2003, which led to the deaths of several hundred Shiites. Accordingly, al-Qaeda's goal was to provoke a civil war. And you say they don't have democracy. this is not true. They held elections, the first of their kind, a year or a year and a half after the liberation of Baghdad, in early January 2005, Iraqis held 6 elections, including 5 national elections and a referendum on the constitution. Iraqis have witnessed a peaceful transfer of power 6 times since we left.  

      
    Russia is exploiting this inside the United Nations, and when I go there I see them asking: Do you remember when Colin Powell came here with this thing? Do you remember when America carried out the dismantling of the Baath Party? We disassemble Nazia. How do you see the impact of this on US policies or strategies around the world?  


    - Any president, and I can say that I am confident that this was the case of President Bush. In this case, he had to think about any decision he faced, and the question was what should be done with Saddam in the context of its impact on the rest of the American interests. And I'm sure Bush did. And he decided, and I think he was right in that; We cannot tolerate letting Saddam run his course. So, he made the difficult decision to invade Iraq to get rid of Saddam, which I think succeeded. As for the impact of US policy on what is happening in Bangladesh or Ukraine, it may be a separate issue.  


    No, this is the reason why some Americans, including presidents, later said that the Iraq war was a disaster.  

    Sorry, who said that?

      

    everyone. Haven't you heard someone say it's a disaster?  


    - Yes, and I say they are wrong. And I will stand by what I just told you about the success we've had politically, and the success we've had economically.  


    So, do you think that Iraq today is better off?  



    - certainly. Iraq today is better off by any measure... The Arab Spring has begun in Tunisia, where did it go? Look at Tunisia today...  


    nothing.  



    - As for the Iraqis, even with the presence of ISIS and all the problems they face, they chose their government 6 times in a row.  


    So you don't have good feelings about the Arab Spring?

    Sorry, it didn't work. As for Iraq, it suffers greatly today because of corruption. No doubt about it.  


    Did you put the new Iraq model on the Lebanese model?

    - no.  


    Iraq was a secular country under Saddam's leadership. You say that the Sunnis ruled the country for a thousand years, and after that you pulled Iraq away from its Arab neighbors and threw it into the hands of Iran.  



    - I can speak with certainty only of the period during which I was there. The Iranians did not exist.  


    At least al-Hakim and the other figures of the Iraqi opposition were residing there...

    - Well, some were residing in Syria, some in London, a few in Germany, and a few in France. Abdul Mahdi was in France. We didn't have a model trying to (...). We did what we thought was important, which is that the structure being established in Iraq should promote representative government. And again, it was up to the Iraqis regarding the issue of drafting the constitution, which they actually accomplished, and they established a federal system, without our instructions.  


    Why have you been boasting in many places that the Sunnis have ruled Iraq for a thousand years, and have you stopped doing so now?  


    - Right, that was just a statement of fact, nothing more.  

      
    It was clear that the Syrian Baathist government was supporting the so-called Iraqi resistance in fighting the coalition forces in Iraq. This was also during your rule in Iraq. So how did you deal with that? Did you try to talk to the Syrian government, or did you do something to prevent it?  

    I am not aware of any specific discussions that took place between American and Syrian officials, but I know very well that the coalition forces in Iraq were concerned about the Syrian support, and in particular the infiltration of people supported by the Syrian side who were sometimes recruited in North Africa, especially in Libya, and were being trained in Syria, then sneak across the border in Al-Qaim.  

      
    Shouldn't you have done something about it?  


    - I did everything I could do.  


    Did Iran also have a role in that?  


    During my time there, there was no evidence that the Iranians had any role in that matter.  

      
    Not even what we discovered later, and it is now published on news platforms these days. That they were harboring some members of the al-Qaeda organization in Iran?  

    - That was not part of the information we had at the time. The most important thing was Zarqawi's speech, which we were able to intercept in January 2004; It was obvious, but he was Jordanian, not Iranian.  

      
    You have worked on combating terrorism before; So you were fully aware of all the dangers.  

    Yes, Iran was already classified as a terrorist state when I was in charge of counterterrorism in the Reagan administration because of the bombings carried out by Hezbollah in Beirut in 1983. So there was no doubt that it was a terrorist state. Nevertheless, Iran was avoiding drawing attention, although I prefer to call them the Persians first, because they see themselves as such, and they always think in terms of the ancient Persian empire, which stretched from the Indus River to the Mediterranean. This is the Persian Empire, and it can occupy twice the space of the void in Iraq... I will not give them Iraq yet; Iraq is still standing. But what is certain is that they went to Lebanon, did that, and Syria is still a little more difficult for them. However, there are certainly problems in Iran, but if you think about the perspective of the people in Tehran in the fall of 2003; They had an American army on their eastern border and an army on their western border.  


    While the situation was deteriorating in Iraq, as in Afghanistan, you distanced the Iranians from two sworn enemies on their borders; The Americans did a great thing, but you still had to talk to them... Have you met the Iranians?  


    No, there were no Iranians to talk to.  

      
    > But you didn't feel like you needed to talk to them?  


    - The only Iranian I wanted to talk to was Sistani, but he wouldn't accept that, and that's okay; I got it, and I didn't push it. I didn't even really ask for it, I had extensive good communication with Sistani while I was there.

      

    through whom?  


    - Many brokers. I checked the matter, and found 48 indirect exchanges with al-Sistani over the course of 13 months.

      

    Were those exchanges verbal, or just letters?  


    It was usually oral, and sometimes it was written.  

    So you have letters from him?  


    - He has letters from me (laughter).

      

    But do you have letters sent from him?  

    - I have letters; He was not writing to me; This is something that a person of his position and level cannot do. Nevertheless, I think, if I look at the question as a whole, I can say that he played a useful and active part in the matter. He was very supportive of holding elections and allowing Iraqis to choose their government. That was his firm belief, and that was my mission, of course.

      

    But were there periods of tension between you and him?  

    Right, given his importance in Iraq, and in the region in general, I wanted to make sure that he understands what we're trying to do, which is to establish a political process with the Iraqis so that they can choose their own government. Here lies a problem, and it arose because Sergio de Mello, who was the UN Special Envoy, went to see Sistani shortly after his arrival in Iraq, at the beginning of June 2003, he asked me for a conversation, and we had two meetings; One in my office, the other in his office, and he went to Najaf to meet Sistani. I later heard from one of them quoting al-Sistani that de Mello told al-Sistani that the Americans will draft a constitution to establish a political entity the way they adopted in Japan, through Douglas MacArthur, the commander of the Allied forces in 1945, this is not true at all.

      

    So most of the contacts with Sistani on my part were directed towards briefing him on our discussions, and I am sure there were other people in the Iraqi government briefing him on our discussions regarding what we intended to do, and I was trying to make it clear that we had no intention of drafting a constitution. The other thing is that he wanted to hold immediate elections, and that was not possible, for the reasons we discussed above, and the United Nations also considered that this was not possible. De Mello understood that, so the content of the contacts with Sistani was almost about getting him to understand the overall view of what we were trying to achieve politically, a constitution for the Iraqis to write, not us, and elections, with the difficulty of making that happen. In the end, he understood the matter well, and 6 or 7 months passed, until January 2004, until it became clear that Ayatollah Sistani had realized that we could not hold elections immediately. A constitution was necessary, and that was the order we followed; The constitution was drafted in January and February 2004, and the first elections were held in January 2005.

      

    Did you finally get his blessing?  

    - I was not looking for his blessing; First, I kept him updated, and I think he understood what our objective was. There were some other matters that we were communicating about, but this was the main purpose of the contacts, and I think his role was useful and helpful.  

      
    I want to ask you about Saddam. How did you learn of his arrest?  


    - The army's mission was to try to arrest him, and we coordinated this matter clearly; We were all hearing rumours, and there were people who would come to me and tell me where Saddam was, and I would convey that to the army, who would go to the said place and not find him. They were saying he drives a taxi...

      

    Was that true?  


    No, we used to hear rumors like that. It was crazy, I say, so in December the army got word that he was in Tikrit, his family's hometown. You know the story, that they found him hiding in a hole. I was not informed of the search when it took place, but Gen. Abizaid, the commander of US Central Command at the time, called me from my room to my office at about 2 a.m. on December 13, 2003, and said, "I think we found Saddam!" And he told me the story, indicating that he looks exactly like him, and he has a scar or a mole or some mark on one of his legs, and they think it is him, but it is necessary to conduct a DNA test to confirm his identity, and they have a DNA analysis from his two sons (Uday and Qusay) who were killed in Mosul, in July, but it will take two days because he is not in the country, but in Germany. I said, “This story cannot be kept secret for two days.” Abizaid replied: "We will take him back to Baghdad and show him to some prominent detainees, especially Tariq Aziz, to tell us whether he is Saddam or not." Detainees saw him and said he was really Saddam, so I found out at that time, and it was good news.  

    What did Saddam look like, and how was he underground?  

    The problem we had was that when his two sons attacked our forces in Mosul, in July 2003, and they were killed, we needed to announce it, but we wondered if the Iraqis would believe us. So the army, Rumsfeld, and his staff gathered a group of pathologists and doctors to see the two bodies, and confirm whether they were really Saddam's sons or not, because, according to the "Geneva Convention", pictures of dead soldiers were not supposed to be shown, which is something Russia constantly does in Ukraine. This is interesting, of course, because rumors that we killed the two boys were circulating for 15 hours in Iraq, with no one knowing the truth, for sure, until it was confirmed by the Iraqi forensic doctors who performed the autopsy. At that time, fires were fired ceremonially across Baghdad, Basra, Mosul and Kirkuk, and this was the experience in July. So we faced the same dilemma again with Saddam, and the decision we reached was the need to allow a group of Iraqis to meet him in his place, which was Baghdad airport. So an invitation was extended to the members of the Governing Council to meet him and to take anyone who wanted to come. In the end there were 5 people, namely Adnan Pachachi, Ahmed Chalabi, Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, and Adil Abdul-Mahdi. Saddam was there, and they quickly recognized him by his voice and by all other features. There was no doubt, so I felt it was important that Pachachi, who was the head of the Governing Council at the time, be present during the announcement. And so it was announced. There was no doubt, so I felt it was important that Pachachi, who was the head of the Governing Council at the time, be present during the announcement. And so it was announced. There was no doubt, so I felt it was important that Pachachi, who was the head of the Governing Council at the time, be present during the announcement. And so it was announced.

      

    Have you seen Saddam before that? Have you talked with him?  


    No, I didn't say anything. He didn't have a clue, and I was standing at the door.  



    and before that?  



    No, I never spoke to him.

      

      
    You were not curious to ask him; He had many secrets that would help you.  


    - (Laughter) I don't think I would have asked him (jokingly) maybe where the nuclear weapons are. (He laughed)

      

      
    Did you have good relations with Ahmed Chalabi and Iyad Allawi?  


    - Yes, I used to talk a lot with them, as well as with Talabani, Barzani, and of course Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, and Diaa Jubaili, author of the novel “The Lion of Basra.” I spent a lot of time with these people.  

      
    What is the strangest thing you encountered in Iraq?  


    - No no. It is difficult to answer the question. I do not describe it as strange, but one of the most interesting things is to visit the marshes of Iraq, and see the houses they used to build from reeds. I think it doesn't exist right now. What makes me sad is knowing that Saddam, as part of his campaign against the Marsh Arabs, diverted the waters so far that their lives were threatened. I think the area disappeared and changed completely, it was very strange. Once I was flying in a helicopter at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and the pilot said to me: “Down below, do you see the palm tree at the point where the two rivers meet? This is the Garden of Eden!

      

    Well, then you're proud of your accomplishments...

    - I feel good.  

      
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