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Interview: Baath leader calls for peace talks

Robert Dreyfuss


December 20, 2005

The following is a slightly edited transcript of an interview with Salah al-Mukhtar, an Iraqi Baath Party official who has belonged to the party for 47 years. At the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Mukhtar was Iraq’s ambassador to Vietnam. Previously, he served as ambassador to India, at Iraq’s mission to the United Nations in New York, and as an official in Iraqi information ministry. Although he stressed that he is not an official spokesman for the party or for the resistance in Iraq, it is clear from his comments that he remains close to those leading the fight in Iraq. Before 2003, Mukhtar was close to Tariq Aziz, the former Iraqi foreign minister, who is currently in U.S. custody.

In the interview, Mukhtar calls for talks between the United States and the Baath Party, and he strongly denounced Al Qaeda in Iraq for its attacks on civilians, going so far as to accuse Zarqawi of operating under U.S. and Iranian intelligence control.

At present, Mukhtar lives in Yemen.

Can you tell me a little about where you were when the war started? Were you in Hanoi? What happened then? I know you are living in Yemen now.
When the war of aggression has started I was in Hanoi, working as an ambassador of Iraq. I did my best to defend the legitimacy of my government and to expose the colonial nature of American invasion of my homeland. But after the occupation was completed, I decided to look for someplace to continue my struggle for the freedom and liberation of my country. I left Vietnam for Yemen, where I have lived since.

Are you a spokesman for the resistance in Iraq?
No, I am not the spokesman for the resistance in Iraq, nor the spokesman of Baath Party ... Simply I am Baathist, for 47 years. I am also a writer who wrote many books, and papers, besides thousands of articles about Baath Party ideology and strategy, inside and outside Iraq. For that reason I have become a distinguished Baathist intellectual, and in this capacity I have started to write in every available arena to defend both my homeland freedom and my party history after the American invasion.

Can you tell me some details about how the resistance is organized? Is there a national or regional command? Are the leaders both inside Iraq and outside? Are communications difficult?
The Iraqi armed resistance was prepared, systematically, in the year 2001, after the Iraqi leadership reached the conclusion that the Bush administration had decided to invade Iraq. In that year the final preparations were completed, such as establishing a secret leadership for the part and an elite force from Baath party, the Iraqi army, especially the elite of the Republican Guard, the most experienced intelligence officers, some scientists from the military industrialization establishment, [and] millions of Iraqis who were trained in urban guerilla warfare. Arms and ammunition were hidden in secret stores, enough for fighting at least ten years without any need for any outside support. As for the regional or national command: yes, there is a central command for the major resistance organizations, and all members of that command are inside Iraq. The majority of the members are new leaders appeared after the invasion, that's why none of them have been captured as prisoners of war. No command member is working outside Iraq. The communication difficulties inside Iraq have been overcome through a new kind of secret communications system, very complicated and highly sophisticated, and because of that fact the secrecy of the armed resistance has not been penetrated by the CIA.

Are there any prominent leaders from the party before 2003 who are active? The problem for Americans to understand the resistance is that is seems faceless.
Yes, there are some members of the last elected leadership of the party before the invasion, among them Mr. Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, currently serving as the field commander of the armed resistance. By the way, it is my great pleasure to inform you that [according to] doctors who treated Mr. al-Douri in Baghdad and in Vienna, he has no serious ailment, such as leukemia or cancer. He is healthy and energetic. As for the so-called faceless command of the resistance, it is well known that before the invasion a decision was taken to keep the national leadership of the resistance very secret, to guarantee the continuation of the armed revolution. … So being faceless is essential part of the planned and calculated strategy of the resistance. But … your government is fully aware about the fact that the major body of resistance is Baathist, and the controlling system of the resistance is in the hand of Baath party leadership. This is enough to allow you to draw the correct conclusion about the nature of the resistance.
You said in an interview that I read that the Baath party would talk to the United States and the British. Can you say a little more about that? What demands do you have? Would the party provide a guarantee not to attack U.S. troops if they began to leave?
In any war or major crisis negotiation is the natural eventuality if the two parties of the conflict are willing to put an end to it by peaceful means.

The invasion of Iraq by the United States of America has reached a dead point, after which it cannot move, and now your army in Iraq facing the most critical and dangerous situation ever it has faced in this war’s history. That army has used its maximum force, including its best technology, and the most severe techniques of mass killing, destroying cities such as Fallujah, torturing human beings, physically and psychologically. But the result was more people joining the armed resistance.

The debate inside your Congress, and the government of the United States, and among the think tanks, about whether you should withdraw immediately or gradually reflects the correct understanding of the dangerous situation in Iraq. It is imperative for the public of the United States to understand that the armed revolution in Iraq will never die, nor be weakened by any means. On the contrary, it is growing and spreading everywhere in Iraq.
You have in the United States a proverb suggesting that if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. … The only way out from the deadly situation in Iraq is to negotiate with the Baath party and resistance leadership, and not any other party. Because those who have the biggest political and military organizations in Iraq are the determining factor in the process of the conflict.

The demands of the resistance have been published many times in the last two years. Among them are the full and immediate withdrawal from Iraq, the compensation for Iraqis and Iraq, the rebuilding of both the state and the legitimate national army of Iraq. Within the context of accepting these demands the peaceful withdrawal of the U.S. army from Iraq will be guaranteed. But withdrawing from Iraq without negotiation with the real and decisive power in Iraq definitely will not give any guarantee; on the contrary, it could lead to more tragic causalities among American troops. The leadership of the resistance has declared in many statements that it is willing to negotiate a peaceful solution for the war in Iraq. So the ball is now in the court of the United States of America.

What is the party's attitude toward Zarqawi? What do you think of the attacks against Shiite mosques and so forth?
We suspect that the Zarqawi stories are created by the CIA, because there are many indications suggesting that Zarqawi was killed in the northern part of Iraq during the beginning of Iraq's invasion. The CIA, as well as the Iranian intelligence services, are working hard to ignite sectarian strife among the Iraqis, by attacking Shiite and Sunni mosques, or by killing Iraqis according to their sectarian affiliations. This is not the work of the resistance. The armed resistance has condemned many times any attack on civilians, and repeatedly said that attacks should be concentrated only on invasion armies and the Iraqi agents supporting the invasion. As for Al Qaeda, or the bin Laden organization, I would like to remind you that this organization did not exist in Iraq before the invasion of Iraq by the United States. This organization established itself in Iraq only after the invasion. That's why it is your policy that brought Al Qaeda to Iraq, not President Saddam Hussein.

What do you think of Ambassador Khalilzad's recent statements about talking to the resistance or to the "insurgency," as he calls it? I have heard there are quiet talks underway between some U.S. officials and some Baathists.
Again the government of the United States is repeating the same mistakes of Vietnam war, by trying to formulate an exit strategy from Iraq through negotiating with minor and ineffective persons or groups. What the American ambassador in Baghdad has said reflects a psychological tactic aimed at implanting some unrest among national forces fighting against the occupation. According to the declared information from the resistance forces, published in many sources, no resistance organization has contacted the United States representatives in Iraq. To be more precise, the American ambassador has said we are trying to contact the insurgency, but he didn't say we have succeeded in opening a door with it. Let us for the purpose of argument suppose that the government of the United States negotiates the plan for leaving Iraq with a minor resistance organization: what will happen? Actually nothing, but dragging American troops deeper and deeper in the hole of the invasion, because the major organizations have made a decision not to permit any solution that rewards the invasion, or one that jumps over the only legitimate representative of Iraqi people, which is the armed resistance. The American commanders in Iraq are fully aware that there will be no real solution for the crisis in Iraq without negotiating with the major political and military power in Iraq.

Are some of the candidates who ran for election this week cooperating with the Baath? Or did the party oppose all participation in the election?
No Baathist has been permitted by the party to participate in the so-called election in Iraq. The party has declared many times that no free election, no real election could be held under the occupation, according to the international law. The strategy of the resistance is based on defeating the invasion forces by armed resistance, not by political means, out of a deep strategic understanding to the real and hidden objectives of the United States.

Is there anyone inside or outside Iraq that I can talk to besides you who represents the party? In Jordan or Syria? In Europe? Elsewhere?
According to my knowledge the party has decided before the invasion to not appoint spokesmen representing it anywhere, simply because [such] behavior could subject the party to the penetration. Therefore the main concern is to liberate and capture the land of Iraq.

:: Article nr. 18877 sent on 21-dec-2005 03:41 ECT


Link: robertdreyfuss.com/blog/2005/12/interview_baath_leader_calls_f.html

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