To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: An Interview with Muhammad al-Duri
It’s almost two years since the invasion of Iraq and the world has
not been able to hear from any of the members of Saddam Hussein’s
regime, because of course they are all under lock and key, waiting
to go on trial for hiding weapons of mass destruction they did not
have and for colluding with Al Qaeda, which they did not do. I’ve
often wondered what happened to Muhammad al-Douri (as I have spelled
his surname). I had been in daily touch with him by e-mail and cellphone
when he was Iraq’s Ambassador to the United Nations in the last
days before the March 2003 invasion, but lost touch with him when
he left quickly for Europe on the day Baghdad fell.
We’d originally met through his predecessor at the UN, Nizar Hamdoon,
who I’d known since I began looking into the allegations of Iraq’s
misdeeds in 1997. Hamdoon passed away last year, of cancer, and
I’d been assured by the Iraqi U.N. Mission that al-Douri was okay.
It was nice, though, to see this interview on the Al Jazeera English
website this week. I would have missed it in my daily scan, but
spotted his frowning visage. He’s really a most pleasant fellow,
a rather distinguished lawyer who joined the diplomatic corps to
represent Iraq at the Human Rights Convention in Geneva. In case
you wonder, I agree completely with him in this interview, that
the recent elections are meaningless because they were arranged
along sectarian, not nationalist lines. President Bush should read
this. He would learn a thing or two.
elections, democratic practice but …
by Ahmed Janabi
When Baghdad was occupied on 9 April 2003, the last Iraqi ambassador
of Saddam Hussein’s government to the UN, Muhammad al-Duri, declared
that the game was over.
A journalist, university professor and statesman who served as an
Iraqi delegate to the UN from 1999 to 2003, he left Iraq in 1999
to act as Iraq’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Switzerland before
he was moved to New York where he remained until he resigned after
the occupation of Iraq.
How do you feel about the elections?
Despite everything that has been said about its incompetence, it
is still a democratic practice. It is part of a well-thought out
US plan to implement its strategy in Iraq.
But one must be aware that last Sunday’s elections establish sectarianism
in Iraq. So many Iraqis entered the electoral process whether as
candidates or voters on a sectarian and/or ethnic basis and motives.
It is very dangerous and Iraqis should reject sectarianism.
But according to many Iraqi voters who talked to reporters on election
day, they did so because they wanted to end the state of chaos in
their country and restore security and stability. Isn’t that the
I do not agree with that concept, these elections are not designed
to restore security and stability. The US administration has been
desperate to legalise its occupation of Iraq, but it has failed
so far. This mission has become an obsession for it; especially
that the war on Iraq is still protested against by EU and Arab countries.
Therefore the US is trying to legitimise its existence in Iraq by
bringing in an elected parliament and a government which are fully
loyal to it [US], and as such it will be able to conclude long-term
agreements that secure its interests and influence in Iraq.
As a politician and a professor of politics, do you think that the
Iraqi Sunni Arabs boycotting of the elections could put the legitimacy
of the process at risk?
It is wrong to say that Sunni Arabs boycotted the elections. It
is an attempt to ridicule a national Iraqi position that opposes
the division of the country, by labelling it as a sectarian position.
The US occupation has encouraged the virtual division of Iraq into
three entities. The first one is in the north; it is ethnically
motivated and works to separate itself and establish an independent
The second in the south plans to split and establish a sectarian
entity backed by Iran. The third is central Iraq which for some
reason carries a national vision for the future of Iraq.
Obviously the US works hard to destroy this entity, which happens
to be Sunni and exists in central Iraq. But as a matter of fact,
the people of central Iraq are Arab Iraqi Muslims in addition to
being Sunnis. This part of the country holds a sense of national
identity that rejects the foreign occupation and separation bids.
But boycotting elections would have delayed the formation of a national
Iraqi government, parliament and constitution, don’t you agree?
All that you are talking about was approved by the former US administrator
in Iraq, Paul Bremer.
And what is wrong with that if it would benefit the country?
A country’s constitution must be national, while Iraq’s interim
constitution which laid the foundation for Iraq’s future constitution
was put forward by Noah Feldman, a Jewish American university professor.
All the documents that rule Iraq today were made in the US, translated
to Arabic and forwarded to Iraqis who could not even discuss them
properly. How can a country adopt a constitution imposed by a foreign
Even the elections were set by Feldman’s document, and thus the
elections have no legitimacy because it is based on illegal documents
written by an occupying force.
The interim Iraqi interior minister has said the US could pull out
of Iraq in 18 months. What do you think of this statement?
Initially, I would like to ask why this statement came on the eve
of the elections? It was obviously part of the election campaign.
However, this is part of the US’ exit strategy. This notion is being
widely discussed in the US, not because the US genuinely wants to
pull out from Iraq, but because of unexpected urban fighting.
They are spending hundreds millions of dollars on Iraqi security
forces in order to put them face to face with the resistance. Actually,
this money is supposed to be for the reconstruction of Iraq, but
I can assure you that nothing has been reconstructed, absolutely
nothing, not even in the oil sector.
At the end of the day, Iraqi officials do not speak for themselves,
they just echo the US’ desires and instructions. The real ruler
of today’s Iraq is not the president of Iraq, nor the interim prime
minister; actually it is the US embassy in Baghdad.
It is unlikely that the US would voluntarily withdraw from Iraq;
it has spent nearly $300 billion up to now, how is it going to get
this money back if it withdraws? The US has captured a goose with
golden eggs (Iraq), why would it let it go? That cannot be.
The US did not go to war with Iraq because of WMD, or links with
al-Qaida. I am fully convinced that it has an agenda in my country.
It also did not come to establish democracy in the country. On the
contrary, if we look at what is in today’s Iraq we will find nothing
but division, hatred, and sectarianism.
If the US were to pull out, it will not do so unless it secures
powerful bases in Iraq.
US bases exist in Japan and Germany; I think no one can argue that
US bases hindered the development of those two countries in the
post-second world war era?
It is very strange that some Iraqis accept this idea. US bases in
Germany and Japan were set up in different international conditions!
It came after a world war involving Germany and Japan who waged
an aggressive war and occupied foreign countries, and the US and
its allies fought to drive out German forces from occupied Europe.
That was not the case with Iraq. There were no Iraqi forces out
of Iraqi soil, and the war took place on its soil with forces which
came from overseas to occupy it. How can we compare what has happened
in Iraq with Nazi Germany?!
Regardless, why don’t anti-US Iraqis wait and see?
You have to choose either bread with dignity or bread without dignity.
Why should we wait? What does Iraq need from the US?
It is a country rich in resources, located in a strategic position,
and with a highly educated people. If the US really wants to help,
there are dozens of poor and undeveloped countries out there, let
it help them instead of helping a country which possesses the world’s
second largest oil reserve and which has achieved high rates of
development before it occupied it.
When Baghdad fell to US forces on 9 April 2003, you said the “game
is over”. What did you mean by that?
Many people interpreted my words that what happened was a game between
Saddam Hussein and the US; actually I meant that during the 13 years
of UN sanctions on Iraq, the UN was acting like a theatre.
All players were not sincere in finding a way to end the sanctions
that killed millions of Iraqis. The proof for that is when the US
decided to attack Iraq, everyone backed off and the US did what
But there were protests around the world, and many countries did
oppose the war.
That was not enough.