THE BLOG
10/05/2007 02:54 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Interview with Nouri al-Malaki: "...I Saved Iraq From a Sectarian War"

Iraqi prime minister, Nouri Al-Maliki asserted that national conciliation is his good choice to resolve political and security conflicts. In an interview with Al-Hayat in New York where he was attending the UN General Assembly session, he stated that militias are an alien phenomenon that he will fight along with every outlaw, be it Sunni or Shiite. He denied that his cabinet has failed because the destruction inherited from the previous regime and caused by the militias is too massive. He added, "I saved Iraq from a sectarian war."

While he expressed his reservations toward the Iranian and Syrian roles in Iraq, Al-Maliki felt a positive change in both countries. He also pledged that his cabinet will not allow any intervention in its affairs nor would it allow Iraq to turn into a launch pad for a US attack on any country in the region. Below is the full transcript of the interview:

Raghida Dergham: Anything new with respect to national conciliation and the relationship between the government and the militias?

al-Malaki: I proposed a specific program from the start and I still believe that I have no other choice. The program is based on the principle of national conciliation. I staunchly believe that there is no alternative to national conciliation and political action as a solution to the security problem.

Dergham: What about the militias?

al-Malaki: National conciliation opens the security file. Security cannot be imposed by force. Militias constitute an alien phenomenon that is at odds with the concept of the state, and that cannot persist. Right now, militias have no legal cover, and this is why I am tracking them everywhere. Since the beginning of the confrontation, my slogan has been to confront outlaws without discrimination among Shiites, Sunnis, Arabs or Kurds.

Dergham: We are aware of the pressures, reservations and objections directed at you and you are aware that there are those who say that to an extent, you have not honored your promises or that you have failed; do you intend to make new proposals to wither those criticisms away?

al-Malaki: To those who say that I have failed or whatever...I tell them that whoever takes a look at devastation in Iraq -- whether inherited from the previous regime, that which took place the collapse of the regime, or that which has been inflicted by Al-Qaeda, the militias or the gangs - knows that success achieved so far and promises honored have saved Iraq from a sectarian war. Were it not for the people's trust that I am not taking sides, people would have not supported the government. It is the objectivity in our approach to national conciliation that brought the tribes and the armed men to join the government against Al-Qaeda. I will continue this path. And I say: Yes, I have not achieved what I wanted. I am still in need, and the situation still needs more effort and time not to mention the internal and external treatment of issues. We have a multi-dimensional domestic conflict; we have a multi-faceted foreign conflict. This is why we are working on improving political relations with neighboring countries which have also had a significant impact on the security operation.

Dergham: You are aware that the US is uncomfortable with the Iranian role in Iraq. It says that Iran is dedicating its efforts to attack American troops...

al-Malaki: The Iraqi government did not and will not let Iran or other parties turn Iraq into a launch pad to attack the Americans. We have frankly and openly told them that what we forbid them to do to Iraqis also applies to Americans present on Iraqi territories as a result of a contractual understanding with the Iraqi government. They are ruled by this decision. Once the Americans are dispensable, we will thank them dutifully.

Dergham: Do you have any reservations about the Iranian or Syrian roles in Iraq as the US is accusing both sides of playing a negative role?

al-Malaki: How did you conclude that I have no reservations? I have reservations for the slightest Syrian or Iranian intrusion. Yes, I have full reservations and I will not allow and I will not be linked to any state that intrudes into Iraqi borders or that interferes in Iraqi affairs.

Dergham: Has the Syrian position changed after your visit to Damascus?

al-Malaki: In my last visit to Iran and Syria, I had a profound feeling about good changes in the positive direction. I will work on developing and entrenching that because it is important for the security and stability of the region.

Dergham: Have you asked President Assad to deliver some of the Baath leaders?

al-Malaki: No, no. In fact, I did not ask because I am not so interested in extradition, and the issue is not a vendetta.

Dergham: There are many assassinations targeting Sayyed Sistani's agents in the south; how do you explain that?

al-Malaki: These are part of an attempt to create security chaos in the south. Unfortunately, these attempts are linked to bigoted and fundamentalist institutions, not to states. They are interested in festering civil strife. The former regime also has a hand in this process.

Dergham: Where is Izzat al-Douri?

al-Malaki: I don't know!

Dergham: Don't you have any intelligence reports?

al-Malaki: We do; sometimes we know that he is in this or that state, but I certainly am not that interested in him.

Dergham: It was previously said that the military intelligence located him in Yemen. Is this true?

al-Malaki: Yes, he was in Yemen for a while. He was in Syria for a while. He stayed in Saudi Arabia for a while, which means that he is on the move according to incoming reports. I cannot confirm 100%. In fact, I am uninterested in him and I do not follow up on his affairs.

Dergham: Do you think that the US administration has decided to give your government an ultimatum?

al-Malaki: I hope that you reporters will get out of this issue. Al-Maliki's cabinet does not take a license or get an ultimatum. Al-Maliki's cabinet is elected. An entire nation was behind the elections; the people set the limits.

Dergham: Do you sense that the Americans want a quick exit out of Iraq?

al-Malaki: Yes, and the problem lies in the dates, because the exist is linked to finding a replacement to fill the security gap. There is talk about filling security gaps. Who fills the vacuum? It is the Iraqi troops. We have a problem but it is continuously diminishing, especially with respect to arming and equipping the troops. These will be completed. There also is talk about transferring responsibilities and the responsibility for security in the different provinces. I think this will not take long, but in principle, the Americans are looking for the appropriate opportunity to get out, but they do not want an exit that will leave a security vacuum behind.

Dergham: How would you assess al-Qaeda's current situation in Iraq?

al-Malaki: Al-Qaeda's situation is currently very confused. They used to have secure bases, prisons, courts and systems that they had installed in several areas including Al-Anbar, Diala, Mosul, and north of Babel, but now they have nowhere to go. Currently, they are moving toward al-Mosul, but I am after them.

Dergham: Are they exiting or escaping Iraq? Where to?

al-Malaki: They are exiting. We have information that we have given to some governments, information about al-Qaeda moving or partially transferring its activities to prove its existence.

Dergham: Where to?

al-Malaki: They escaped to Iran, to Syria, to Lebanon, and to Saudi Arabia. Some of them have returned to Al-Maghreb to Algeria. We have reported this information to all these states to keep them on alert.

Dergham: Do you have any information that they plan to move in Syria or Lebanon for example?

al-Malaki: Yes, yes, and we have informed other parties as well because we are aware that fighting terrorism is an international responsibility and that whoever has any information about a terrorist organization or cell must report it. A few days ago, I recommended and ordered the delivering of a complete file on Al-Qaeda to Algeria because of the Al-Qaeda's intention to launch major assaults there.

(Translated by DarAlHayat.Com)