In an interview with the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Iraqi National Security Advisor Dr. Muwaffaq Al-Rubai'i stated that terrorism in the Middle East could only be eradicated through regional cooperation, but that this goal could not be attained as long as Iran and Syria continued to support the terrorists. He added that despite Syria's claims to the contrary, Iraq had definite information that 'Izzat Al-Douri, former deputy to Saddam Hussein, was living in Syria and funding terrorist activities. Al-Rubai'i also said that the Mahdi Army was being run by Iran and is serving Iran's interests. The following are excerpts from the interview
We Call for a Regional Agreement, Alliance or Memorandum of Understanding on Combating Terrorism
The main threat to Iraq's national security is posed by Al-Qaeda and its proxies, [namely] the misguided groups that accuse other [Muslims] of heresy and want to take us back to the Stone Age – those who call themselves 'the resistance'... There is [such a thing as] legitimate resistance... but what kind of resistance [movement] kills Iraqi policemen and soldiers, or carries out bombings in markets and mosques, killing innocent people?...
"In the past, the militias [in Iraq] received large quantities of weapons from Iran, as well as training, gear and expertise. Today, Iran provides fewer weapons [to the militias], but I [nevertheless] say that it is capable of doing more to preserve the stability of Iraq [in terms of] security, and to stem the flow of weapons from Iran to Iraq... [However,] its ultimate goal is to have Iraq ruled by a sectarian pro-Iranian Shi'ite government. This will never come to be, [because] the Iraqi Shi'ites – who constitute the majority in Iraq and will continue to rule it – are proud Arab Shi'ites: proud to belong to the Arab Muslim nation, proud of their Arab identity and proud of their ties with the [Gulf] Cooperation Council countries. Iraq is an important part of the Arab nation, and will never sever itself [from this nation]. I, [as a Shi'ite], feel like part of this nation, and I will never feel different.
"Iran's policy towards Al-Qaeda is complicated... For example, Iran has detained nearly 100 senior Al-Qaeda operatives who [entered the country] from Afghanistan – Saudis, Moroccans, Yemenis, and Algerians. Some are under house arrest. We offered the Iranians our participation in obtaining information from these senior operatives... which would help us track down Al-Qaeda members [in Iraq], but they refused...
"We in Iraq call for a regional agreement, alliance or memorandum of understanding on combating terrorism... We believe that the only way to eradicate terrorism in the area is to form a regional alliance [committed to] seriously combating terrorism, which would include Iraq and all the neighboring countries, [namely] Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Iran and Turkey. This alliance would declare war on terror just as the U.S. has declared global war on terror. The Sunni and Shi'ite terrorists can only be eradicated through a joint regional effort. If [even] one country in the region tries to shirk this war, allowing some terrorist organization to operate, the efforts of all the other countries will be in vain...
"For example, when the Iraqi [security forces] apprehend terrorists who come from North Africa or Saudi Arabia, and... obtain information from them, our information remains incomplete, because it comes from [only] one [source]. We do not know who trained them, who funded them, who sent them, who provided logistic assistance and supplied them with information, and who issued the fatwa [permitting them] to blow themselves up. This is no simple problem. Imagine, there was a group of 40 terrorists who all came from one small village called Darnah in Libya. Who was behind them? How is it that they were all from the same village? Obviously, someone was behind them. Someone issued the fatwa, [and then] recruited and funded them so they could come to Iraq. We believe that there must be regional or other cooperation in order to obtain the information [needed] to combat terrorism..."
"Death Comes [to Iraq] from Syria"
"Our cooperation with Saudi Arabia on these matters is exemplary... when it comes to the movement of individuals or funds; we have a hotline [for sharing information]. We exchange prisoners and analyses of data, and in the future there will be [Iraqi] liaison officers in Saudi Arabia and Saudi liaison officers in Iraq...
"As for Syria – in the past, about 110 terrorists entered Iraq from Syria every month, but now this [figure] has dropped. We believe that if the Syrian security apparatuses made serious efforts, they could have stopped the stream of suicide bombers infiltrating Iraq. The suicide bombers who now enter Iraq... – whether they come from the Maghreb, Sudan, Yemen or the Gulf – all enter the country through Syria... The Syrians know everything; this could not be happening without their knowledge... Stability in Iraq is regarded as a triumph for democracy and freedom, [but the Syrians] see it as a triumph for the Americans in the region... and that frightens them..."
: "Where do you assume [Saddam Hussein's former deputy] 'Izzat Al-Douri is [today]?'"
Al-Rubai'i: "It is not an assumption, we have confirmed and accurate information. We know that 'Izzat Al-Douri is in Syria, that he is funding numerous terrorist elements, and that he heads a group of Ba'th [supporters] who wish to restore the false glory of Saddam Hussein's era [by restoring the Ba'th regime in Iraq]. We approached senior figures in the Syrian [regime] several times, [but] they denied that Al-Douri was in Syria, even though we had proof...
"We believe that political dialogue is the way to resolve [the differences] with our [Arab] brothers, [because] the Arab peoples have [joint] interests... However, the situation today is that death comes to us from Syria..."
Iran is Behind the Mahdi Army
Regarding the threats made by Muqtada Al-Sadr, the leader of the Sadrist movement, to launch an open war against the Iraqi government, Al-Rubai'i said: "If he does this by turning weapons on the legitimate government... this government will perform its duty: [it will] enforce law and order, [grant] security to the people, and eliminate the terrorism to which they are subjected in every place, region or institution where [this terrorism] exists...(2) [The Mahdi Army] is a small group whose interests are linked to external [forces] and which is operated by external [forces]... Yes, I mean Iran."
(1) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), April 23, 2008.
(2) On April 17, 2008, the liberal Arab e-journal Elaph posted an interview with Qassem Ata, spokesman for the Baghdad Law Enforcement campaign, in which he described the achievements of this campaign: "The Law Enforcement campaign was launched in February 14, 2007... In the year since, the security apparatuses have managed to attain numerous tangible achievements... Areas that used to be hotbeds [of violence] are now quiet, or at least relatively so... Before the beginning of the campaign, the number of [terror] victims in Baghdad alone reached an average of 180 per day, and now the figure has dropped to eight per day at most... The eviction of families has stopped, and residents are returning to their homes; the fear of civil war has been completely allayed; services have been renewed; life at the universities, educational facilities, and government offices has returned to normal. We have opened police stations in areas where [previously] there was no security...
"We are dismantling and destroying the terror networks by deploying security forces throughout Baghdad. We have arrested hundreds of Al-Qaeda commanders and killed many [Al-Qaeda operatives]; others have been forced to flee the country... Pockets of Al-Qaeda [fighters] in Baghdad are looking for a chance to regroup... and to start [carrying out] terrorist operations in various parts of the capital – but [thanks to] the deployment of the military units, the cooperation of the citizenry and the Awakening forces, and the role played by the clerics, Al-Qaeda is being eliminated... Security has not yet been fully restored in Baghdad... since not all stages of the Law Enforcement campaign have been completed."