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Iraqi Deputy PM Refutes claims of "Success" by Coalition forces:
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz has said the course of the war so far has shown how mistaken were US and British claims that Saddam Husayn is isolated within Iraq and can only rely on support from the Sunni population and the Republican Guard. He said most of the forces encountered by the allies so far were regular soldiers from the mainly Shiite south, but they had still fought for Saddam. Saddam and the ruling Baath party were still in full control, he said, asking: "If the leader of Iraq had lost control, how could resistance continue as it has continued throughout the past few days?"Turning to the areas where fighting has taken place, he said Umm Qasr was a town of a few hundred people defended by a single brigade. Al-Faw was also small, and defended by regular armed forces.
As far as al-Nasiriyah was concerned, he noted that coalition commanders had announced the capture of the bridge some time ago, although in fact fighting was still going on there. He also noted the announcement of the surrender of the 51st Division which, he said, was still fighting. Whereas the coalition said it was facing pockets of resistance, Aziz said, the division of troops into small groups was in fact an Iraqi tactic. .Aziz also contrasted statements by President Bush in which he said Iraqi soldiers would be treated as war criminals with his recent call on Iraq to treat POWs in accordance with the Geneva Convention. The following is the text of a news conference broadcast by Qatari Al-Jazeera satellite TV on 24 March. The news conference was in progress when the broadcast started.
Aziz in English with simultaneous Arabic translation; translated from Arabic - in progress .. in all its forms that reached their ends after 30 years and after they have sensed that they have the power. The balance of forces on the international arena is weak and allows them to go back to the era of colonialism and revive the colonialist past. This is the objective of only these two countries. I am not speaking about Australia. They sense that the time has come for them to become a colonialist power in the region. Of course, Iraq has great economic resources. If we refer to official figures, Iraq has the second largest oil reserves. But practically, and many experts know this, Iraq actually has the first largest oil reserves in the region. Iraq's oil reserves are not only 110 billion barrels, but exceed 300 billion barrels.
The second objective that was very clear was to reshape the region. Even Colin Powell, the general who became a diplomat, said this at the US Congress. He said that they want to reshape the map of the region, taking Israel's interests into consideration. Therefore, Israel will become as they want it to be after the destruction and partitioning of Iraq, the reshaping of the region, and after turning its states into statelets and small and weak entities. Israel would then become the strongest party and the most influential entity in the entire region. It would then secure its complete control of the region. These have been the objectives from the beginning. All those who conduct research and read books have read that several years ago in books and articles by the engineers of the Domino policy like Paul Wolfowitz and others who are well known.
Let us recollect here how they formulated their strategy while they were preparing and planning for their aggression and let us review what strategy they adopted to prepare for war. They first said that this war would be destructive for it would destroy all the Iraqi capabilities for resistance. They also said that immediately after the beginning of the war, the Iraqi leadership would collapse. They said that the Iraqi people would support the Anglo-American aggression and they would rebel against their government. Even a high level official like Dick Cheney, the vice president of the United States, said that the Iraqi people would welcome the US forces with music and flowers. I would like to remind several of the colleagues in the media that this was mentioned in front of me when I was interviewed by several US correspondents from ABC, NBC, CBS, The New York Times, and other US media organs and newspapers and US television networks. They said: We heard that the Iraqi people would welcome the invading US forces as liberators, and that the Iraqis would welcome them by showering them with flowers and playing music. I told them: Do not deceive yourselves, public opinion in your countries, or your armed forces. If the invader US forces enter Iraqi territories, they will be welcomed with bullets, not with flowers or music.
I am asking you to keep this in mind in your comments on the situation. You must sincerely and honestly carry out such a comparison with what the US officials have been saying since the beginning and during the stage that preceded and followed the launching of the aggression. You must make a sincere and honest attempt to compare what they said and what we said ourselves. With regard to the Iraqi people's reaction, they wondered who would support President Saddam Husayn? They said that President Saddam Husayn is completely isolated within Iraq and that he has the Republican Guard, but not all of them, to support him. They said that a few members of the Republican Guard support the president and only the inhabitants of Tikrit support Saddam Husayn and that the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people are against him. Therefore, the moment the Americans start the aggression, he would be completely isolated and only he and a handful of his supporters would fight alone.
I would like to remind you in this respect of several facts. There are no Republican Guard members in Umm Qasar. The Brigade that fought the US and British forces and that continues to fight the US and British forces is not a Republican Guard Brigade. It is an ordinary regular army brigade.
I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that the people who are fighting in Al-Nasiriyah, Suq al-Shuyukh, Al-Samawah, Al-Najaf, the outskirts of Basra and al-Zubyar are not from Tikrit. You know Iraq. These are not from Tikrit. They even spoke about the Sunnis and the Shi'is and how the Sunnis control Iraq. They said that the Shi'is are against the Sunni government in Iraq. Iraqis, and all those who are familiar with Iraq Iraq know that the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants in Umm Qasr, Al-Faw, al-Nasiriyah, Suq al-Shuyukh, Al-Samawah, Al-Najaf are Shi'is. They are not Sunnis and not from Tikrit.
In any case, and within a few days all these allegations and claims and all these false suppositions and erroneous calculations by the two governments collapsed in a dramatic manner. This is not surprising in view of the nature of these two governments and many experts know this. However, I say that these two governments have a public opinion. You have the Congress in the United States and the House of Commons in Britain. There are also intelligent people in these two councils. How can they lie and how can they face now and in the future the new realities that have surfaced after the start of their aggression?
But they do not know what shame means. I do not want to say harsh words. They now behave in a manner showing they know not what shame means. They imagine that their people had forgotten what they had said before the start of the aggression and that people would not remember and they would not remind them. Aziz addresses one of the audience Mr Solan, you said this and that. Facts have now started to appear in a manner that is contrary to what they had claimed. Why do they manage the war in this manner? I would like you to carry out sincere and honest comparisons so that you may reach sincere and honest conclusions. You know that when they started the attack on Iraq, they said that the timing of the aggression was not agreed upon, and that the first target was just a target of opportunity. They raised a hue and cry. They attacked a position where they claimed His Excellency President Saddam Husayn and the members of the command were holding a meeting. They used the word "to decapitate". They wanted to decapitate the Iraqi leadership. Please remember the word decapitate as if we are a group of chickens to have their heads severed by these cowards.
The Iraqi leadership has not been decapitated. I watch CNN and Fox television in addition to the BBC. They said that the man who appeared after the start of the aggression was not Saddam Husayn but that he was his look-alike. Imagine that the leader does not appear at a critical and dangerous time for the Iraqi people and the Iraqi Government.
They claim that look-alikes are the ones who address the Iraqi people. But they wager on this. They said that President Saddam Husayn had been killed, God forbid, or wounded or has disappeared. They said much about this. They wanted to sell this story to their officers and soldiers on the battlefront. They also wanted to sell it to international public opinion. President Saddam Husayn appeared at a meeting with several commanders. I was one of them. I remember one thing: I would like to draw your attention to the text of President Saddam Husayn's speech that he read on television. President Saddam Husayn said in this speech that the attack began after dawn prayers. He also mentioned the exact time and date. Therefore, the attack took place after dawn prayers, approximately at 0500 in the morning. In spite of this, they said that it was a recording that was prepared beforehand.
This is a really shameful thing and a disgrace for these people in these leadership positions. This is shameful, and also a catastrophe for their people to have such leaders who use these cheap methods to lie to their people and the world too.
These were the events of the first day until now. Today, I heard Geoffrey Hoon, British secretary of state for defence, saying at a news conference that Saddam Husayn is losing control over his country. This was said today too. Today is 24 March. How could a leader who'd lost control of his country manage to organize an orchestrated, efficient resistance? This is a question to Geoffrey Hoon, his prime minister, and the man sitting in the White House trying to delude himself and the American people. Saddam Husayn has full control over his country and exercises full control over the Armed Forces, the Iraqi people, all Iraqi resources, and all members of the leading Arab Socialist Ba'th Party. We are also in full control. Every one of us is in control over the ministry or whatever comes under his responsibility. You see my comrade and colleague, the information minister, on a daily basis, as well as his ministry staff, who are also in full control over their work.
You are also aware of the fact that they run their work and deal with the news media competently. If the leader of Iraq had lost control, how could resistance continue as it has continued throughout the past few days.
You know that from the beginning - let us talk about Umm Qasr, taking into consideration that it is the first link in the series of resistance stories; they invaded Umm Qasr. What is this Umm Qasr? I believe that our colleagues spoke about this issue before me. Perhaps, the interior minister spoke about this. He called it a subdistrict. It is a small town with a few hundreds of people and some few hundreds of officials who work at the port. From a military viewpoint, there was only one brigade liwa . That brigade arrived in Umm Qasr the night before the attack. We, in the leadership, were holding a meeting at the time. The president asked the defence minister: Do you have enough forces in Umm Qasr? He answered: No sir, I do not have any forces in Umm Qasr. The president told him: No, you should send a task force to Umm Qasr. Instructions were then issued to the brigade to go to Umm Qasr to take positions there.
That brigade was not even able to dig trenches in Umm Qasr due to the very short time it had. Under such circumstances, this brigade has continued resistance against the US and British invaders from the beginning until now.
What they are saying is that they are facing pockets of resistance. Yes, this is great. In such a war, the best way to resist the invaders is to divide your troops into resistance pockets, but, for the enemy, they are actually dangerous pockets. What counts is that there are people who are firing at the enemy. You should not expect our officers, who are very efficient, experienced, and competent, to appear in front of the US and British armies in long columns in broad daylight so as to be easily killed and hunted down by enemy aircraft and artillery. They fight their own way. However, what counts is that fire continues and that you kill the enemy, injure the enemy, and make the existence of the enemy on their land and in their sector a dangerous existence, and eventually a fatal one.
After this comes the other link, Al-Faw. The situation of Al-Faw is similar to that of Umm Qasr. Al-Faw is a small port. Relatively speaking, it has a very small population. The Armed Forces there are not affiliated with the Republican Guard, but they are regular Iraqi forces. It is somehow isolated from the other military units and resources. People in Al-Faw resisted, resisted, and resisted, and are still resisting and continuing to fight. Then, you followed the situation. I was in the place where I am working watching television stations. I suddenly saw a news item to the effect that the coalition army had entered Al-Nasiriyah and taken control of the Al-Nasiriyah Bridge, and that this would enable the forces to cross the Euphrates and advance towards Baghdad. This was not a fabrication by the television station, but these were announcements by the leading commanders in Qatar and Kuwait. They told journalists that they had seized Al-Nasiriyah. You are aware of what happened and what is happening in Al-Nasiriyah, and of what is happening now. You have seen the killed US soldiers and POW's on the borderlines of Al-Nasiriyah. So, fighting is continuing.
There is also fighting in Suq al-Shuyukh. Suq al-Shuyukh is also a small town. Sarcastically, Tommy Franks appeared and said: We will not invade the city of Basra. I really loved that statement because it reminded me of a classical story about the fox and the grapes, when the fox was asked why do not you take and eat the grapes? The fox said they are sour and I do not like them. This is Tommy Franks' comment and the conclusion he reached. If Umm Qasr took all this time for him to seize, so how much time would it take him to seize the great city of Basra? If Tommy Franks and - I do not know the name of his British counterpart - if they failed to seize Suq al-Shuyukh and Al-Nasiriyah, how much time would it take them to seize Basra?
I would like to remind you that all the fighting that had thus far taken place from the very beginning is taking place in the south, not in Tikrit. All the Iraqis - the Iraqi Army brigades and divisions that are fighting against the Americans, are not from the Republican Guard. I forgot to remind you of another point regarding what happened with the 51st Division. They said that the 51st Division had surrendered. After this, great analysts began to appear on television screens and were asked by newsmen: How many soldiers are in this division? They said 7,000 or 8,000. They then got into details and exaggerated the issue. After this, it had become clear that the 51st Division was still fighting the Americans and inflicting heavy losses on them.
Once again, the south is not Tikrit, although we are all Iraqis, and all the Iraqis are united, and there is no difference between a Sunnite and Shi'i, and between a Muslim and a Christian, but the truth is that they Americans and British are cheating. This is because the people in the south are Shi'is and are fighting.
We told them and we are still telling them that you should not cheat yourselves, do not cheat your public opinion. This is because the Iraqi people are united under the leadership of President Saddam Husayn and the Arab Socialist Ba'th Party. We are not newcomers to this country, we have been leading this country for decades, and we are very well-known to our people. When the people are united under the leadership of the president and the leadership, then they should know what they do. Today, when Geoffrey Hoon spoke, he was asked: You promised that the Iraqis would receive the US soldiers with music and flowers, but this did not happen, and they are still resisting. He said that they the Iraqis are scared of the security agencies because the Ba'th Party, members of the Ba'th Party, and the security forces do not allow the people to take to the streets to welcome the Americans and British, the American and British invaders. I would like to draw your attention to one single Iraqi person. That Iraqi appeared on television screens in an open area. When that Iraqi saw the Apache, he used his old (burno) rifle. It is one of the old rifles and weapons. It is a Czech-made rifle, which was made before any other weapon. Peasants keep this rifle as a tradition. He used it to welcome the US-made Apache. He did not receive them with flowers or music because he had no musical instruments. He only had his rifle and he has actually received that US aircraft with the best Iraqi method he knows.
I would like here to make some comments on the POW issue. A few days ago, before the beginning of the aggression, George W. Bush, the President of the United States, made a statement in which he said those Iraqi soldiers who will be arrested will be treated as war criminals. He said: I am not going to accept them saying that we were just following orders, because they should surrender to the US Army.
So, the President of the United States, the permanent member of the UN Security Council, and one of the first governments that signed the Geneva Convention, said that the Iraqi soldiers will be treated as war criminals if they do not surrender in advance.
A few days later, the same person, without any feeling of disgrace and shame, stood in front of the White House and said that Iraq should respect the Geneva Convention and treat the US POW's in accordance with the clauses of this convention. But he did not remember that 48 hours previously, the faithful president of Iraq made an open statement in which he said that the US POW's will be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention. This was also emphasized by two ministers, the defence minister and the information minister. Now, they are making a fuss about showing the American POW's on the television screens. Do not you remember the Iraqis a few days ago - we do not know whether they were civilians, soldiers, or some people living in Kuwait - they dragged them like sheep in the desert and showed them on television screens? Some of them were civilians.
At this point the Al-Jazeera Television interrupts the news conference to carry live coverage of a news conference by the Arab League secretary general
Copyright Al-Jazeera Television and BBC 2003. For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement .