We take a close look at recent developments in Iraq with Ibrahim Kazerooni, an Iraqi religious leader in Denver who fled Iraq in 1974 after being repeatedly imprisoned and tortured for his religious beliefs and his brother, cousin and uncle killed by the Baathist regime. [includes rush transcript]
In Iraq this weekend there were multiple demonstrations stemming from last week’s court appearance of Saddam Hussein. Yesterday, in the eastern city of Baquba hundreds of Sunni Muslims staged a protest against Saddam’s trial. They carried banners and signs denouncing his trial as "staged." Some in the crowd were masked gunmen. According to the BBC, the demonstrators chanted, "We will never give up on Iraq or Saddam. Saddam is the pride of my country in spite of Allawi." Meanwhile, in downtown Baghdad demonstrators burned Saddam in effigy and shouted that any lawyers who defended him would be defending barbarism and savagery.
Saddam’s appearance last week in a court housed in one of his former palaces comes as the unelected Iraqi government threatens to impose martial law on the country. The US says it has handed over sovereignty to Iraq, but US troop levels remain the same. Paul Bremer has left the country, but the new US Ambassador John Negroponte has arrived and began overseeing what is the largest embassy in the world.
Today, we are going to take a close look at some of the recent developments in Iraq by turning to an Iraqi religious leader here in Denver.
- Ibrahim Kazerooni, imam of the Islamic Center of Ahl Al-Beit in Denver. He was a dissident in his native Iraq and fled in 1974 at the age of 15 after being repeatedly imprisoned and tortured by the Baathist regime for his beliefs.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! Broadcasting from Denver, Colorado, we are broadcasting from Rocky Mountain PBS. I’m Amy Goodman. In Iraq this weekend, there were multiple demonstrations stemming from last week’s court appearance of Saddam Hussein yesterday in the eastern city of Bakuba. Hundreds of Muslims staged a protest against Saddam’s trial. They carried banners and signs denouncing his trial as staged. Some in the crowd were masked gunmen. According to the BBC, the demonstrators chanted, "we will never give up on Iraq or Saddam. Saddam is the pride of my country in spite of Allawi." Meanwhile in Baghdad demonstrators burned Saddam in effigy, shouted, any lawyers who defended him would be defending barbarism and savagery. Saddam’s appearance last week in a courthouse in one of his former palaces comes always the un-elected Iraqi government threatens to impose martial law on the country. The U.S. says it has handed over sovereignty to Iraq, but U.S. Troops levels remain the same. Paul Bremer’s left the country. The new U.S. Ambassador, John Negroponte, has arrived and has begun overseeing what’s the largest embassy in the world. Today we’re going to take a close look at some of these recent developments in Iraq by turning to an Iraqi religious leader here in Denver. We’re joined by Ibrahim Kazerooni, Imam of the Islamic center of Al Albait in Denver, a dissident in his native Iraq. He fled in 1974 at the age of 15. After being repeatedly imprisoned and tortured by the Baathist regime for his beliefs. Members of his family killed. Welcome to democracy now!
IBRAHIM KAZEROONI: Thank you very much, Amy. Thanks for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you back again. We had you on in the beginning of May when we were broadcasting from free speech TV in boulder. Your reaction to these latest developments, Saddam in courted, the handover.
IBRAHIM KAZEROONI: Amy, it’s an irony if we think about the events during the past couple of days, nobody doubts the evil nature of Saddam and his regime, and for Iraqis, after suffering so much in his hand, to actually publicly demonstrate in his favor indicates the depths of the problem and the chaos that exits in Iraq. That’s on the one hand. And as far as this being called a sovereign State, it’s nothing but personally a PR Stunt by this administration, because Allawi and others were responsible for most of this assaulted fabricated and concocted news that was part, that was passed down, either through the British government or through the united states government that you were talking about it, the intelligence report and so on. As a matter of fact, Allawi himself was the one who concocted the news about Iraq having the power to hit the Western countries, specifically in United States within 45 minutes that to the British prime minister in his simple-minded approach took it as fact, and everybody used it. This is not at a present government. They are bankrupt as far as policy. They don’t know what they want to do. I mean this is why they talk about martial law and the stopping of election, despite the fact that they promised the Iraqis election and democracy. I mean, just nothing but public relation exercise for this administration.
AMY GOODMAN: Iyad Allawi, the elected prime minister, has ties to the C.I.A. also reports have ties to the Saudi intelligence. How do you know he’s responsible for passing over some of that intelligence?
IBRAHIM KAZEROONI: Well, it’s well known. I met him twice or three times when I was in London. I used to come to an Islamic Center, and everybody knew his ties to MI-5 and MI-6.
AMY GOODMAN: British intelligence.
IBRAHIM KAZEROONI: Yes. And "Daily Telegraph" was the newspaper that actually published his piece regarding the 45 minutes immanent, and he was the source. And he does not hide the fact that he actually provided that information to them.
AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think his motive was?
IBRAHIM KAZEROONI: Trying, like everybody else, trying to create an image that ultimately they would be the beneficial party by bringing in United States and toppling Saddam and getting to power. Chalabi and Allawi, they both two factions of the same kind of state of mind, and ultimately they achieve what they want at the expense of Iraqi people.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of this government right now? And what is its credibility? Not only in the Iraqi community there, but here, you’re an Iraqi.
IBRAHIM KAZEROONI: Well, this government, as far as the Iraqis, it’s déjà vu all over again, because there are striking similarities between Allawi and Saddam. If you go back to the 1962, early 1960, Saddam was being supported by the C.I.A. to tackle the first ruler in 1958 uprising. And now we see in 1990’s CIA Supporting Allawi to topple a new 1996, middle of 1990 anyway, his act committed various acts of terrorism by blowing up cars against the regime. As far as himself in working with the Baath party, and for a period of time he was practically spying on Iraqi students in Europe, specifically in the United Kingdom. So being now supported by CIA To go back and take over a regime that has — that people have no influence whatsoever, and it does not represent the aspiration of the Iraqis, doesn’t leave much to be desired.
AMY GOODMAN: Spying on students?
IBRAHIM KAZEROONI: Yes, used to be the agent of the baath parties in Europe during the 1970’s, and he broke away from the baath — I think it was early 1980’s, but between the 1970’s and use 1980’s, it used to be paid by the Embassy in London to keep an eye on the Iraqis that oppose the baath parties and regimes.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you so much for joining us, leaving us with one thought about the situation today. As we were just coming out of our discussion with the Senatorial Candidate, Mike Miles, how what is happening in Iraq fits into Bush’s agenda here at home.
IBRAHIM KAZEROONI: It is clear that what is happening in Iraq is part of an overall policy. As far as geopolitical kind of desire is to control the middle east and be influential, not in the economic sense in the political sense, as well, because as you indicated, we have the largest embassy in the world. We have a regime that has no power whatsoever, and the real power would be with the occupying forces, as well as Negroponte and the American administration. What happens as far as election, it’s a fact that if we go back a couple of years, Iraq was brought in as an issue to win the November election of 2002 despite the fact that everybody knew them, there was no connection between Iraq and terrorism. And now the same issue being brought back again to see whether they could milk the cow for the 2004 election.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Imam Ibrahim, I want to thank you very much for being with us, head of the Islamic Center of Al Albeit in Denver.