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Iraqi American in Najaf: Al-Qaeda Would Leave Iraq Upon U.S. Troop Withdrawal

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We get response on the Iraq Study Group report from Sami Rasouli, an Iraqi American living in Najaf. Rasouli says if U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq, “The 1,300 al-Qaeda members that the Iraq Study Group mentioned would leave and have no business in Iraq anymore. They are here to target American forces.” [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: As we go now to Iraq, joining our discussion from the Iraqi city of Mosul is Sami Rasouli. He grew up in Najaf. He left in the 1970s, eventually moved to the United States. In November 2004, nearly 30 years after leaving Iraq, Sami Rasouli returned home to help rebuild his country. He’s currently a member of the Muslim Peacemakers Team in Mosul. Sami Rasouli, have you gotten a chance to hear what the report’s recommendations are and the response in Iraq right now?

SAMI RASOULI: Yes, indeed. But before I start talking about this issue, I would like to make a little correction, that I’m situated in Najaf, not in Mosul. But I’ve been to Mosul and northern Iraq, as well, the southern area, too. But I’m speaking to you from Najaf right now.

Well, please take in consideration that I’m talking as an American-Iraqi Muslim Arab. And when I view the study that the group came with, I see lots of flaws of seriousness in it. The study is targeting Iraq as a country and Iraqi people, but I don’t see participant as key players from Iraq Arab Muslim world participating, except there is a large number of Iraqis who came upon the invasion, when it took place almost four years ago. I don’t care, as, again, as Iraqi-American Muslim Arab, about the formation of this study, whether there are Republicans or Democrats.

We need an action. We need the policies, foreign policies, that the administration, over six decades, failed to address the Palestinian issues. In Iraq today, the disaster is a byproduct of serious failures that the U.S. administration and the West committed when it comes to a biased standing position toward the state of Israel against the Palestinians.

And I see also the study of Baker-Hamilton ignored largely to talk about the violations of human rights in Iraq, as well the international law that’s violated by the invasion of the U.S., U.K. and their coalition forces back in March 2003. There are mentioning for these four words—international law and human rights—when the study described some background of key participants—Mr. Hamilton, probably Jordan, and the third, Baker, the third—so ignoring the violations of the U.S. forces in Iraq by military operations day after day for the last three years and a half or so, by storming houses, detaining innocent people, killing innocent people, women, children, bombing them from the air or from the land, building and peppering the Iraq cities, provinces, by checkpoint.

And the study just waived this position of the occupying forces, waiving and not mentioning the key player in the violence that we are suffering in Iraq. The study mentioned al-Qaeda, the militia, Shia militia, and also named the Sunnis as Arab—and ignored the Shia are Arab, too. So, when Bremer first came and was appointed as the U.S. administrator, civil administrator, in Iraq, he announced the abolition of the Iraqi army and also the de-Baathification. I don’t know if the Baathists in Iraq are different than the Baathists in Syria. How could you ask al-Maliki to advance adequately in his national reconciliation? But the de-Baathification is still on, but at the same time, asking him to normalize his relationship with the neighboring country as Syria, which is ruled majorly by the Baath Party.

We are not stupid here. We see facts that doesn’t match what the administration or its consultants, through this study, is telling them. I wish this study came first, before the invasion, and advised the administration what to do, not to come now to help the administration to get out as a way.

Also, mentioning that al-Qaeda’s goal in Iraq, which they number it as 1,300, only 1,300, that’s facing 140,000 American troops, plus about 27,000 coalition troops. Only 1,300 that are troubling the U.S. in Iraq, and therefore, the U.S. president is not saving any chance to tell the whole world that the troops in Iraq to face the terrorists, al-Qaeda terrorists, which is 1,300. John Murtha mentioned that about a year ago, told a number about a thousand, but as we know, according to the intervention and the continuation of the U.S. occupation in Iraq, the violence, the counter-occupation is growing in Iraq.

And to ask the American troops to leave, it’s an Iraqi demand. More than 80 to 85 percent now, Iraqis asking the U.S. to leave. Only people who are willing to have the U.S. forces staying here, who ask the U.N. to extend Resolution 1546 for another year to stay, which is a puppet government of Iraq.

I mean, there are lots of flaws in this study, and I wish the study also took the advantage of their effort to advise the president and his administration not to attack Iran and Syria. It’s good they mentioned to talk to Syria and Iran. As an Iraqi American, globally thinking, also I would like the administration to talk to North Korea, as well, to reduce the violence and possible wars to take place against humanity.

AMY GOODMAN: Sami Rasouli, I wanted to ask—again, Sami Rasouli speaking to us from Najaf in Iraq. None of the people on the Iraq Study Group were Iraq experts. Sami Rasouli lived in the United States for years, but decided to return home in November 2004, leaving his family in the United States, to help in his home country, to help in Iraq, where he is currently a member of the Muslim Peacemakers Team. If U.S. soldiers were to leave tomorrow, could you paint a scenario of what you see would then unfold?

SAMI RASOULI: If this happened now, before tomorrow, believe me, the 1,300 al-Qaeda members that the Study Group mentioned, they would leave, or they have no business in Iraq anymore. They are here to target American forces. You know, it’s a war against them, whether they are here or in Lebanon, in Afghanistan or elsewhere. So this is the first thing. Iraqis will take care of them. Right now, they are not bothered with them, because they help the resistance element to fight the U.S. Army.

And as the study admitted it, that October was the deadliest month ever since January. There were about a hundred, two, American women and men fell in this tragic war, beside the Iraqi forces who suffered a loss that was initiated after the invasion, like police forces and national guard. And between the U.S. forces and the Iraqi forces, innocent people are falling every day by hundreds. I mean, the Iraqi—American media talk about this with limitation, but what we see here are corpses and dead bodies, tortured, killed execution style, beside the kidnapping and the organized crime, for robbery and killing for money.

Economy is collapsed, and the study didn’t talk about this much. Talking about Iraqi experts participating in the study, I don’t know how much they study. The group spent only four days in Iraq. So I don’t know how much participation from Iraqis did in this study.

The question, again, what will happen? Believe me, peace will happen, because Iraqis, even if they need to kill each other, to draw into a civil war, they will need to have a sophisticated weapon, which they don’t have. They need to buy it from the West. So if U.S. forces leave, please take your weapon with you. Don’t leave it, because otherwise, as I hear the president every time saying, “I’m staying ’til the job is done, until we complete the mission”—of course, this is since May 1st, 2003, supposed to be the mission was “accomplished.” But what kind of mission that the U.S. is after?

AMY GOODMAN: Sami Rasouli, we’re going to have to leave it there, Iraqi American who went home to live and to help his people in Iraq, with the Muslim Peacemakers Team. Tomorrow on Democracy Now!, we’ll be joined by two members of the Christian Peacemakers Team who were kidnapped in Iraq. They are holding a news conference in London. Harmeet Singh Sooden and James Loney, they’ll be joining us from London.

Last response from Anthony Arnove, as we wrap up this discussion and then head to talk about a key recommendation in the report that hasn’t been talked about, and that is privatization. We will talk about that with Antonia Juhasz. Anthony Arnove?

ANTHONY ARNOVE: I think if you’re going to talk about what the impact would be of the U.S. withdrawal, you have to talk about what happens after withdrawal. And I think we have to raise a demand for reparations to be paid to the Iraqi people, reparations not only for the harm and destruction caused by this illegal invasion and occupation, but all the years before that, when the United States supported sanctions on the country, and before that supported the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, armed, trained, funded and backed Saddam Hussein as he carried out the worst of his abuses. And so, withdrawal of troops is the beginning of a process of genuine reconstruction in Iraq. The money that’s now being allocated for reconstruction is not going to rebuild roads, schools, hospitals in Iraq. It’s going to benefit the few corporations that have contracts in Iraq. We need to provide genuine humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people.

AMY GOODMAN: Anthony Arnove, thank you for being with us, author of Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal.

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