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The Rediff Interview/Salah Al-Mukhtar

February 18, 2003

 'This is an unjust war'

Part I: 'America will have to fight us in the streets'

In the second and concluding part of his interview, Salah Al-Mukhtar, the Iraqi ambassador to India, tells Senior Editor Sheela Bhatt that the US should leave Iraq alone.

What's your country's strategy of war?

The US has a military mind. It has technological superiority. But there is one missing link that prevents it from controlling the world.

The very nature of the American citizen is the missing link. Americans are not ready to die. To get control over world affairs Americans need to fight many wars. But the morale of American soldiers is the problem area. They are not ready to die. This is what they call the Vietnam complex.

In Vietnam, Americans were defeated not because of the lack of technology but because the morale of their soldiers had collapsed. If America goes to war against Iraq, it will be a critical point in modern history. A turning point. For killing each Iraqi, we shall kill an American soldier. When the body bags reach America, the American people will wake up. They will stand up against the war as they did during Vietnam.

We shall not oblige America to retreat because we have a long-term strategy of war. America is has a very short-term strategy. We shall fight from the north to south, from street to street and from house to house. We shall not allow the American strategy to succeed. We must force America to sacrifice their soldiers and we shall not put a quick end to the war. We shall prolong the war as much as possible. That's the only way to defeat America. We can't compete with America or its army but we can destroy the morale of the soldiers. We are not drug smugglers, we are freedom fighters. We are defending our own homeland.

Is Iraq worried that Turkey may be used as a US base camp?

The ruling elite of Turkey is anti-Islam. Except Kuwait no Islamic country is supporting US in the real sense. What kind of a war is this where they are buying support by blackmail and threats? This is an unjust war. No honest human should support such a war.

A fundamental question is why have this war? Why are Americans refusing negotiations? Turkey can't play the same role as in 1991. It can't help America. If Turkey participates in the war, the Kurdish rebellion in Turkey will be revived. If America invades Iraq, the Kurdish state in Northern Iraq will be established.

Iraq has three million Kurds but Turkey has 20 million. It will be a nightmare for Turkey if and when Kurds demand an independent state. The Americans are giving the wrong impression to the whole Arab world. Islamic countries are talking in two languages. One, with the Arab people and the other with Americans. This is just not true.

Except Kuwait, no Islamic country has given its full consent to America. Even Qatar is not ready, later they may say yes to America. America will get mercenaries but this is not 1991. At that time Iraq fought against 43 nations. We were in Kuwait and we were asked to face war or vacate Kuwait.

Now, we are not occupying any land. We are defending ourselves against foreign invaders. So far Kurdish rebels have refused to fight against Iraq. They are enjoying their privileges. They have earned money from smuggling and they are getting tax revenue from oil pipelines. Why would they leave this income? America never gives anything to their fighters, remember, except Israel no country has gained from America.

How does the ground situation look like today?

Until now, Americans say they have mobilised a force of 95,000. By the month end it will reach 1.5 lakh. We believe these forces are not there to invade Iraq. These forces are to pressurise Iraq. The American defence secretary said 'We want to win a war without firing one bullet.'

What do you think of NEC Engineers, the Indian company which is alleged to have exported banned materials to Iraq in violations of the UN resolution and Indian laws?

This is a fabricated story. The NEC project manager mentioned the name of factories in Iraq where they allegedly helped Iraq build WMD [Weapons of Mass Destruction]. When UN inspectors inspected those sites they found nothing.

UN inspectors have taken note of Iraq and NEC Engineers claims and have found that the Indian company cooperated in water purification.

The American Central Intelligence Agency claims NEC Engineers exported banned material to UAE and Jordan and from there to Iraq. In that case, why isn't the CIA investigating UAE and Jordan?

Why after 18 months of investigations has the Indian investigating agency not filed any charges in court? It's because of the lack of evidence. The CIA, British and Israeli intelligence agencies want to fix such a case and want a confession from the accused.

For months the Indian external affairs ministry was under pressure from the US to ask the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence to start an investigation. Hansraj Shiv, the owner of NEC Engineers, has never met Saddam Hussein as alleged. He has only met me. This is a fact.

Through the NEC case, America wants to use India for two purposes. First, to tell the world that India is a friendly nation of Iraq and wants to accuse Iraq of trying to smuggle banned material from a friendly country. Second, Americans want to pressurise India to change its policy towards Iraq. To blackmail India!

Except UN inspectors no one should pass a final judgement on NEC Engineers exports to Iraq. They have found nothing at the places where NEC Engineers workers allegedly visited. Chlorine is produced for civilian use there.

Why did Colin Powell not mention NEC in his speech in the UN as proof? There was a golden opportunity. They [the US] don't have any evidence.

What do you think of India's stand on Iraq?

It's in harmony with history and the values it stands for. India is a peaceful nation where even animals are protected. Iraq's cause is a just cause. We believe that if India keeps silent, America will be encouraged to have an aggressive design on India and China in the future.

Can you visualise a possible scenario where Saddam Hussein might agree for a truce under international pressure?

I can't visualise any scenario. We want the US to oblige and leave us alone. That's the only option we visualise. We shall fight till we are left alone. The world, unfortunately, does not know both sides. The world does not know Iraq enough.

If the world knew the detail and designs of America it would fight with arms against America. Any free person would never accept crimes committed on Iraq by US. America wants to kill President Saddam and install a puppet government in Baghdad to bury their crimes.

Do you agree that all nations that are supposedly anti-war do not necessarily like Iraq or President Saddam, but have their own business or security interests?

What's wrong? This war is rejected by everyone from Left to Right, from Green to Red. Why? Because this war is a threat to world security and peace. Except Israel every nation would suffer from the American hegemonic scheme. Americans want the control of Iraqi oil fields. We were selling oil to US. Iraq wants to sell oil. At one point, 40% of our oil was exported to US. Oil is a strategic power for America.

America wants to fight back the Vietnam complex. To compensate for the decreasing morale of American soldiers, they want to control Iraq. Oil for America is a tool to blackmail the nation. Imagine if America stops the supply of oil to India till India gifts independence to Kashmir. The Indian economy will collapse.

Colin Powell alleged that Iraq has links with Al Qaeda through its embassy in Pakistan.

These allegations are made by our enemies. Deal with facts. Three months ago, Americans found 60 video cassettes in Afghanistan. The cassettes show Osama asking his followers to fight Saddam. Iraq is ideologically opposite to Osama.

Al Qaeda believes in fundamentalism. We are not just a secular regime, we are a secular nation.

There is no way we can have any kind of alliance with Al Qaeda. These allegations are fabricated to influence US public opinion to wage a criminal war on Iraq.

What this war will mean to Iraq?

The war is to retain dignity and honour, not just our sovereignty. There is a declared intention to invade Iraq. What else we can do but defend our own homeland?

Design: Dominic Xavier

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