UK Special Representative for Iraq Returns from Baghdad
Representative for Iraq Returns from Baghdad
Special Representative for Iraq, Sir Jeremy Greenstock,
just came back from Baghdad where he spent a year as the senior British
representative. He is a career diplomat, and before being in Iraq, he was the former
British Ambassador to the United Nations. During his short visit in France, Sir
Jeremy granted an exclusive interview to Christian Malar, Editor-in-Chief,
France 3 TV Corporation. Paris, April 29,
aired on Soir 3's Edition).
Thank you for receiving us Sir Jeremy. My very first question deals with Iraq, a
country that you just left a few days ago. The situation there is getting worse
and worse. In such a chaotic context, do you think the transfer of sovereingnty
to the Iraqis as it is announced for the end of June can still occur or is this what
we do call in French "un
vœu pieu "
(a sort of whisful thinking) ?
Greenstock: I think we have to accept that there would be
violence in Iraq for some time to come.. But most of the violent incidents are
being perpetrated either by those left over by the Saddam regime - who are quite
small in number - or foreign terrorists who are also quite small in number. And
both those groups are resented and opposed by the majority of the Iraqi
people. So increasingly, we need to "iraqiise" the security services and
persuade Iraqis to oppose the presence of violence in their society.
But these things take time and
with modern terrorist methods, it's very difficult
to stop everybody getting through. We have picked up a large number of people
involved perpetrating these incidents, but I am
afraid, there would be a continuous era of
violence for a little time to come.
Aren't you fearing on the ground an Alliance that never existed before between
Sunnites and Shias against Coalition Forces ?
Greenstock: Not as such. It is not an alliance as it
is organised, but there are apart from the two groups that I mentioned, there
are quite a number of Iraqis who feel that in some point they must show their
resistance to the occupation. And they join in an instant and they decide to go
back to normal life. So, in that area, if there is growing frustration,
more people will join the violence. But if they see that the economy is improving,
jobs are coming and money is coming, they go back to normal life. But between
the Sunnites and the Shias, there is some great conspiracy to join together in
How seriously do you consider the way the Shia cleric Muqtada Sadr
is threatening the Coalition Forces when he says: "Don't touch to Kerbala, these
holy Iraqi places, otherwise, it will be terrible for you" ?
Greenstock: Muqtada Sadr doesn't own
Najaf or Karbala. He doesn't speak for the people of Najaf. He doesn't speak for
the religious Shias Community. He has
been asked by the senior sheiks - and he is not one of them - to come down and
stop ruling the prospects for the wider Shias Community. But he is a local
problem in Najaf. He had disobeyed the law himself. The authorities of Iraq must
keep law and order. And Muqtada Sadr must be handled according to the law, but he is not,
in my view, a wide spread problem within the Shias Community.
French President Jaqcues Chirac declared this morning, let me quote him: "There
won't be any reconstruction in Iraq unless a real transfer of sovereignty under
the control of the United Nations is done". The fact that the U.S. intend to
keep commanding military operations will lead to a problem with the Iraqis. Do
you also share this view ?
Greenstock: No, I rather agree with the principles
which the French President has announced on this. We do need to see a clear change on
the 30th of June. And the Americans, I am sure, agree with that. But the real
change is going to come with the elections at the end of the year or in the
early 2005. That's when there will be a new National Assembly which really will
start legislating for the sovereign Iraq. And allow us, please, those who are
observing this process
to move in stages will have difficult times with the occupation.
OK, let's not argue about the
past. We want Iraqis to take over. It's the Iraqis - the Ayatollah Ali Sistani
himself - who said: "Don't let non-selected Iraqis take over with any strength"!
So we are moving in stages
towards the elections and it would be good these elections should be held under a period
of full Iraqi sovereignty. There will be a change in mid-year and I think the
criteria which the President has laid on will be fulfilled.
Sir Jeremy, you are certainly among the most qualified people to speak about
Iraq, after your unique experience on the ground. Do you personnally fear today
a first risk of partitioning there between the Kurds, the Shias and the
Sunnites, ending by a Civil War ?
Greenstock: I have never felt that there was a risk of
civil war because the Sunnites, Shias and Kurdish communities have never been
opposed to each other on block.
There have been different and
serious incidents coming out of each community and clearly, there needs to be
more work to bring the communities together in a unified Iraq but in the
governing Council, I saw a remarkable unity
around the table in taking the political process forward together and if that is
an example of how different politicians from different communities can work
together, I think that's a good one.
If there was no hard violence
in Iraq, if we can deal with that problem, I have absolutely no doubt that
Iraqis who want to work together on the political, economic and social spheres -
and I didn't see the seeds of civil war. If it went bad, there would be local
places going wrong and being violent, but there won't be a great outbreak of
civil war. That's my prediction.
Isn't utopic to believe we have a real chance to impose our own model of
democracy, according to our values, to countries such as Iraq, like George W.
Bush seems to want it ?
Greenstock: The British have too much experience in
their history of working with other Nations to believe that the Iraqis can ever
have a political structure that is not Iraqi and not regional in its nature,
nor Islamic in its nature. They must recognise the value of the Kurds who are
also Muslims - they are not Arabs - and I don't think in their make-up, but Iraq
will be a true unit between Sunnites and Shias unless the Kurds are
also involved. But the culture, traditions, history of Iraq, the national pride
of Iraq will be expressed in their political structures. It may not be what we
feel about a perfect democracy, but the United Kingdom took eight hundred years to
get to this point, and France has taken more than two hundred years to get
to this point. Let's give them a bit of time!
Malar: Thank you very much Sir Jeremy for granting us
Greenstock: Thank you Christian.