Iraqi Foreign Minister Says Assyrian Christians to Return and Form Their Own Province in Iraq and Help Rebuild the Nation
Speaking publicly as well as privately Hoshiyar Zebari refuted claims that the failure to find Weapons of Mass Destruction meant the war was not justified and encouraged minority Assyrian Christians to return and form their own province in Iraq and help rebuild the nation.
Speaking forcefully, at times to a hostile audience he dismissed claims that the Iraqi people felt they were `occupied` and personally thanked the United States and other Coalition partners for saving Iraq from `dictatorship, cruelty - the worst in the world.`
In a dramatic response to questions concerning Iraq's possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction before the War, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshar Zebari at times appearing even angry said `We as Iraqis feel the war was fully justified from both a humanitarian and moral point of view.`
`We actually died from weapons of mass destruction used in Iraq by Saddam Hussein.` he said ` We don’t need outsiders to tell us what Saddam did or did not have. He did have, develop and used weapons of mass destruction.` ` We experience it firsthand - he used it against us! Whether he buried it, sold it, hid it or took it out of the country we do not know but that is beside the point.`
`The Iraqi people are grateful to the United States for their sacrifice to liberate us after years of dictatorship, cruelty which was the worst in the world. The whole area and for that matter the world is better off to have this dictatorship gone.`
In comments in direct opposition to reports suggesting first that the failure to find weapons of mass destruction meant that the war had been wrong and that the majority of Iraqis see the Coalition forces as `Occupiers`, Zebari could not have been more clear.
`The Multinational Forces are not occupiers! That sentiment is felt by the vast majority of the Iraqi people. We cannot have the current forces leave or there will be a vacuum created that will send a wrong message to our enemies. A premature withdrawal will be very, very dangerous. We can defend ourselves, but because of the complete collapse of the former government system we need time to become self-reliant.`
Giving a vision for the future of Iraq, Zebari said he saw an Iraq that centered around Democracy, a Federal system of government and equality.
Appearing to concerned with the Islamic drift in Iraq exemplified in the very `Islamic` Constitution he said . `There are many who have expressed concern about the current constitution and its strong use of Islam. This is definitely an area of concern. At the same time we feel that two further parts of the constitution regarding first Human Rights and Freedom of religion should be able to balance the problems. At the same time there are concerns`.
Referring to the Assyrian Christians, who estimates say up to 100,000 have left the country due to fears about the Islamic drift of the country, Zebari put out a welcome. `They are free to organize a province or regional government. It should not be just because we have Kurdistan, but should be organized around an area. If they can do it in three provinces or even one it should and can be done.`
Referring to the long term future of Iraq, in a surprising comment suggested that Iraq could organize a `Status of Forces Agreement` as Japan and Germany had after the war to have long term security assistance in the country.
`I believe that a SOFA type of agreement is very possible. Countries in our area like Turkey, Qatar, Bahrain and others have it. We do not see it as occupation but rather helping us keep our security, in particular from neighbors in the region who wish us harm.`
All in all, speaking at times to a hostile audience Zebari came out `swinging` in his defense of the path Iraq was going, in very clear and unequivocal language taking on each of the claims that have formed the core of the push for early Coalition withdrawal and in particular encouraging the original people of Iraq - the Assyrian Christians to not only stay in the country, but return from overseas and create what many in the community have seen as a dream of a regional administrative government - a word many have been waiting to hear.
Speaking on a withdrawal as some have called for, Zebari was very clear in saying `We must not create a vacuum - it will be exploited including a timetable. In December there will be a new government. It needs time to organize itself. Next year we should be able to see things more clearly, but most of all the Iraqi people are grateful to the world who Liberated us. We will not forget who our friends are - that sentiment is felt by the great majority of the Iraqi people.`
Ken Joseph Jr.