The Egyptian opposition weekly Al-Usbou' published yesterday an interview with Saddam Hussein. According to Al-Usbou', which has a very strong pan-Arab orientation, this was the first interview given by Saddam to any media outlet in the last 12 years. In a lengthy preface to the interview, Sayyid Nassar, the Al-Usbou' journalist who conducted the interview, noted: "not everything a journalist hears is reported, he reports what is allowed and what does not harm the national Arab security. Therefore, I ask the readers forgiveness for not reporting part of the interview." Following is the interview:
"We Do Not Ask of the Arab Leaders More than They Can Deliver"
Nassar: "I would like to ask you first: 'How do you analyze the Arab position towards Iraq, the sanctions that it has to deal with, and the threat of aggression and war?'"
Saddam: "We do not ask of the Arab leaders more than they can deliver. We evaluate the conditions of each country, its position on the political map, and its ability to sacrifice. The sacrifice is relative and is the result of historical conditions, personal capabilities, and the personal viewpoints of its leader. Anyway, we are satisfied in general. The positive factors are increasing, and the negative factors are decreasing. In general, the [Arab] position is changing in the direction of Iraq's interests. Let me tell you frankly that we are progressing with the positive factors, and are letting the negative ones diminish by themselves, as the right viewpoints become clearer and dominate the political arena."
Nassar: "Still, Mr. President, you must have some comments here and there about the positions of a few Arab countries towards Iraq. We understand that there is some failure on their part in supporting Iraq."
Saddam: "I am interested only in the positive factors. As I said, the negative factors will diminish on their own when everyone understands our real intentions and the sensitivity of our circumstances, and what is being hatched against us and against them. Iraq is not the only country subjected to conspiracies. The U.S. wants to impose its hegemony on the region, and to do so it has to direct its hostilities towards the Arab countries, especially the pivotal ones. All this serves the Israeli Entity and International Zionism."On U.S. Conspiracies Against the Arab World
Nassar: "Mr. President, what exactly does the U.S. want from Iraq?"
Saddam: "The U.S. wants to destroy the centers of power in the Arab world, regardless of whether the center of power is in Damascus or Baghdad! Look around you and see what is happening in the region. See what is happening in southern Sudan, efforts to separate the south from the north and to influence our big sister Egypt, its national security, and the overall national security of the Arab nation!!"
"Look and see what is happening in Algiers, see what happened and is still happening in Somalia and all the countries in the Horn of Africa. See what is going on in Palestine and what Sharon is doing to our Palestinian brothers. All this exposes the scope of the conspiracy against our Arab nation."
Nassar: "Mr. President, if we go from the general to the specific, what does the U.S. want from Iraq?"
Saddam: "The U.S. wants to impose its hegemony on the Arab world, and as a prelude it wants to control Iraq and then strike the capitals that oppose it and revolt against its hegemony. From Baghdad, which will be under military control, it will strike Damascus and Tehran. It will fragment them and will cause major problems to Saudi Arabia. It is trying to create small entities controlled by safe-keepers working for the U.S., so that no country will be larger than Israel, quantitatively and qualitatively. This way the Arab oil will be under its control and the region, especially the oil sources - after the destruction of Afghanistan - will be under total control of the U.S. All these things serve the Israeli interests, and based on this strategy the purpose is to make Israel into a large empire in the area."
"Iraq's problem is that it opposes all these conspiracies, and the others do not understand that we are defending [them]. Everyone should know that no one will be safe from [the conspiracies] that are being hatched now against Iraq. All, from the point of view of the U.S. and Israel, are the same and what will happen to us, will happen to the others later."
Nassar: "Does the fragmentation conspiracy concern Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries?"
Saddam: "I am not (sic) one of those who think that Saudi Arabia will be divided and that Yemen or Oman will benefit [from that], or that there are efforts to eliminate some of the Sheikhdoms or Emirates in the Gulf. To the contrary, I think that the model of the small Sheikhdoms and Emirates will expand in the region. Therefore, all the large countries such as Iraq, Syria or Saudi Arabia will be divided into small Emirates, and the oil resources will be in the hands of midget-countries in a way that will serve the interests of the U.S., which will gain complete control over the oil fields from Algiers through the countries of the Caspian Sea. After dominating Afghanistan, [the U.S.] is getting ready now to dominate Iraq, Iran and Syria."
On the Difference Between North Korea's Nuclear Program and Iraq's
Nassar: "Mr. President, two weeks ago North Korea admitted, or more accurately announced without any pressure, that it had a nuclear program. Nevertheless, we did not see or hear any hostile American reaction similar to the American reaction towards Iraq, despite the fact that Iraq declared that it did not have WMD and the international inspectors confirmed that. Despite that, the U.S. is directing its strike against Iraq only. What is the meaning of that in your opinion?"
Saddam: "In short, North Korea does not have oil. This is first. Secondly, North Korea is not Israel's enemy, and is not close to it [geographically]."
Nassar: "Mr. President, I want to ask you something that I already know, but would like your confirmation. Do you have Kuwaiti prisoners that you did not release as yet, knowing that Kuwait is demanding their release as a condition for reconciliation?"
Saddam: "You know, and everyone else knows, that I issued a decision to release all prisoners, political and criminal, Arab and Iraqis. Except for the spies who worked for Israel and the U.S. We released even murderers, on condition that an agreement was reached between the families of the murderers and the families of the victims, and that the amnesty was the will of both sides. The jails in Iraq became the only jails in the world, and in history, without occupants."
Nassar: "…And the wardens have a problem, Mr. President, they have to look for a job since the jails are empty…"
Saddam: "We shall turn the jails into shelters for orphans, the victims of American daily missile attacks on the country's south and north, and on Baghdad's neighborhoods, while the world conscience remains indifferent."
"We Are Ready for War"
Nassar: "Mr. President, do you think that the attack is imminent?"
Saddam: "We are getting ready as if the war will start in an hour. We are ready for it psychologically. The U.S., in its daily attacks and attempts to weaken us and to kill civilians every day with its air missiles and artillery from neighboring countries, made us feel as if we were in a perpetual war since January 1991. So we are ready for war. But Iraq will not, in any way, be like Afghanistan. This does not mean that we are stronger than the U.S., since it has long-range missiles and naval forces, but we have faith in Allah, in our homeland, and in the Iraqi people. Also, and this is important, we have faith in the Arab nation. We will not turn the war into a picnic for the American or the British soldiers. No way! The land always fights on the side of its owners."
Nassar: "Mr. President, Let's go back to where we started, are you satisfied with the position of several Arab countries towards Iraq, as far as supporting it against the American and British hostile schemes. Don't you think that there is a clear failure?"
Saddam: "I am satisfied with all the efforts to support the strong Arab position in supporting Iraq and Palestine. The problem is no longer Iraq's problem only, it is the problem of the whole Arab nation from Tangier to Baghdad. The fate is one, and it is written in martyrs' blood."
"If there is anyone who thinks that Iraq still has problems with Kuwait, then [let me say] that all the Arab countries have problems with neighboring Arab countries. We believe that any success accomplished by any Arab country, including the Arab nation of Kuwait, is our success. The nation of Kuwait is an Arab nation that believes in its pan-Arabism. The latest event against the American base [there] proves it."
"To a great extent, we put our faith in our Arab nation. The Arab nation, which contrary to what many might think, is not in a deep slumber. The demonstrations that we saw in the Arab world and the West included thousands of supporters of peace and opponents of war and aggression against Iraq. These demonstrations challenged the efforts of the Zionist extreme right in Washington to destroy Iraq."
"The American-British Coalition Will Disintegrate"
Nassar: "Mr. President, do you think that time is working in your favor, or against you?"
Saddam: "No doubt, time is working for us. We have to buy some more time, and the American-British coalition will disintegrate because of internal reasons and because of the pressure of public opinion in the American and British street. Nations know the truth and are more capable of understanding than the leaders who are preoccupied with the Zionist conspiracies that are hatched by the media, conspiracies that blind those leaders."
Nassar: "Mr. President, let's go back to where we started: What exactly does the U.S. want from Iraq?"
Saddam: "It wants an Iraq that accepts the American political and geographical hegemony over Arab resources. It also wants an Iraq that acknowledges the Zionist existence and its control over Palestine. Furthermore, it wants an Iraq free of the pan-Arab ideology, an Iraq that would agree to destroying the Arab League and establishing a Middle-East organization. It wants a non-Arab Iraq [divided] into separate nations."
On the Iraqi Opposition
Nassar: "Mr. President, are you worried of the Iraqi opposition, which is in cahoots with Washington and London? Could this opposition become an alternative to the regime in Baghdad?"
Saddam: "First of all, there is no true Iraqi opposition that worries us. And if there was an opposition it should have struggled from inside first in order to get control, and not from the outside, from a distance of tens of thousands of miles."
"Additionally, opposition members of whom we hear but whom we do not see, and our people do not recognize, are a group that includes some who were convicted of economic crimes, and others of moral crimes."
"Members of the opposition, of whom we hear, have no sense; they do not [even] hide the fact that they are agents of the American and British intelligence, and that they receive money from them, or that they are guilty of embezzling and squandering money. Finally, they are a group of people that might fill one single bus in Baghdad, no more."
Nassar: "Mr. President, a few days ago there was a referendum about renewing the presidency for seven more years. There were those who asked about the meaning of the 100% support that you received, especially since the Western culture is unable to comprehend such a percentage."
Saddam: "It has a great significance. It means that I treat my people with justice and truth. To those who maintain that I do not represent my people, it means that I truly do represent them. It is the result of a referendum of a free nation, witnessed by Arab and foreign observers and journalists, and it attests to the fallacy of the existence of an opposition to the Iraqi regime."
Nassar: "Mr. President, your handling of the recent crisis is different than the crisis in 1991. Is this the result of a study of the current conditions, or the past, or both. What were the lessons learned?"
Saddam: "Politics are science, and in any science there are experiments. The politician is an eternal student, and always benefits from personal experience, or the experience of other people. We believe in the importance of public opinion and its effects, and learn from our experiences. Making mistakes and correcting them are a human act that could be improved. No one among us is infallible, and Allah alone is perfect."
Nassar: "Mr. President, isn't it time to reconcile with our Kurdish brethren in the north?"
Saddam: "You know that Iraq gave them what no one else did. You were the first Arab journalist who met with Mulla Mustafa Al-Barazani in 1966, and you heard him say that his ultimate aspiration was the autonomous rule that he got [later] from Iraq. Anything more would be divisive. We reject that, and so do all the wise people among our Kurdish brothers. We are convinced that if the U.S. and Britain get their hands off northern Iraq, and do not interfere, we will define ourselves in complete freedom, without their interference, and will reconcile the people and the land."
At the end of the interview the Iraqi president sent greetings to the nation of Egypt and its president Hosni Mubarak.