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[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] This interview is very revealing, especially the section where he talks about his support for 100% foreign ownership of Iraqi industry and how long he thinks US troops should stay in Iraq Peter KiernanNational Journal October 11, 2003 Pg. 3130 Chalabi: $150 Billion Needed Over 10 Years By Peter H. Stone and James Kitfield Long known as ambitious, controversial, and at times a loose cannon, Ahmad Chalabi, who just completed a month's tour as president of the 24-member Iraq Governing Council, has been very much in the limelight of late. After working closely with the Pentagon for years, but alienating many at the State Department and the CIA, Chalabi has reportedly caused much heartburn recently among high-level administration officials. That's mainly because of his efforts to push for faster transfer of some key tasks to Iraq's interim government rather than waiting until a constitution is written and elections are held, possibly next year. "Ahmad has his own agenda," commented one former CIA official familiar with his career. "He recognizes that right now is a critical moment.... Chalabi's done damage to himself in the past, but he's always come back." A former banker who has lived in exile since 1958, Chalabi rose to prominence as head of the Iraqi National Congress, which helped lead the opposition to Saddam Hussein's regime and received millions of dollars from the U.S. starting in the late 1990s. Chalabi was in this country last month with one other member of the governing council to attend sessions at the United Nations and to help lobby Congress on the administration's request for some $20 billion for Iraq's reconstruction. What follows are edited excerpts from an October 3 phone interview with Chalabi, the day after he spoke to the U.N. General Assembly. NJ: Do you think that the $20 billion or so that the Bush administration hopes to get for Iraqi reconstruction next year is going to be adequate? Chalabi: For next year, yes. But Iraq will need about $150 billion over 10 years. Iraq, of course, has a lot of oil. We'll require major investment -- about $38 billion -- to get oil production up to 6 million barrels a day. That will enable us to have total oil revenues, at current prices, of around $40 billion to $45 billion a year, which would be sufficient to deal with our needs. Where are we going to get that? We need U.S. aid to start reconstructing our infrastructure and to give confidence to foreign investors. We passed a very good foreign-investment law, with 100 percent ownership by foreign businesses of enterprises in Iraq. With U.S. aid and confidence-building, we can get private investment to help us with development of our oil sector, which will enable us to get the maximum amount of revenue over the next 10 years. NJ: Does the foreign-investment law apply to the oil sector also? Chalabi: It very much applies to the oil sector. The only thing that is prohibited is foreign ownership of oil from the ground. People can own refineries, can own pipelines, can own gas stations, and petroleum-derived industries. All these things they can own 100 percent. NJ: Will most Iraqis be happy with this kind of legal arrangement? Chalabi: They will when they see that there are jobs created in the private sector, that there's technology transferred, and that investments are productive and not speculative. And when they see that our proposal for an enterprise fund of $1 billion or more is to make loans available to Iraqi businesses because they don't have capital as a result of the Saddam era. We need to do that, to enable Iraqis to compete on a level playing field with foreigners who have capital. NJ: How long do you think that American military forces will have to stay in Iraq? Chalabi: Iraq is a country surrounded by six countries who have between them more than 2 million men under arms. We have no army. We're not likely to get one. I think the longer American forces stay in Iraq, the better, but they should not stay like they are today, in the streets, subject to attack by these people. I think American forces, after we're able to quiet the situation down, should stay for a while, by agreement with a sovereign Iraqi government. NJ: Do you think we're talking about one or two years, or longer? Chalabi: Longer. Surely longer. NJ: What kind of level would be required after two years and for how long? Chalabi: Maybe, 30,000 or 35,000 troops. I can't say for how long. An American presence is important for Iraq's defense and for the strategic interests of the United States in the region. NJ: We'd like to ask you about your recent statements favoring a faster transfer of some powers to the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council and to certain ministries such as finance and security. Can you explain why this ought to happen? Chalabi: What I was talking about was sovereignty versus power. The issue of sovereignty is different from the concept of power. Basically what we seek is to, first of all, to give the Iraqi people a sense of empowerment because they feel that they defeated Saddam with the help of the United States. The second point is that we want to minimize or eliminate American casualties and also make the American presence in Iraq more acceptable to Iraqis. They would feel a great deal better if the Iraqi government and Iraqi authorities had more and more power and sovereignty and then invited the Americans to stay. That's the whole point. We want to show that Iraqis are more empowered to run the affairs of their country. NJ: But are you in agreement with the Bush administration that the transfer of sovereignty and power should not take place until after elections? Chalabi: We never asked for total sovereignty before the elections. NJ: Could you spell out your thinking, then? Chalabi: My thinking is that Iraqis should have more aspects of sovereignty transferred to them, such as control over Iraqi revenues. They should share control. This issue is now in the hands of the Coalition Provisional Authority. I think Iraqis are perfectly capable of running their finances. They should be partners with the CPA in doing that. This is good for them and good for us. We also say that internal security in Iraq cannot be maintained without more Iraqi participation. That's good for the United States. It reduces casualties. NJ: Can you foresee a transfer of power in 2004? Chalabi: It can definitely happen. No doubt. But we need to work together and do the right thing. I think elections should take place quickly, but we need a constitution first and we need a census. We have to see how long a census would take and how long a voter-registration process will take. NJ: Some of your recent comments about moving faster with the transfer of sovereignty seem to have created friction with the Bush administration, according to news reports. Have Condoleezza Rice or others in the Bush administration talked to you about this apparent difference? Chalabi: We have really no daylight between our positions. We discuss these issues, of course, because they very much concern U.S. policies and priorities at this moment. There's a United Nations resolution out there, and the president has proposed another $20 billion for Iraq reconstruction, which we support. And they're trying to raise money for the donors' conference to help Iraq, which we support. But all these people fishing in troubled waters are wrong. We are working very closely with the United States on all these issues. NJ: There's been a lot of discussion about the upcoming donors' conference and whether it will attract more funding from the international community. Are you optimistic? Chalabi: Don't hold your breath on the donors' conference. The European community gave us $234 million. That's terrible. It's 1 percent of what the U.S. is proposing. NJ: Do you think that the U.S. and the Iraqi National Congress prepared adequately for postwar reconstruction tasks, or were costs and other problems perhaps underestimated? Chalabi: >From our point of view, we believe we had adequate warning and very good plans for the postwar period. Unfortunately, most of our plans were not favored at the time. But that's all water under the bridge. We need to work together and move forward better now. For the record, our view and vision of what would happen in Iraq was exactly right. NJ: Which was what? Chalabi: We advocated for a long time the need to train a very large contingent of Iraqi military police by the U.S. forces, so that they could go with American troops into Iraq and take control of the security situation and prevent the looting and prevent the breakdown of law and order. NJ: What is your view of the prewar intelligence on Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction capabilities? Did the Bush administration exaggerate intelligence on Saddam's WMD? Chalabi: I don't think so. Stories came out which are being picked on right now. I don't know very much about this uranium yellowcake issue from Africa that we've read about in the press. I don't know where this came from. But the U.S. developed substantial intelligence about Saddam's WMD capabilities, which was threatening for the security of the United States and for us and for the region. All this is blown out of proportion. Saddam had WMD and, with diligence and patience, it will be found. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk