Shahwani’s interview — Finally!
A while back, I mentioned that I would post the full al-Sharq interview with General Muhammad Abdullah Shahwani, Iraq’s intelligence chief, from Jan. 4. I got snowed under by election deadlines — sorry about that — but here it is finally. More information on what the official line is on the insurgency. Shahwani’s generally been a good source, and I’m inclined to believe a lot of what he says — mainly because it matches a lot of what I’ve gotten from other folks.
What is your opinion about the number of the armed fighters in Iraq?
Officially call them terrorists because they are doing terrorism against the people and they are outlaws. Their number is between 20,000, 30,000, in the whole of Iraq, distributed in the Sunni area. The people who live in this area emotionally support them, and they are about 200,000 without offering them money or logistic support. For example, they don’t give any information about their activities if they have this information.
That means those 200,000 do not fight with the fighters?
It’s impossible that the fighters’ numbers reach 200,000. These are those who live in those areas where the fighters are active — for example the right side of Mosul is completely out of control — and in this area, the terrorist are very active without any information about them from the local people, and very often they offer them shelter (hospitality).
Are those fighters from one group or many different groups?
They are from the remnants of the Ba’ath Party, from Islamic extremists and others.
The Iraqis and Americans have claimed the Jordanian extremist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is behind this terrorism, but recently they’ve started pointing to the Ba’ath party and its leaders. Is there any changes or some new facts?
There are no changes, but the Ba’ath Party has been organized for a long time. What happened is they reorganized themselves and they are getting money and support from their leaders in Syria. Their operations are well-developed because or their large number, their experience and their financing ability.
How many Ba’athists are involved in the armed operations now?
I can’t tell the exact number but we expect the Ba’athists before numbered two million and if we expect 20% of them are involved now that mean the number is very huge and all of them are well-organized and armed and some start working with them after they found themselves jobless. Most of them are from the former Iraqi army.
Who leads these organizations now?
As we know the Ba’ath Party divided into many parts, and now there are three wings, the most powerful wing, which belongs to the former regime, got a large quantity of money.
Who are those leaders?
There is Izzat al Douri, Mohammed Unis al Ahmed, who is moving between Syria and Iraq and Sabawi al Hassan and other Ba’ath leaders who live in Syria.
Do you think that there is foreigner or Arab support?
They don’t need financial support. The Ba’ath Party, as you know, was the richest party in the world, and was gaining 5% from the oil benefits since 1970 for the party budget.
Has the Iraqi government asked the Syrian government to hand them over?
There have been such attempts, but there are no results so far.
But hasn’t the Syrian government denied their existence in their territories?
No. We are sure that they are in Syria and they are moving easily between Syria and Iraq border,
Are there any other Ba’ath leaders?
There is a group that split itself from the former regime under the leadership of the Taih Abdul Karim and Naim Hadad and both working inside Iraq.
Did the American military operations in Fallujah lead to a decrease in terrorist operations?
It became less only in Fallujah.
And in the rest of Iraq?
In gangs war which acted by the terrorism groups we can’t get the results as we get in the organized army war, or the traditional war. The goal from Fallujah operation was to destroy the terrorism gangs or to capture their members but the results in Fallujah we could not capture the terrorists or kill their leaders, we did not see or hear about capturing or killing any big leader of terrorism, all the leaders of the terrorism have left Fallujah before the operations started already.
And they went working in other sites or hiding outside Fallujah in each fight there is a goal and the goal of Fallujah operation was to destroy the terrorist and their leadership but the goal was not done actually in spite of the full controlling of Fallujah.
What are the sources of the armed group?
The Ba’ath Party, extremist Islamist organization like Ansar al-Sunna, Tawhid w’al-Jihad, Ansar al-Islam, the 1920 Revolution and other from these names and its reached about 12 groups.
All these groups you mentioned are Sunnis. Are there any Shi’ite groups?
The group of Moqtada al-Sadr was fighting just like the others before, but now there is no Shi’ite group carrying weapons against the government.
The statement of the Iraqi officials pointed to Iran and Syria consider them the two sources of supporting these operations, is there any changes in this subject?
I personally did not notice any changes in their attitudes and the problems still coming from those two countries because the borders are open and the support is still coming in.
What are the effects of the armed operations on the elections process?
For sure there is a negative effects on the elections. Some of the Iraqi people will not be able to reach voting centers, and this will affect the election process.
What is the need for the intelligence system in a democratic regime?
There is no country in the whole world that has no intelligence system to protect the country and the people and monitoring the gangs like drug gangs and all other cases to stop them including all the cases that is related to the security of the country. Usually we observe and collect information to be delivered to the security forces so security forces can do its duties to protect the country.
Do you think that the armed operation will increase or decrease?
It depends on the election. We have to wait for the result and then we will see. As a security system we expect this kind of operations will decrease within one year.
What are the most unsecured areas in Iraq now?
Mistakenly, they call it the Sunni triangle, but there are other unsecured areas like Diyala, which has 50% of its population Shi’ite and also the north of Babylon, which is extended to reach Sowera and Salman Pak. All these areas are very difficult to reach, for example the area between Hadhar and Mosul its out of control and those armed group in the streets searching the people and also the area which extend from Sharqat down to Baiji and Samara. All these areas are unsecured in addition to Ramadi, Fallujah and its surrounding areas, while inside Baghdad there is Haifa street and Adhamiya and Dora and Ghazaliya and Airport road and all these areas are unsecured and dangerous and may God give those terrorists their punishment.