Baghdad: In Iraq, they call him the "difficult man" and "the man of major missions," He is the author of political decision No. 2. He rarely laughs and is known for his deep understanding of Iraqi-Soviet relations. He specialized in economics and leadership of the Army.
Mr. Taha Yassin Ramadan, First Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, is a politician who is challenging to penetrate. In his office that smells of Cuban cigars at the command center of the People's Army in Baghdad, Al-Majalla met him, and a discussion took place about the return of Iraqi-American relations and Iraqi-Soviet relations. The discussion also included the home front's economic situation and the military situation on the Iraqi-Iranian front. Mr. Ramadan also spoke about negligence and the state of the "silent spectator" that dominates the Arab world. These are the details:
Q. Do you consider that the continuation of the Iran-Iraq war has anything to do with the Arab situation? Is it an Arab responsibility?
A. Of course, you remember, in the first year of the war, which parties were saying as a cover for their dire situation that Iraq deliberately occupied itself with this war to distract from the main battle, which is the battle of Palestine, and it was clear that Iran was aiming to undermine Iraq's sovereignty and every inch of it.
Since the beginning of the war, we have said that people, who believe that the defense of Iraq is less important than the defense of Palestine, the security of Basra is less critical than Nablus and the protection of the Shatt al-Arab water is less important than the water of Tiberias, will not fighting if the opportunity comes for the liberation of Palestine.
Israel came to them - they certainly will not go to it one day - and the situation of some Arab countries - and their sectors within meters of the Israeli forces - that their forces located in other places are not prepared to fight against Israel but to maintain security in those places. Therefore, it is not strange to find that these parties played the leading role in tearing up the Palestine Liberation Organization and causing a split.
Q. The truth is that I did not mean in my question certain parties, but rather some Arab countries. Do you not think that some Arab countries, which did not take a decisive or supportive position in this war, are responsible for part of the continuation of bleeding on the Iraqi-Iranian front?
A. In our assessment, we relate the situation of each country to its circumstance, and it remains that the framework of ambition is one thing, and the framework of the possible is another. When we ask: What is our perception of the Arab situation and our concept of national connection with respect to some Arab countries regarding the Iraq war with Iran - which is five times more than Iraq on the ground and three times on population - we can only say that the Arab situation reaches to a minimum level of responsibility concerning our ambition for it. Standing with Iraq does not mean only the media, nor does it mean that we are with Iraq.
Everyone knows that Iraqi soldiers are fighting alone. Is this an expression of a national situation? Will this be a good precedent that can be followed when any enemy attacks any Arab country in the future? Is this position taken by some Arab countries useful? Were it not for the circumstances of Iraq and the case of its people, Iraq would have ended a while ago, and if this war had fallen on any other Arab country, we would have stood with it and supported it.
The Arab situation is painful and reflects disintegration and rupture, and a state in which it is said to be the worst case in our Arab century. And this political situation has been reflected in the popular position. There is popular lethargy. We all know that in the fifties and sixties, the national spirit, the rush and sacrifice among the masses were different, and when anything happened in Port Said, it was as if it was happening in Amman, Beirut or Baghdad. What is happening at the official level and even at the popular one when calamities happen? The Arab situation, in general, lives the conditions of the Arab world. Still, compared to countries that stand one hundred percent with the enemy, we say that the situation of the brothers in the Gulf is a good one, and the position of Jordan, Yemen and Morocco is also good, but I do not hide that our evaluation of the standing of these countries stems from their circumstances and from comparing them to a bad situation.
But if the Arab attitude was different, I would say that this war could not have happened. It seems that Iran knew in advance what the position of the Arabs would be. For all this, the fluid Arab situation that does not rise to the level of national responsibility is a major reason for continuing the war.
Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani threatened to extend the war to other Gulf countries, and he singled out Kuwait, where the Gulf Cooperation Council conference was recently held. Four years ago, discussions were held aimed at ending the war. Since last February, the state of military relaxation accompanied by a kind of attrition has been established on the front.
Q. Is the decision to war, in your opinion, a military decision or a political decision for the benefit of this continuous bleeding?
He paused for a moment and then went on to ask: What bleeding? There is no such thing on the front.
A. There is stop waging decisive battles on the front. Iran's decision is evident and, it does not want to control the fighting. This is not a new situation. Iranian officials are clear in their statements and say that they want to invade Iraq, but so far, they have not achieved this thing, and therefore the war continues.
World public opinion has an impact on ending the war and international organizations, but the strong position is the will of the two parties to the conflict. The choice for peace is present in Iraq, but it does not exist on the Iranian side, and therefore the war continues unless there is a political, military and economic development on the Iranian side.
Q. The Iraqi military machine was more robust than the Iranian army machine. Why does Iraq not resolve the military situation with its strength and impose negotiations and peace on Iran?
A. The Arab situation - as you see - is between a silent spectator and a general supporter of a treacherous stance with the Iranian side, one hundred percent, and the international position stems from the interests of each of the parties, and even the positive international position is a moral position.
Is Iraq required to resolve the matter within this picture by entering the battles with Iran again? This is not foreseeable; Iraq today is defending its land and borders by every means, and by defense, we do not mean the steadfast defense forever, but we have no intentions of taking Iranian lands.
- What is the number of people joining the People's Army? What is the maximum that this Army can reach in a state of general alert?
A. Currently, the number of trained, armed and registered fighters in the Army is close to 600,000, while those who regularly participate in the front or internal duties are about 140,000. As for the maximum size of the People's Army, there is not because the training is continuous and will continue and is not linked to the war. The People's Army aims to provide training and arming requirements for every citizen capable of bearing arms.
Q. When will the People's Army personnel fight in the front lines? Does the Army have any authority to make military decisions?
A. The People's Army is a reserve army, and its training is different from that of the regular Army. The primary duty of the People's Army anywhere in the world is to be a militia to maintain the home front, but on the basis that the level of training of the People's Army in Iraq is different from all other militias in its characteristics.
Along with the Army, the military division or the legion commander determines its location, work, and the quality of its participation in the front.
The military commander in every sector on the front is responsible for the formations of the People's Army when they join it, and we have one leadership, which is the leadership of the Army, and there is no joint command.
Q. Iran has set its conditions for ending the war, and they are well-known conditions. Has there been a change in the Iraqi situation? Are there conditions other than the desire for peace on your part?
A. First, we do not hear or discuss Iranian conditions, and any war does not end with conditions but ends with the establishment of rights. We believe that negotiation, a ceasefire, stabilization of borders following international laws and norms that have linked the two countries historically, and non-interference in internal affairs are the basis that we can adopt to stop the conflict between Iraq and Iran. Any conditions mean a breach and tyranny in the intention of peace. If these conditions were put before the war, they would have been a cause for it. So how can there be a ground for peace in an existing war?
Q: Do you think peace is possible under the current Iranian regime?
- Anything is possible. While this regime finds that the continuation of the war will affect the existence of its men as rulers will stop the war, as long as this war prolongs their existence, they will remain in it.
Q. For a long time, you were responsible for a large economic sector, and since you arrived in Iraq, everyone has been talking about the good financial situation. Some reports say that Iraq's economic situation is terrible, the cash reserve has decreased due to the purchase of the military machine, and Iraq is requesting loans, the last of which are from Britain, where the percentage of loans amounted to 550 million dollars. Iraq also asked for other loans from some Western countries and some Arab countries because of this deteriorating situation. What is the validity of this information?
A. What was written - in 1984 - about the Iraqi economy in the newspapers and the reports of the relevant agencies is all positive, and it does not mean that they are biased towards Iraq, because these agencies wrote in 1982 and 1983 dangerous and exaggerated words about Iraq and the economic difficulties the country was going through it. However, Iraq at that time did not hide these difficulties because it is not a defect in the economic structure.
Iraq is at war, and its brother stopped the most important source of its resources, so the economic situation deteriorated over time. In 1982, it was a natural matter, so we said at that time that the Iraqi economy was going through a critical case, and when I talk here about the Iraqi economy, I do not mean the structure of the economy and its system because it is solid, but I mean the monetary financial position.
And there is a difference between a financial difficulty of a particular stage and an economic imbalance. In 1983, we took internal and external measures to regulate this situation, and in 1984, we say seriously that our economy has not only been strengthened in terms of durability, but we have come out of the stifling point.
Therefore, the vision for the next stage is apparent. We borrow from many countries. Borrowing does not mean an imbalance in the economy. I ask how these countries lend to Iraq while it is in a state of war while other nations live in peace and cannot borrow? For all of this, I say that the Iraqi economy is strong, and its future horizon is clear. Therefore, investors and countries are reassured as they lend to Iraq.
Q. So, the Iraqi society is not experiencing the so-called war economic crisis?
A. We do not call it a war economy in our concept and theory. We manage the affairs of our people from the horizon of an exceptional socialist vision. Despite the war, our citizens have their income and requirements, and they are distinct from many Arab and non-Arab countries that do not live in a state of war in general.
We do not enter into this comparison. What matters to us is to elevate our people. The pride of every citizen is our pride. There is no doubt that the Iraqi economy has adapted in the last year and a half in line with the conditions of the war, but compared to other countries that entered wars that did not last long, it is a distinguished economy because the construction did not stop and this is a significant distinction. The structure of the state has not been defective, the structural work continues, and if a person does not go to the front lines, he does not feel that there is a war in Iraq.
Q. I disagree with you. Even in Baghdad, one feels that the war causes an economic crisis, and a tour in Baghdad at the moment when goods go to consumer associations and people gather around these cooperatives, then the increase in consumption of the Iraqi citizen and his fear of losing some food from the market and the storage policy followed in all homes is not evidence?
Persistently and firmly, Mr. Ramadan answered:
- Everything you mentioned has nothing to do with the war. There is no doubt that the Iraqi is concerned about the loss or scarcity of some materials. But we have overcome this situation since 1982. It remains that the Iraqi buys, and the Iraqi stores. And the issues you see are the most considerable evidence that there is a high cash flow for the citizen. If you ask most citizens who gather in front of cooperatives, what do you want to buy? He will answer you: "I don't know." He is not in need, but he is willing to buy, so when we followed the policy of saving, we found millions with people, even the fifty million bonds were sold, the cash flow exists.
Students and the front
Q. For example, let us talk about a life that I lived closely; a university student and his father and three brothers were asked to go to the front, and he stayed with his mother and four sisters in Baghdad. His father is a municipal worker. He lost his livelihood by going to the front, and what he earns there is hardly enough for him. This young man had to fail at university and work at night as a taxi driver to support the rest of his family. His biggest problem is that he is also asked to go to the front two weeks later. Can you explain how this family does not live in a state of alert and war? And who will support it?
(Mr. Ramadan strongly condemned)
- Such a case does not exist; we do not take students during their studies, and whoever conveyed this case to you has a specific intent. The last student who came from the front was two weeks before the start of the school year.
Q. Assuming that this person is a liar, who supports a family whose breadwinner went to the front and had no breadwinner left?
A. These cases are discussed by the leaders of the areas of the People's Army. And there are also cases of families of martyrs. We do not discuss matters in this way. We say that the Iraqis are responsible for defending their country and they should not wait for anyone's help, and in our conversation with our citizen, we make him aware that he does not go towards those who justify his not going to war is a dangerous thing.
Q. But definitely, the war resulted in some social problems. What are the social negatives resulting from the Iraqi-Iranian war?
A. I can't give you a complete picture of it because it needs a study. In general, we are following it up, and the field agencies are following up on this topic.
Q. Some time ago, the Economist published figures saying that Iraq holds 14,000 Iranian military prisoners and 20,000 civilian prisoners in a lengthy investigation of the prisoners. What is your comment?
- I don't have a statistic.
- But are there civilian prisoners?
A. I don't have an answer. Ask the Economist itself.