"Iraq Does Not Exist Anymore"
Amy Goodman interviews Nir Rosen
on How the U.S. Invasion of Iraq
Has Led to Ethnic Cleansing, a Worsening Refugee Crisis and the
Destabilization of the Middle East
Democracy Now, August 21, 2007
Nir Rosen is an independent journalist
and the author of "In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph
of the Martyrs in Iraq." He is a fellow at the New America
Foundation and has reported extensively from Iraq since the US-led
invasion in 2003.
AMY GOODMAN: Nir Rosen is an independent
journalist and the author of In the Belly of the Green Bird:
The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq. He is a fellow at the
New America Foundation and has reported extensively from Iraq
since the US-led invasion in 2003.
Earlier this year, Nir Rosen wrote a piece,
a cover story for the New York Times Sunday Magazine, called
"The Flight from Iraq." He estimated up to 50,000 Iraqis
were leaving their homes each month.
Nir Rosen joins us now from our firehouse
studio here in New York, just returned from Beirut on Sunday night.
Welcome to Democracy Now!
NIR ROSEN: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk further about
the refugee crisis? Again, lay out the numbers that we're talking
about inside Iraq and outside.
NIR ROSEN: Outside Iraq, we're approaching
three million refugees who have left since 2003. There were, of
course, refugees who left before then, due to Saddam and other
Inside, I think you have a similar number
of internally displaced Iraqis fleeing their homes in mixed areas
and going to more homogenous areas. Sunnis from Basra are heading
to Sunni neighborhoods, Baghdad, or all the way up to Kurdistan.
Shias from Diyala province are going to safer areas for Shias.
Kurds from Mosul going up to Kurdistan, as well.
And a family like the one we just saw
on the show is never going to go back to their home again, actually,
AMY GOODMAN: Why?
NIR ROSEN: Iraq has been changed irrevocably,
I think. I don't think Iraq even -- you can say it exists anymore.
There has been a very effective, systematic ethnic cleansing of
Sunnis from Baghdad, of Shias --from areas that are now mostly
Shia. But the Sunnis especially have been a target, as have mixed
families like the one we just saw. With a name like Omar, he's
distinctly Sunni -- it's a very Sunni name. You can be executed
for having the name Omar alone. And Baghdad is now firmly in the
hands of sectarian Shiite militias, and they're never going to
let it go.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think of Senator
Levin calling for the Maliki and the whole government to disband?
NIR ROSEN: Well, it's stupid for several
reasons. First of all, the Iraqi government doesn't matter. It
has no power. And it doesn't matter who you put in there. He's
not going to have any power. Baghdad doesn't really matter, except
for Baghdad. Baghdad used to be the most important city in Iraq,
and whoever controlled Baghdad controlled Iraq. These days, you
have a collection of city states: Mosul, Basra, Baghdad, Kirkuk,
Irbil, Sulaymaniyah. Each one is virtually independent, and they
have their own warlords and their own militias. And what happens
in Baghdad makes no difference. So that's the first point.
Second of all, who can he put in instead?
What does he think he's going to put in? Allawi or some secular
candidate? There was a democratic election, and the majority of
Iraqis selected the sectarian Shiite group Dawa, Supreme Council
of Islamic Revolution, the Sadr Movement. These are movements
that are popular among the majority of Shias, who are the majority
of Iraq. So it doesn't matter who you put in there. And people
in the Green Zone have never had any power. Americans, whether
in the government or journalists, have been focused on the Green
Zone from the beginning of the war, and it's never really mattered.
It's been who has power on the street, the various different militias,
depending on where you are -- Sunni, Shia, tribal, religious,
criminal. So it just reflects the same misunderstanding of Iraqi
politics. The government doesn't do anything, doesn't provide
any services, whether security, electricity, health or otherwise.
Various militias control various ministries, and they use it as
their fiefdoms. Ministries attack other ministries
AMY GOODMAN: Which is the most powerful
NIR ROSEN: Well, the various Shia ones,
such as the Mahdi Army, the Badr Corps, the police, the Iraqi
police, the Iraqi army. Of course, the American army is also another
militia, and it's a very powerful militia in Iraq -- maybe not
the most powerful. But the Mahdi Army basically controls the police
and the Iraqi army. Of course, in the north the police are more
in the hands of various Kurdish militias, and the army is in the
hands of Kurdish militias. So it sort of depends where you are.
AMY GOODMAN: We're going to break. When
we come back, we are going to talk more about the refugees throughout
the Middle East. There are not many here in this country. We're
talking to Nir Rosen, independent journalist, author of In
the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq.
Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Nir Rosen,
independent journalist, author of In the Belly of the Green
Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq, a fellow at the
New America Foundation, has reported extensively from Iraq since
the US-led invasion in 2003, most recently has just returned from
Beirut, actually on Sunday night, and has particularly focused
on refugees. His piece in the New York Times is called
"The Flight from Iraq."
Talk about why people go to different
countries, why Iraqis go in this -- you're saying up to three
million Iraqis out of a population of what? Some 27 million?
NIR ROSEN: Twenty-six, twenty-seven, originally,
yeah. Nobody knows for sure.
AMY GOODMAN: More than -- so, close to
NIR ROSEN: Yes, and, of course, up to
a million have died --
AMY GOODMAN: More than 10%
NIR ROSEN: -- since the occupation began.
Well, there are various factors for why they choose different
countries. Access is one of them. Syria is the most open and generous
of all the countries in the region. They basically take anybody
who comes in. And for a long time, they were giving them free
healthcare, and they still provide free education. Well, they've
been -- they are being overburdened, as well, because the Syrian
government subsidizes things such as bread. So every loaf of bread
an Iraqi buys is actually being paid for in part by the Syrian
government. As a result, they're finding it more and more difficult
to bear the cost.
The Jordanians basically closed their
borders by the end of 2005, in part because they were being overburdened,
and they also have demographic issues to worry about. Half of
the small Jordanian population are Palestinian, and now you've
introduced another million Iraqis. And this is a very fragile
regime in the first place, the Jordanian dictatorship.
AMY GOODMAN: What does each country gain
by letting in Iraqi refugees?
NIR ROSEN: Well, Jordan took in initially
many of the wealthier ones, as did Egypt, and so they certainly
gained a great deal of money and investment, and they required
for residency a certain amount of money in the bank. But Jordan
was a less friendly environment for Shias. Syria, again, is the
most friendly environment for really any Iraqi; Shias, Sunnis,
Christians each find welcoming neighborhoods there. Lebanon, very
difficult to get to, and there's a likelihood of being expelled
by the Lebanese government, but Christian Iraqis have found that
the Christians of Lebanon have been generous in protecting them.
Shia Iraqis have tended to go into the Shia neighborhoods of Beirut.
Egypt closed its borders more or less after about 150,000 Iraqis
came in, mostly Sunni. The majority of the Iraqi Arab refugees
are Sunnis, despite the fact that Sunnis are a minority in Iraq.
And Sweden has taken in, I think, 40,000 or 50,000, as well. They've
been quite generous. As you've said, we took in about 700, which
is a laughable amount.
AMY GOODMAN: What are the politics of
this, given that the US said they went into Iraq to save the people
of Iraq, only allowing in 700 here?
NIR ROSEN: Well, there are various reasons
for why they won't take them in. I think the fact that they're
Arab and Muslim is probably one of them. The main factor is probably
that if you take any refugees, you're admitting that your whole
program in Iraq is a failure. If Iraq is exporting refugees, people
are fleeing Iraq for their lives, then everything we've done is
a failure, which indeed it is, of course, failure.
And there are also security reasons. Homeland
Security Department is finding it difficult to screen the Iraqis
and difficult to even send their people to various embassies to
initiate the screening process. That's taken a painfully long
AMY GOODMAN: Why can't they screen them?
NIR ROSEN: I think it's just incompetence
and sort of a lack of interest. And one of the factors that prevents
Iraqis from getting visas, for example, if you've paid a ransom.
Many Iraqis, virtually every family I know of, have been victims
of kidnapping. If you pay a ransom to release your relative from
kidnapping, according to the US government, you have materially
supported terrorism, and therefore you can be prevented from obtaining
a visa to the US.
AMY GOODMAN: If you've paid any kind of
NIR ROSEN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Governments have paid ransoms,
like the Italian government, for people to be released from Iraq.
NIR ROSEN: Yes, I'm sure the US government
has, as well, but this has been an obstacle for Iraqis. And in
general, there's an aversion, it seems, on the part of America
to take in Arabs or Muslims, and Iraqis, in particular. I think
Christians have a much better time, Iraqi Christians, as informally
the West, whether Australia, England, America, are more likely
to take in Christians and are more interested in their plight.
I think there's also stronger interest groups in the West, in
Canada and the US, who are active on behalf of the Iraqi Christians.
AMY GOODMAN: What does it do to the politics
of a country, to Syria, to Jordan, to Lebanon, having the Iraqi
refugees come in? And then, I want to broaden that to: what is
the effect of the war on these countries?
NIR ROSEN: Well, when we think of the
Iraqi refugee crisis, we have to think of the crisis that people
in the region think of in relation to that one, and that's the
Palestinian refugee crisis. In 1948, up to 800,000 Palestinians
were expelled from their homes in Palestine to make way for what
became Israel. They went to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan. There were
put in refugee camps. Eventually, after a few years, they were
militarized, mobilized. They had their own militias. They were
engaged in attacks, trying to liberate their homes. And they eventually
were instrumentalized by the various governments, whether Lebanon,
Syria, Jordan. Different groups used them. And they were massacred,
as well, by the Lebanese, by the Jordanians. They contributed
to destabilization of Jordan, of Lebanon, as well.
And I think you will see something similar
happening with the Iraqis, because we have much larger numbers,
approaching three million, and many of them already have links
with militias back home, of course, because to survive in Iraq
you need some militia to protect you. And there are long-established
smuggling routes for weapons, for fighters, etc.
And add to that the very sensitive sectarian
issue in Syria, in Jordan. The Syrian regime is a minority regime
perceived by radical Sunnis to be a heretical. Syria is a majority
Sunni country. The majority of the refugees are Sunni. Syria has
a good relationship with a Shia-dominated Iraqi government. There
have been various Islamist opposition groups who have sought to
overthrow their government in Syria. Jordan, as well, has its
own Islamist opposition. We're likely eventually to see, as Sunnis
are pushed more and more out of Baghdad and as the militias are
pushed into the Anbar Province, that they might link up with Islamist
groups in Syria, in Jordan, in Lebanon.
So I think it's wrong to think of Iraq
as its own conflict. There's now a regional conflict. It's going
to involve Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon. And I think we'll
see governments being overthrown -- for example, the one in Jordan.
What we already see are fighters being exported, for example,
the fighting in Lebanon the past few months. Many Iraq veterans
have sought shelter in Lebanon among -- in the Palestinian refugee
camps, for example.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about that, what's happening
right now in Lebanon with Fatah al-Islam, with, in particular,
the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp.
NIR ROSEN: Well, Nahr al-Bared refugee
camp doesn't exist anymore. It's been wiped out completely. The
Lebanese army destroyed, flattened completely a refugee camp that
at once housed 40,000 people. And they've now been made homeless.
They left with only their shirts on their backs, basically.
What provoked this conflict was the existence
of a group called Fatah al-Islam that declared itself in late
2006. They sort of piggybacked onto a pre-existing Palestinian
group, a secular one called Fatah Intifada, taking advantage of,
I think, benign neglect on the part of Syria and a very welcoming
environment in northern Lebanon, where you have Salafis already
work in close reliance with the Sunni-dominated Future Movement.
And it seems like, as Sy Hersh explained in his article, the Future
Movement, led by Saad Hariri, hoped that they could take advantage
of the presence of the Salafis and jihadists in the camps and
elsewhere to be sort of the Sunni militia against Hezbollah. But
these groups weren't interested in fighting Shias. They were more
interested in fighting Israel, the US, the crusaders, and establishing
their own sort of Islamic emirate in the north. And as a result,
there's been a very brutal and bloody clash with the Lebanese
army and security forces.
They took advantage of the fact that the
Palestinian camps in Lebanon are basically autonomous in terms
of security. The Lebanese security forces weren't allowed, thanks
to an agreement several decades ago, to actually enter the camps.
And some of these camps, Ayn al-Hilwah, south of Beirut, have
long been exporting jihadists to Iraq. What happened about a year
ago was that the flow was reversed, and fighters from Iraq began
seeking shelter elsewhere. They can't go to Jordan. They can't
go to Syria. Lebanon was a much more permissive environment --
no strong state, no strong security forces, Palestinian camps
already sort of lawless, and a place where Lebanese seek shelter
if they're absconding from the law, and a very friendly environment
for Salafis in the Sunni areas because of the increased sectarian
tensions in Lebanon.
People in Lebanon are viewing their conflict,
especially Sunnis, within a context of the Iraq conflict. They
believe in these conspiracy theories about the Shia "Crescent,"
about a Shia program, and Iran is exporting its revolution in
the region. These are baseless sort of fears, but they're very
strong fears held on the part of Sunnis. And as a result, the
Sunnis of Lebanon are looking for their own militia to protect
them from what they believe is Hezbollah's attempts to control
AMY GOODMAN: What about the comments of
Seymour Hersh, the investigation that he did, specifically saying
that the US and Saudi governments are covertly backing militant
Sunni groups like Fatah al-Islam as part of an overarching foreign
policy to go after Iran and the Shia influence?
NIR ROSEN: Well, Sy Hersh and I deal with
sort of different levels, in the sense that most of my work was
on the ground in refugee camps and in poor neighborhoods of Lebanon.
So I dealt with the actual militias, not on the geopolitical level
with the people who might be sponsoring them. So I found no evidence
that the US government or Saudi Arabia were directly involved.
What is clear, however, is that jihadist
groups in Lebanon are being sponsored and assisted by various
Salafis in Lebanon who are very close with the Lebanese government
and who support the March 14 Movement. And money is coming in
certainly from Saudi Arabia from rich patrons. They are well armed
-- very new weapons compared to the Lebanese army -- laptops,
very well fed. And some of their apartments are rented by people
who are closely associated with the Lebanese government.
But given where I was, there was no direct
US involvement, as far as I can see. It would be very foolish
for the US to support these jihadists. I think the Lebanese government
and its allies found that it was also very dangerous for them,
that they cannot control these people and use them for their own
ends. We tried this ourselves in Afghanistan and are still suffering
as a result of that. And these groups in Lebanon, I think, actually
ended up taking advantage of the Lebanese authorities, instead
of the other way around.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Nir Rosen,
independent journalist, author of In the Belly of the Green
Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq. He has just come
out of Lebanon, has been looking at refugees, the mass crisis.
I mean, you're putting the numbers now at, well, over five million
numbers, with those refugees inside Iraq, the internally displaced,
around two million, and then you're saying three million outside.
NIR ROSEN: I think almost three million
inside. I mean, the rate is increasing so fast every day, every
month 30,000 to 50,000 are leaving their homes.
AMY GOODMAN: Where does the UN come into
this and refugee camps in these countries?
NIR ROSEN: Well, until now, there haven't
really been refugee camps outside of Iraq. Iraqis have sort of
blended into the urban environments of Amman, Jordan; Damascus,
Syria; Beirut; Cairo. These are urban people who have fled, and
they prefer an urban environment. There's a taboo about refugee
camps. And the governments have not set up refugee camps either.
So this makes it harder to help them and harder to track them,
Within Iraq, there have been some camps
set up for the internally displaced in southern Iraq. But about
150,000 to 200,000 Iraqis have fled to northern Iraq -- Irbil,
Sulaymaniyah, Dahuk -- and they have also just rented homes in
urban areas in towns.
The UN was very slow to respond, in part
because of a lack of funding, in part because the UN was still
in a sort of intellectual mode where they were assisting the Iraqi
government. There was a reconstruction effort, stability effort,
development, not dealing with the humanitarian crisis, because
usually it's the other way around. You solve the refugee crisis
first, and then you initiate the reconstruction, development,
etc. Iraq was unusual in that sense, in that what initially was
a reconstruction effort became a humanitarian crisis. And the
UN was reluctant to admit it, that there was a humanitarian crisis,
because that would imply the Iraqi government, which is assisting,
is a failure. And, in fact, the Iraqi government is a party in
the conflict and is one of the main actors in prolonging this
conflict, to the extent that we can even say that there isn't
an Iraqi government.
So the UN has been very late, in part
because it depends on funders. You can't blame the UN. The UN
is basically America and the donor countries. But there was this
lazy intellectual process of recognizing that Iraq is a failure.
And, of course, the UN was traumatized by, first, the failure
to prevent the war in Iraq -- and it's been seeking a mission
ever since then -- and, of course, the bombing in August 2003,
which basically expelled the UN from Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you make of the Syrian
prime minister Monday saying that his country will help rebuild
Iraq, help Iraqis rebuild Iraq?
NIR ROSEN: I think it's optimistic. I
don't think anybody can really help Iraq at this point. And Syria
lacks the funds. We in the West have been focused too much on
Iran and Syria, as if they are the solution to Iraq, or the problem
or the cause of the problem, whereas, in fact, this is mainly
an internal conflict. And there isn't much that a country like
Syria can do. The US, with all of its troops and all of its money,
has failed completely.
Syria does have the advantage of having
a good relationship with all the parties in the conflict. It's
been very good at maintaining relations with Sunni resistance
groups, with Shia radicals like Muqtada al-Sadr. Maliki, the prime
minister, actually lived in Syria for a long time. President Talabani
was in exile in Syria when he established his own political party,
the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. So Syria does have a very good
relationship, and it could be the key to bringing some of the
Iraqi groups together. But at this time, I think there's actually
AMY GOODMAN: Nir, what about Iran? What
about the whole Bush-Cheney push to attack Iran? And what is the
significance of this? And how does it play out in these countries?
NIR ROSEN: Well, I think we're dealing
with a mentality on the part of our administration that nobody
else is going to have the guts to take on Iran in the future,
the next president, so if we don't do it, who's going to do it,
and we'll be vindicated in the future just like Reagan was vindicated,
allegedly, for bringing down the Soviet Union. So they have this
long-term view of how history will treat them, and if they don't
take down Iran, nobody else will, which is probably the case,
although they can't take down Iran, either.
Iran is not Iraq. You can bomb it, but
I think you'd only basically strengthen the support for the government,
as always happens when you bomb a country. We saw this in Yugoslavia
and elsewhere. And they've been blaming Iran for everything under
the sun lately, for supporting Sunni radicals in Iraq or attacking
the Iranian-backed leadership in Iraq, for attacking -- and then
they blame Iran for supporting the Taliban, who, of course, were
bitter enemies of Iran. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
AMY GOODMAN: And interestingly, the president
of Afghanistan, Karzai, coming in and saying Iran is a partner
and then receiving Ahmadinejad in Afghanistan, and President Bush
at the same time attacking Iran.
NIR ROSEN: Well, the countries in the
region know that they can't lose Iran as an ally and as a neighbor.
The US can easily alienate Iran, without suffering too many consequences.
But Iraq does depend on Iran as a friendly neighbor, likewise
Afghanistan. And if you were to antagonize Iran, of course, the
consequences would be much more severe than antagonizing Iraq,
which had a very weak army.
AMY GOODMAN: What are the politics? Why
is Bush doing this, escalating the rhetoric?
NIR ROSEN: Well, there is a general aversion
on the part of the US administration towards any Islamist movement
or government. This is why they brought down the Islamic Courts
in Somalia, this is why they overthrew the Hamas democratically
elected government in Palestine, this is why they refuse to deal
with Hezbollah, an overwhelmingly popular movement in Lebanon:
I think a fear of any successful Islamist model. And then, we've
had a long animosity with Iran. We haven't forgiven them, I think,
for the hostage crisis a few decades ago.
And I think we're now in search of a new
enemy. When I wrote my book, I was doing research on LexisNexis,
and I found that in May 2003 universally the US press was talking
about when do we got to war against Iran? Iraq has been such a
success. We brought down Saddam's regime so quickly. So now, Iran
is next, obviously. And everybody was behind this, of course.
AMY GOODMAN: The Lieberman-sponsored resolution
condemning Iranians fighting in Iraq for killing US soldiers,
but then the report coming out that there are more Saudi fighters
in Iraq than Iranian fighters.
NIR ROSEN: It's difficult for me to understand
why the Shias would need Iranian fighters. Iraqis are very good
at killing, as we've seen. Shias were in the army. They were the
majority of the army. Shias were in the Fedayeen Saddam, as well.
And they've been very eager to fight the Americans -- the Mahdi
Army, other groups.
So Iran might be sponsoring various Shia
militias, of course. It has its own proxies in Iraq: the Supreme
Council, one of our main allies, the Dawa Party, one of our main
allies, the Sadr Movement to a lesser extent, and, of course,
some of the Kurdish parties, as well. Iran has a very good relationship
with various Iraqi movements.
I am skeptical that they are actually
sending fighters to Iraq. I just don't see the need for it. Iraqis
are very well trained. They might be sending some weapons. But
then again, there's also a black market in weapons, so just because
a weapon is Iranian doesn't mean that it's necessarily been sold
by Iran. Various groups use American weapons. It doesn't mean
that the Americans are arming people, although, in fact, we are
I mean, it's very hypocritical for the
US to complain about any foreign intervention in Iraq in the first
place, given that we occupied Iraq and destroyed it, and now we're
arming Sunni militias in various neighborhoods, making the situation
much worse. In various Sunni neighborhoods of Baghdad, we're creating
our own militias. We are the ones who armed the police and the
army, who are, in effect, controlled by a sectarian Shia militia.
So it's absurd to take the American accusations seriously, except
that they are intending to go to war against Iran.
AMY GOODMAN: On that issue, Nir Rosen,
Time magazine ran an article this week called "Prelude
to an Attack on Iran." It ends with a quote from an unnamed
US official: "There will be an attack on Iran," he said.
NIR ROSEN: I mean, this is just such a
foolish game to play. American soldiers are basically held hostage
in Iraq. They can't leave, and they can't stay. And Iran has the
ability to make things much more difficult for the Americans.
Until now, while we are fighting Shia militias, Shia resistance
groups, it's not a sort of universal uprising on the part of Shias.
We did face that a little bit in 2004, and it was very difficult
for the Americans. But Iran does have the ability to mobilize
Iraqi Shias, of course, against the Americans and, if it wanted
to, to sponsor other groups that might want to fight the Americans.
Iran, until now, I think, has been the
primary beneficiary of the US war in Iraq, in that their people
are the ones in charge, and their main enemy, or one of them after
Israel, Saddam Hussein, was removed. So we could have seen Iran
as an ally in all this, and I think that we could have seen them
as an ally in Afghanistan, as well. But we've chosen to invent
an enemy where we didn't have one before.
AMY GOODMAN: David Petraeus, the general,
this report that's coming out, along with the Ambassador Crocker,
the second week of September, it's now reported, they may well
be reporting on September 11th to Congress. What is the significance
NIR ROSEN: I don't think it's significant.
What can they say that would make any impact one way or the other?
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think has to
NIR ROSEN: In Iraq? It's too late for
anything good to happen in Iraq, unfortunately. If the Americans
stay, we'll see a continuation of this civil war, of ethnic cleansing,
until all of Iraq is sort of ethnically -- or sectarian, homogenous
zones, which is basically what's already happened. If the Americans
leave, then you'll see greater intervention of Saudi Arabia, Jordan,
Syria, supporting their own militias in Iraq and being drawn into
But no matter what, Iraq doesn't exist
anymore. Baghdad will never be in the hands of Sunnis again. Baghdad
will be controlled by Shia militias. They've been cleansing all
the Sunnis from Baghdad. So Sunnis are basically being pushed
out of Iraq, period. They can go to the Anbar Province, which
isn't a very friendly place. I think you'll see that there won't
be any more elections in Iraq. Maliki is the last prime minister
Iraq will have for a long time. There is neither the infrastructure
for elections anymore, nor the desire to have them, nor the ability
of Iraqi groups to cooperate anymore. So what you'll see is basically
Mogadishu in Iraq: various warlords controlling small neighborhoods.
And those who are by major resources, such as oil installations,
obviously will be foreign-sponsored warlords who will be able
to cut deals with us, the Chinese. But Iraq is destroyed, and
I think we'll see that this will spread throughout the region,
and this will destabilize Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: Before we wrap up, I want
to talk about the Occupied Territories, about Gaza and the West
Bank, particularly Gaza now, the news out, hundreds of thousands
of Palestinians in Gaza enduring a fifth day of power blackouts.
The outages began after the European Union suspended its funding
of Gaza's main electricity plant. What's happening now?
NIR ROSEN: Well, Hamas was elected democratically
in elections that the US President Jimmy Carter and the international
community recognized were free and fair. We, of course, were very
upset that Hamas won the elections, and we imposed sanctions on
them and tried to overthrow the government in a soft coup, by
basically strangling the economy. And that didn't work. As a result,
we increased the heat on Hamas. We began training and sponsoring
Fatah militias, with the cooperation of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia
and, of course, Israel, and attempted to overthrow the Hamas democratically
elected government. And that, too, failed. And Hamas actually
managed to eject the Fatah militias from Gaza.
And, of course, now, thanks to US pressure,
the Europeans, who would like to deal with Hamas, who have a much
more realistic view of the Middle East, are unable to do so. And,
I mean, all you're doing is actually radicalizing this group.
This is one of the more moderate Islamist groups in the region,
in fact, and they were willing to negotiate with Israel. But what
you do when you allow a group like this to take part in elections,
and then when they win you try to overthrow them, is merely radicalize
them and encourage the Salafis, those with leanings towards al-Qaeda.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean by
NIR ROSEN: Salafis, like the Wahabis of
Saudi Arabia, a much stricter interpretation of Islam, generally
they reject any innovations and any form of modernity, any deviations
from what they perceive as a true Islam, whether Shiism or influences
of modernity, of reform. And they often, as well, believe that
if you don't follow their line of thinking, you're a heretic,
you're an infidel, and you can be killed. Zarqawi was a Salafi,
And these movements are not very strong
in Palestine yet. But what we're doing is taking a moderate group
like Hamas and actually encouraging them to be more radical, telling
them that negotiations, politics, elections won't work, all you
have is violence. It is such a foolish process, because you can't
push them into the sea, which is what Israel would like to do,
of course. But if you keep them in this prison, which is Gaza,
and you bomb them every day, which is what Israel is doing, and
they've killed -- since Israel withdrew from Gaza, they've killed
over 150 children and hundreds of civilians. So it's not exactly
withdrawal in the first place.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think needs to
NIR ROSEN: What needs to happen at this
point is a one-state solution, where Palestinian refugees are
allowed to go back to their homes, where Israel is a state for
Jews and non-Jews alike, a state for its citizens. And this one-state
solution is inevitable. I think the choice that Israeli Jews have
is whether they accept it peacefully, following the model in South
Africa, or do they wait a few decades and have to deal with a
much more violent uprising on the part of the Arab Israeli population
and the population in the West Bank and Gaza? But I think, one
way or the other, it's inevitable that Israel can't exist as a
Jewish state that doesn't give equal rights to its non-Jewish
AMY GOODMAN: Nir Rosen, I want to thank
you very much for being with us. Nir Rosen, independent journalist,
his book is called In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph
of the Martyrs in Iraq. He is just back from Beirut, Lebanon.
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