In regards to the Mehdi Army:
Before we launched the operation in Basra, the ports were completely under the control of these militias, smuggling was a routine, burglary and looting were also ongoing. Now Basra is back as a city under the control of the state, and its inhabitants are optimistic now about what the state can do for them. Now and for the first time Iraqis stand strong by their state after they saw the state take a decisive stand against this gang that is on cornered and on the run. These facts? The state came out with the maximum power, nationalism, popular and national support that expressed itself, and for the first time, the one who is cornered and defeated is this gang. A decision was taken yesterday that they no longer have a right to participate in the political process or take part in the upcoming elections unless they end the Mehdi Army and the unanimous decision agreed on by the political powers today. And this is the first time political powers dare say this -- the solution comes from dissolution, which means solving the problem comes in no other way other than dissolving the Mehdi Army.
About our presidential election:
We welcome the choice of the American people, especially that toppling the regime in Iraq and the supporting the efforts of the Iraqi opposition at the time began at the time of the Democrats and was executed in the Republican period. And again I say if Mr. McCain comes into power he will definitely take into consideration the equation I mentioned, which is the required need and the requirement to face terrorism not only in Iraq, but the world.
About the offensive in Basra:
ROBERTSON: Mr. Prime Minister, you surprised a lot of U.S. officials when you went on the offensive in Basra. Why didn't you tell the Americans what you were doing?
AL-MALIKI: I think this is not correct. Initially the desire was for those operations to be an Iraqi responsibility and undertaking. and we did ask the coalition forces -- both the U.S. and British forces -- not to participate or get involved directly because that would give an excuse to some militant groups to say that this is a foreign force attacking us. But as far as General [David] Petraeus is concerned he was informed and he was in the picture about what we were going to do, and we told him this is an Iraqi operation that will target gangs -- some outlaws who were controlling the ports or are involved in smuggling or killing, and we made it very clear to them that we want it to be an Iraqi operation and when there is a need for assistance from Multi-National Forces we will make a request. So they were informed, and there was agreement with both the Americans and British sides that this should be an Iraqi operation. Legally we also had to make the operation an Iraqi one, because we were handed over the security portfolio in Basra and so it legally became an Iraqi responsibility, and during our discussions with coalition officials they told us they could not go into Basra because the security portfolio had been handed over and Iraqis are in charge of Basra.
ROBERTSON: Some American politicians have been surprised. The U.S. has supported the Iraqi army, put a lot of money into the Iraqi army, but they say they really weren't aware -- that they were caught off guard.
AL-MALIKI: As I have clarified, the commander of Multi-National Forces was aware and he asked a specific question. He asked if the decision has been made to launch the operation and the answer was yes, the decision has been made. He [Petraeus] said we will be ready to provide you with whatever you may require during the operation; therefore, I believe it's accurate to say the operation happened with their knowledge, but not participation.
With regards to Sadr City and another city, Shula, we have opened the door for confrontation, a real confrontation with these gangs, and we will not stop until we are in full control of these areas. Politically, we have managed to gather a wide national front to politically confront this issue. Yesterday the Political Council for National Security had a meeting and issued a resolution with a number of points and action necessary to end the existence of this gang. The operation has started and will not stop until a decisive victory is achieved, a victory that will not enable these people to attack the Green Zone or other areas, now [that] they are suffering from a breakdown in their operations. Operations will not stop until the problem is finished and we are able to start reconstruction and begin to establish stability. Reconstruction and stability can not be established without putting an end to those criminal gangs who receive funding from beyond the borders. Another measure that is part of the mechanism of confronting those gangs is to rely on the tribes that stood side by side with the state in confronting these gangs, and they can provide a strong fist, a striking arm that can help get rid of those criminals.
ROBERTSON: Why did Iran help you convince Muqtada al-Sadr end the fighting?
AL-MALIKI: I am not aware of such an attempt. What happened on the ground and the breakdown in the structure of this militia is what made Muqtada al-Sadr issue his statement to withdraw his militants from the streets and condemn these operations, and he denied having any heavy weapons [artillery], which gave the government the right to search for these weapons, confiscate them if found, in addition to arresting anyone in possession [of heavy weapons]. What happened was something to save Muqtada not to help us.
Read the whole interview.
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