Iraqi Envoy: Zarqawi's Death Sends 'Message' The death of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi won't eliminate the violence in Iraq overnight, but it sends "a powerful message" that Zarqawi's brand of brutality won't be tolerated, the Iraqi ambassador to the United States says.
NPR logo

Iraqi Envoy: Zarqawi's Death Sends 'Message'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5472986/5473023" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Iraqi Envoy: Zarqawi's Death Sends 'Message'

Iraqi Envoy: Zarqawi's Death Sends 'Message'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5472986/5473023" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

For a reaction to Wednesday's killing of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Steve Inskeep visited Iraq's Ambassador to the U.S., Samir Sumaidaie.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The Ambassador works out of a brick mansion in Washington, a Victorian that also served as Saddam Hussein's embassy to the United States. Samir Sumaidaie took a seat in a corner of the cavernous space that might once have been a ballroom. He's been a diplomat for years, but as we'll hear, he's been personally affected by the news from Iraq.

He woke to the news of Zarqawi's death on Thursday morning.

Ambassador SAMIR SUMAIDAIE(Iraqi Ambassador to the United States): It's a very important development. It's not going to completely eliminate the violence overnight, of course. But Zarqawi was particularly vicious. His hate was directed in a sectarian way; his strategy was to start a civil war.

INSKEEP: Well, let me ask, if the Pandora's Box is now open, and it'll be very difficult to close it. Because clearly you have a great many killings by a great many people among both Shiites and Sunnis.

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: Yes, there are a lot of killers, but there are a lot more who do not want the killing. By eliminating Zarqawi, we have really sent a powerful message that people who peddle violence, and particularly this brand of brutal violence, will be pursued and will be eliminated. And they are on the losing side.

INSKEEP: I want to ask about another piece of news - that Iraq has filled its national security posts for the first time after months of negotiation over this.

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: Yes.

INSKEEP: In particular, I want to ask about one ministry that you, yourself, used to head...

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: Yes.

INSKEEP: ...you were interior minister.

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: Correct.

INSKEEP: Now there is a new interior minister.

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: Yes.

INSKEEP: What does that minister have to do to make that ministry run properly?

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: I knew this minister when I was a member of the governing council and he was a deputy member representing another colleague.

INSKEEP: This is Jawad al-Bulani?

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: Yes. Jawad al-Bulani.

INSKEEP: Who will now be in charge, in effect, of the police forces.

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: Exactly. And now, the first thing that he would have to do is to restore confidence in the national police by weeding out bad elements and making sure that the police are non partisan, are above politics, and they are commissioned to uphold the law. This change of culture in the ministry will be his single most challenging and important task.

INSKEEP: It's my understanding, that in past years, there have been plans proposed to fire thousands of people at the ministry of interior because they were incompetent or corrupt, or not reliable - dangerous to the public. And it was decided not to fire them, because putting so many armed men out on the streets could be even more dangerous than leaving them in.

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: Well, I can tell you, when I was minister, I had plans to get rid of something like 20,000 people, and I negotiated a budget for that, it was $60 million to, if you like, buy them off - pay them handsomely to make it worthwhile for them to leave the force, without political repercussions. That was not carried through, but it's about time something...

INSKEEP: It didn't happen, even though you got the money. Why didn't it happen?

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: Well, by that time, I'd left the ministry and the minister who followed me did not follow through with that plan. I cannot answer for that, but this is something that needs to be done.

INSKEEP: You also have a personal connection to developing news out of Haditha, Iraq...

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: Yes.

INSKEEP: ...where U.S. Marines were accused of a massacre in November. You have said that, in a separate incident, also in Haditha, that a relative of yours was killed by U.S. forces.

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: That's correct.

INSKEEP: Can you remind us what happened.

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: Well...

INSKEEP: As you understand it.

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: In June of last year, the son of my first cousin was on vacation in his home in Haditha. He is a second year university student in Baghdad.

The American military were conducting house-to-house searches. They came to his house. His father was out, but his mother and siblings were in. He opened the door for them. He was trying out his English. He's not very fluent, but he could communicate. They asked him if they have any weapons in the house. He said, one rifle, which belongs to his school, but no ammunition. They kept the family sitting in the living room and they took him into his father's bedroom to bring out the rifle, and there he was shot. Now...

INSKEEP: He was shot?

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: Yes, he was shot dead. The version which we have received from the military, cannot be reconciled to the version which I have from the family.

INSKEEP: What were the differences in the story between what the family said and what the military said?

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: Well, it is very fundamental, because the military said that they shot him in self-defense and that they didn't know that he was in the house or in the room, and that flies in the face of what my family has told me.

INSKEEP: That they didn't know he was in the house?

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: That's right, and that they were surprised to find him. When they went into the bedroom, they claimed that he was carrying a gun in the bedroom, pointing it at the soldier.

INSKEEP: It's a hard question for a relative to be asked, but can you really be sure that your relative did nothing to provoke this incident?

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: I am absolutely sure. However, this is a personal tragedy for me and for my family. I do not want this to cloud or influence my role here, which is a public role. I am representing a country in a time of turmoil. We focus on the bigger picture. Our enemy - our common enemy - is international terrorism, local terrorism, and we must work as partners. And, in that spirit, I see no contradiction whatsoever between me representing Iraq at this juncture, and me, the private citizen who has suffered a loss.

INSKEEP: Ambassador, thanks very much.

Ambassador SUMAIDAIE: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Hear more of Steve's conversation with Iraq's ambassador to the U.S., Samir Sumaidaie, at npr.org.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.