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IRAQ: Maliki speech on Sadr and Basra

April 3, 2008 | 12:56 pm

Maliki_jyr4ngnc_450 Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki gave a speech today addressing last week's government offensive on the southern port of Basra. The clashes lasted for six days until Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr ordered his fighters to stand down. Maliki defended the operation and signaled his newfound will to tackle Sadr's Mahdi Army militia. Below are excerpts from his speech.

"Today I'd like to talk to you about the events that took place in Basra and other provinces. We want to establish state institutions that cannot be violated by anybody. The operation disclosed the power of the government and its commitment and will on implementing security, to confront the outlaws anywhere and everybody. It's a legitimate commitment that must be taken by the government in order to protect civilians in Basra.

"There were crimes against women, religious scholars, doctors and engineers; kidnappings and looting operations; the smuggling of our national resources.... We all know how important Basra is for Iraq. The last events revealed how important and dangerous this challenge was, but we had to respond to the many requests and calls we received from the Basra people. So we went to fulfill our duties, which were limited to the ports which were serving the gangsters and militias; financially strengthening the various Mafias through smuggling and manipulations... whom had arrest warrants on them.... It was a true confrontation with these gangsters who thought they were above the law and the state.

"We can say that Basra was the start for implementing the law, and it will continue in all the cities in Iraq and give those elements a lesson so that they can get along with the government. We did not target anyone in particular or a political party. We don't want to hinder people from participating in the political process, but everything must occur under the cover of the laws and the constitution. Our strategy is to chase those who break the laws, not those who get along with the political process even if they disagree with us. There are many factions who oppose us, but this is respectable and protected by the government. We will not allow the resistance that wants to replace the state and its constitution.

"Now our main goals are to cleanse and liberate the ports from those outlaws who used to manipulate the most important ... government establishment.... We also arrested the mafias that were smuggling the oil. Basra was a prisoner. Now it's liberated and its people are in joy. I understand there are other cities that need similar operations. There are also some neighborhoods in Baghdad where its people are still hostages in the hands of those criminals ruling them.... They think this is their last chance, but we are coming. We ask again for their sake and Iraq, we invite them once more to regain their sanity. Let the people live free and stop interfering with their lives to become good citizens. We will not leave our people and families in Sadr city, Shula, Amiriya and other places. We will liberate them.

"We don’t have a friend or enemy. Our friend is the person who complies with the laws, serves the interests of Iraq and its people, and our enemy is the one who breaks the laws, no matter what party they belong to.

"We could not delay our operations in Basra  anymore because its people were threatening to migrate. We discovered heavy weaponry there. For whom does this belong? The destruction, the sabotage. Why? I don't understand whose interests this hurts. Why bomb the electricity grid? Why the closure of the bridges, the bombing of the oil wells? Is it not appropriate to gather up our information to conclude that those are Fedayeen Saddam, Gangs of Saddam who are known for such attitudes throughout history.... We don't want the return of the Baath again via legitimate slogans or sacred ones that we respect.

"Also, we are proud of our security forces' loyalty, their endurance in the confrontation despite the lack of preparation. On the other hand unfortunately those who were betrayers who revealed their fraudulent identity when they did not fight like our heroes, they have no place in our security forces. I demanded that all the divisions transfer them to the military courts. They have to pay the price according to the laws. They made their oath and have a commitment to live up to."

— Ned Parker in Baghdad

Photo: A handout picture from the Iraqi Prime Minister's Office shows Prime Minister Nouri Maliki speaking during a press conference today. Credit: AFP/Getty Images