Tuesday, August 21, 2007
"Iraq Does Not Exist Anymore": Journalist 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
With Amy Goodman
Contributed by CSS and Datta
"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 factors.
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, it seems.
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: 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......
AMY GOODMAN: What do you think needs to happen there?
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 Arab citizens."