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Bremer Signs Over Iraqi Sovereignty

Aired June 28, 2004 - 03:01   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: ... we called (ph) the Prime Minister, Ambassador Bremer plus the British counterpart, David Richmond, as the CPA, and also the President Ghazi Yawar. They made some speeches and then a document was handed from the Americans to the Iraqis and that signaled the moment of transfer of sovereignty.

This document had been signed earlier in the morning by Ambassador Bremer, and then they transferred it at 10:26 this morning. So now the Iraqis have sovereignty. They made speeches, talking about what a historic day it was, how pleased they are that this transfer has happened. They said that wanted this to happen because every day matters.

They -- obviously it's happening against the backdrop of the insurgency and the Iraqis want to take control and to show that they are in control and they are able to respond. And we're going to be, apparently, hearing specific measures that the Iraqis said -- that the Iraqis plan to impose to crack down.

But in any event, they spoke about a very happy day, an historic day, a day that makes them proud. This is a day they said that the Iraqis had been looking forward to, that they want to pass, they want to make their country a source of peace and stability for the rest of the world and rejoin the international community. We were told afterwards that Ambassador Bremer will be leaving Iraq today after about 14 months here on the job. This will be his last public appearance in terms of ceremonial.

And in the next few days, Prime Minister Allawi will be swearing in the rest of his cabinet. We're also told that the President of the United States, George Bush, had a letter here that Ambassador Bremer gave to the new prime minister and the president requesting resumption of diplomatic ties between the United States and Iraq. Remember, these ties had been formally broken ever since the first Gulf War. Back to you.

HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR: And Christiane, you were at the site of the handover itself. What was the mood like in that room when the transfer of sovereignty actually occurred?

AMANPOUR: It was a very tight room. It was a very small number of chosen people in there, the senior members of the government and of the coalition. There was a number of press who were allowed to go in and witness this.

But it was not a public ceremony. It was very closed. It was indoors, as you can imagine. But inside the room, there was a feeling of, I think, happiness, some relief. Certainly there were smiles, there were handshakes, back patting, and it seemed to be something that was cast off with very good humor, not much tension.

TONY CAMPION, CNN ANCHOR: Good humor, Christiane, but is it premature to be trying to convey the message job done, I mean, in the context of why, even, this ceremony was brought forward two days? There are hostages who have been threatened with beheading. There is violence and insurgency every day. What is the general expectation in that room, you know, considering the wider subject of security in the country?

AMANPOUR: Well, obviously those specifics were not brought up at this formal ceremony. However, the issue of security and the violence was brought up. And that, in effect, is why we have accelerated sovereignty because, we're told by officials here, that in fact the Iraqi Prime Minister said to the Americans, we're ready now. Most of the ministries are in our hands. You've been transferring the authority over the last month or so, and we're ready. And every day matters. And we need to go out and impose Iraqi security here in Iraq.

Now that's what they want to do. The reality is, of course, that American forces will still be here and that this is a serious challenge that everybody knows that they have to deal with. So that is -- that is the reality of what's going on. But the very, very top of their priority list is cracking down on this insurgency. And we're told that they plan -- the new government plans to issue it's -- the methods with which we might try to impose security in some kind of public announcement, we're told, later today.

GORANI: All right. Christiane Amanpour, reporting to us live from Baghdad, from the site of the formal handover there. Let's get more from Iraq on what's going on, and what's likely to occur in the next few days because this was quite a surprise, of course.

We were expecting all this to happen on Wednesday. This comes against the backdrop of ongoing violence, hostage takings and chilling threats to decapitate those hostages. Brent Sadler is now live from Baghdad ...

CAMPION: Brent, I mean -- sorry to leap in. One question, perhaps is, is it clear who's, you know, what the military line of control is, if you like? Who's now in ultimate control of coalition forces and whether they still have a presumed superiority over Iraqi forces? What is the situation?

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's no presumption of superiority. The U.S.-led coalition is the front line of security in terms of firepower and weaponry and fully-trained manpower. The Iraqi security forces themselves, made up of the police and made up of the Iraqi National Guard, and they, by comparison, are very weak. They don't have any armor, for example. They don't have any heavy weaponry, no artillery, no tanks, no armored personnel carriers. They do not have the military wherewithal, for example, to go and take places and establish security in places like Baquba or Fallujah, where there is, supposedly, an Iraqi brigade that was handed over, responsibility for Fallujah, back in April by the U.S. forces because the U.S. themselves could not pacify Fallujah, that hotbed of insurgent violence.

So in terms of how this change of command, if you like, the rules of engagement, we're going to have to see how this emerges. Primarily it is the Iraqis who are now in the driving seat. That sovereignty document has been handed over to Ayad Allawi, the interim Prime Minister, and Paul Bremer, the ex-Administrator, as Christiane Amanpour reported, should be leaving Iraq later this day.

I can tell you there's been an increase in helicopter activity around our area here, not so very far from the green zone where my colleague, Christiane, is reporting from. A lot of security activity, obviously, to give some sound footing for the new government that's taken control under this new, active sovereignty and for the departing coalition ex-administrator, Paul Bremer to leave the country, obviously, without any mishap.

But in terms of getting back to your original question, Tony, the Iraqis have to assert themselves. But how can they assert themselves in terms of security, people ask here, when they don't yet have the wherewithal or the training to do it?

That's why Hoshiyar Zebari, the Foreign Minister of Iraq, and other Iraqis, are in Istanbul at the NATO summit, urging those leaders to come up with crash courses in training, more equipment. For example, 50,000-plus sets of body armor were only delivered very recently ,in the past week or so, to units of the Iraqi National Guard and the police forces.

So it's still going to be the U.S.-led coalition, primarily U.S. forces that are going to be the backbone of security in this country. The Iraqis want to assert themselves. They want to, as they say, have a showdown, according to the defense and interior ministers a couple of days ago, with the insurgents.

But they don't have the tools to do it yet. But they certainly want to be -- seem to be making the right kind of noises. One of the problems, I'm sure, today will be that, you know, the dissemination of the news of this event that's happened just under an hour ago, how many Iraqis out there, you know, know what's going on?

You know, we are reporting to you now from a very secure compound. For us to go and work in Baghdad and the city center downtown, too dangerous. That is the relevance of what we're seeing on the ground in terms of security. It's too dangerous to go out there.

There are five hostages this day under threat of being beheaded by various militant groups unless various countries, notably the Pakistani government, the Turkish government, and the U.S. administration bend to the wishes of these kidnappers who are threatening these hostages.

Not going to happen, say the Turks. Pakistanis have said anything yet. U.S., certainly no. So we have a crucial and enlarging, it seems over the past week or so, security situation. And the acceleration of the handover is designed to wrong foot those insurgents who could well have been planning to grandstand on this day of sovereignty turnover with some sort of horrific attack against civilians, against the coalition, or against the nascent Iraqi security forces -- Tony.

GORANI: Brent, this is Hala. How do average Iraqis view this interim government? Do they believe it's their legitimate representative? Or do they feel that it's a puppet of the Americans?

SADLER: Well, let's look at what the insurgents feel, first of all. Certainly they believe this is a made in America government, that it was made up primarily of the interim government that dissolved some weeks ago, and that these really are very close to the way that the Americans think. This new government has, in the eyes of many Iraqis, to be able to be seen, to be standing on its own two feet.

Now how do they do that given the fact -- without the full support of the U.S.-led coalition? You know, the security issue is just too great for them to handle on their own. So we're going to have to look at whether or not they decide to move forward with some sort of emergency laws. That has been touted over the past couple of days in certain hotspots where there is high insurgent activity.

And in terms of other Iraqis, how they feel, there's no doubt about it that Iraqis want to see Iraqis governing themselves. Most Iraqis do not want to be occupied by a United States-led coalition. They want the occupation over immediately. They wanted it over before, long ago. Now their government has effective sovereign control. That is important to Iraqis.

But what does that give them in terms of security of life, security of essential services like power and water? What's going to happen? There is still a big void out there. Iraqis know it and they will want to see how this partnership is going to work out between the new sovereign authorities and the support structure, the support nature of the U.S.-led coalition. And it's too early to say, yet, how that is going to come together.

GORANI: Brent Sadler, reporting live from Baghdad. And we'll be going back to Christiane and Brent in a few minutes. For now though ...

CAMPION: Let us go to Istanbul where European Political Editor Robin Oakley is at the NATO summit from which this news originally came, or started to come out. Robin, is there a sense, do you think, in which this, today's news, assists Iraq's delegation at this summit in the quest that it was essentially there for in the first place, the request for training for equipment? Iraqi is now, after all, nominally, ultimately in control of its own security. ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN EUROPEAN POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, indeed, Tony. And I think this will give an added sense of urgency to the NATO deliberations about precisely what degree of training help they give to the Iraqi authorities. They're not going to put in ground forces to help with the containment of insurgency or anything like that because France and Germany, for example, have made it clear that they're not willing to put their troops into Iraq.

But the NATO leaders are expected to offer help with training. The news from Baghdad today, the news that the interim government is going to take over power today rather than on June 30, on Wednesday, I think will give an added sense of importance to the occasion.

It will help the NATO leaders to realize that if they are to achieve their common objective, which they acknowledge, of getting a more peaceful Iraq, being in the interests of everybody, then they've got to do as much as they possibly can to help.

So I think it will be a useful reminder to them in that sense. It very much puts Iraq slap back on top of the agenda here because there are other questions they've got to address, like NATO's comparative failings so far in Afghanistan.

But this will emphasize that the interim government is -- has taken over, is calling the shots, is forming its own strategy to deal with insurgency, and this move forward to try and counter, perhaps, any terrorist spectacular on the original date of handover will, undoubtedly, get the NATO leaders thinking about what they can really do to help -- Tony.

GORANI: All right. Robin Oakley reporting live from Istanbul in Turkey. And we'll be joining Robin, as well as our other correspondents covering this breaking news story in Iraq, in Istanbul, throughout Europe, and, of course, we'll have analysis, including right now.

CAMPION: For more on this, we're joined here in the studio by Richard Whitman from the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Richard was speaking to us a few minutes ago when the news broke that Iraq is now, indeed a sovereign country.

I mean, what is your take, if you like, on the surprise nature of the way this news has come through to us? I mean, here we were expecting this to happen on Wednesday. And, you know, two days early, suddenly, out of the blue, you know, the coalition just backs out.

RICHARD WHITMAN, ROYAL INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: Indeed, and it's clearly a surprise for us. And I think it's going to have some impact upon the NATO summit in Istanbul because you're going to have a number of the heads of state in government there who are going to be discussing the question of NATO's contribution to Iraq. And it's going to overshadow the summit.

CAMPION: So let's talk about that. Let's talk about the NATO summit and -- apologies, this is the second time we've done this to you. We're going to go back to Robin Oakley in Istanbul for more developments. Robin? Well, apologies. Some confusion here. I think it turns out that Robin Oakley is unable to join us just now because of technical reasons.

I was going to ask you about, you know, at the summit you were saying that, you know, obviously, clearly, it's going to be the only talking point. You know, where does this -- how does this change, if at all, the positions that the various countries have taken in their keenness, or otherwise, to deploy troops in Iraq? For instance, we know that the French and the Germans aren't keen to carry out training within the country itself. I mean, what happens on that score now?

WHITMAN: Well, the positions are pretty fixed. I mean, we're not going to see any change in terms of the German and French government position. What we're getting out of this summit is something pretty low key. I mean, the NATO countries are going to agree to assist in training and provide other kinds of technical assistance to this new Iraqi government.

We've, of course, got European countries that have got troops in on the ground, 16 countries. The U.K. and Poland have the most troops in there. But we're certainly not going to see any movement in terms of some of these other larger members because what they've agreed to in terms of providing is training and technical assistance, is as much as what they want to sign up to at this time.

CAMPION: You know, that's an interesting point because of the fact that, you know, thus far, people have said yes in principle, training and equipment, and yet whenever anyone is asked what that means in practice, there's this sort of stepping onto the back foot. And we're not really sure yet. We'll try and work that out later. Is there any indication that that later could come today, at this summit?

WHITMAN: Well, I think it's clearly going to put more pressure on some of these governments to decide more concretely what they want to do. What we've heard so far is that some governments are reluctant to actually send trainers into Iraq. We've heard talk about training outside the country rather than within the country. Whether we'll see any movement on that, I think, will be interesting to see over the next day or so.

CAMPION: Yes. What happens now, to the coalition's role in Iraq?

WHITMAN: Well, as far as the coalition is concerned, as far the troops on the ground are concerned, and the other diplomats and so on that are there, they clearly have to plug into the new power center, which is the new Iraqi government, work at ways at working with the Iraqi government.

And I think we should probably expect the new Iraqi government is going to be quite muscular in the first few days, demonstrating that it's now in charge. And, you know, this may not be the easiest of times for those states, the U.S. and other European countries that are in there.

CAMPION: You know, at the same time, we have heard the new Iraqi leader, Ayad Allawi, talking in terms of potentially of an amnesty towards those who carried out insurgency, those who don't directly have blood on their hands in Iraq.

Is it clear, in your mind, whether the Iraqi government has already got policies sorted out? I mean, obviously, they've had a chance to plan for this day, or at least for Wednesday, as it was expected to have been. But is it clear that in a situation as fluid as the one that's, you know, on the ground in Iraq, that its policies that have been thought out, you know, in weeks past, are still even relevant and right today?

WHITMAN: Indeed. I mean, I think there are two things. One, clearly they want to get public order sorted out as soon as possible. Also, of course, these leaders are going to have their eye to the future elections, and they'll be looking at, when they face the electorate in the future, and whether there's going to be a role for them after this interim government.

CAMPION: Richard Whitman's with the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Deeply grateful for your contributions this morning. Please do stay with us.

GORANI: OK. Let's go back to Baghdad. Our Brent Sadler is there with more on this breaking news story -Brent.

SADLER: Thanks, Hala. Yes, we know now that the handover of sovereignty to the Iraqi interim government happened a little over an hour ago. There was a ceremony, a very low profile ceremony, in the very heavily fortified green zone, which has been the headquarters the past 14 months of the outgoing civil administrator Paul Bremer.

Attending that meeting, a tight semicircle of the interim Iraqi president, the prime minister, the deputy prime minister and the supreme court justice to accept, from the CPA, the Coalition Provision Authority, the document transferring sovereignty from the coalition to the Iraqis themselves.

Now that has been brought forward by two days, as we all know, and that in itself has been an attempt, it seems, to wrong foot the insurgency, which has been steadily building up violence over the past several days or so, coordinated attacks against police stations, kidnappings, and assassinations.

And we're hearing more news, just coming in, in Basra, a U.S. -- sorry, a British soldier killed in an improvised explosive device. We understand that news just coming in. But that's pretty much par for the course in terms of what we've been seeing in sporadic violence throughout the country.

But the last week has really seen an upsurge in violence as we have moved closer to that original Wednesday, June 30, deadline. It's been brought forward two days. It's happened, and Mr. Bremer will be leaving -- according to U.S. officials -- will be leaving Iraq today after running this CPA for the past 14 months.

And the Iraqis themselves, headed by interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, and the President Ghazi Yawar, will be taking control. But, of course, the reality is that the U.S. military will still have 135,000 plus troops on the ground.

And it's the U.S.-led coalition that has all the firepower needed to deal with the insurgency. The Iraqis, on their own, do not have the equipment, nor the training, nor the arsenal weapons needed to deal with the kind of attacks we've been seeing of late -- Hala.

GORANI: Now, what will be the most noticeable difference on the ground for Iraqis now that the handover has taken place?

SADLER: Well, that's a very good question and gets right to the heart of the matter, Hala. They won't see any physical difference at all, maybe some changes in the way road blocks have been established in terms of freeing up some traffic bottlenecks. We've been seeing that in the roundabout behind us over the past few hours.

But in terms of what most Iraqis will see, how they're lives will change, well, the ones we've been speaking to since the news came out, confirmation -- official confirmation of the transfer of power, well not much, don't expect very much. Iraqis want first and foremost law and order. They want the guarantee of the essential services: water, power, so on and so forth. And, you know, that's not going to make any difference from last week to next week in terms of the security control that's on the ground and how that's worked out.

The legal -- from the legal standpoint, the Iraqis have now control of their own destiny. They have achieved that very important milestone. But it is really only a milestone in the sense that the real nuts and bolts of dealing with the security that enables Iraq to one day hopefully go back to peace and stability within its own borders, is still far away. And Iraqis absolutely know that 100 percent -- Hala.

GORANI: Now, we've heard analysis, two types of analysis, one saying that there will be less violence after the handover and others saying, well, there'll be actually even more violence and perhaps even civil war. What do people there in Iraq say about what they think the security situation will be like from now on?

SADLER: Well, I think most Iraqis are afraid. They're afraid of what this future brings under a new interim government with powers of sovereignty, where the occupation force -- the numbers of the U.S.-led occupation force is exactly the same as it was before the document was signed to now after it was signed.

So, you know, everyone here is very well aware that nothing substantially in terms of what they're going to see in their everyday lives is going to change. But certainly the Iraqi administration, the interim government headed Ayad Allawi, the Prime Minister, will be making every effort to show that it is a credible, robust, functioning government even though the security threats against it are very many and very far ranging, wide ranging.

It is, though, the responsibility of this newly empowered government to prove to Iraqis that it does have a role to play, a responsible role to play, a leading role to play, in the decision- making process -- in the decision-making process of how the U.S.-led coalition should go after insurgents, what the tactics might be.

You know, they can't just bypass -- the U.S.-led coalition can't just bypass what the Iraqis themselves now want. They have a voice, and they have a voice that they want the world to hear, as well as the Iraqis themselves, obviously -- Hala.

GORANI: And one quick last question, Brent. What practically will we see in the next few days in terms of the transition of power? Will we see any kind of -- no more ceremonies but what will practically happen for the United States to hand over the remnants of what it needs to hand over in terms of power to the Iraqis?

SADLER: Well, very much this will be at the level of what's going on in the green zone. The green zone will become the headquarters of the new United States Embassy, the Ambassador John Negroponte, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, will obviously be based at the green zone.

Not much will change over there, but perhaps one of the most important visible handovers is expected to be Saddam Hussein and his top lieutenants from the old regime. It is expected that, in terms of the legal responsibility for Saddam's imprisonment, confinement, will be handed over to the Iraqi government themselves, the interim authorities.

But the actual practicalities of keeping him in a secure environment will be -- still is expected to be the responsibility of the United States. But when that happens for Saddam Hussein and pictures of it, as is expected to be seen, to be handed over in some sort of formal event to the legal confinement of the Iraqis themselves but the practical to confinement of the Americans, that, I think, will be an important step forward in terms of showing Iraqis at large that this government is shouldering responsibilities.

But again, you know, nothing is going to be happening without the backbone of the U.S.-led coalition. And the insurgents will still continue to attack, as expected. The new Iraqi government security operators and the U.S.-led coalition, to really try and not fail to derail, obviously, the handover to sovereignty that's taken place just over an hour ago, but to try and maintain the security pressure to eventually, perhaps, collapse the government itself. That is still a very serious threat in terms of the insurgent tactics.

And don't forget, also on this day, there are a number of hostages, five of them, three Turks, one Pakistani and one U.S. Marine, who are being held by various militant groups, one of them by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,, the U.S. most wanted terrorist suspect and the Iraqis most wanted terrorist suspect. All of five of them under death threats of beheading unless there is a positive response to demands from the various governments involved -- Hala.

GORANI: OK. Brent Sadler, live in Baghdad. And we'll be going back to you, of course, once we have more details on this handover that has occurred, of course, two days ahead of schedule. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT

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