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photo of Jabr

A top deputy in the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a major Shi'ite political party, Jabr was appointed minister of interior after the Iraqi elections in January 2005. After his appointment, allegations surfaced that the Ministry was serving as cover for Shi'ite militia forces bent on eliminating Sunni rivals. Jabr denies this and says his forces were focused only on taking out terrorists and insurgents. This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted on Nov. 21, 2006.

In May of 2005, you took the job as minister of the interior. Why did you take the job?

You know, the coalition ask me to take the job. And also our party, they decided that I will be minister of interior. In the beginning, I refuse because I know it is tough job. I am civil engineer. I was a merchant. I have two big factories in Iraq before that. Finally they told me, "You have to do the job."

Did you have any experience in security?

No, I haven't. Before I left Iraq in 1982 I was merchant. ...

What shape did you find the ministry was in when you took it over?

In the beginning, there are some difficulties in the ministry. The first issue was the terrorists. The terrorists were so big and effective, and I remember very well on the first day, it was 15 car bombs in Baghdad, plus the mortars, plus the killing before that. I remember in the first week I said, "Why I accept that tough job?"

You had said right away that you were very upset with the number of insurgents who had infiltrated inside the ministry. You made a remark to one reporter that you couldn't sleep at night because of the number of Baathist informants that were inside the ministry.

Yes, that's right.

What did you do about it?

... In that time we found more than 300 [people with] some doubts against them. Either they are criminals during Saddam's regime, killing or stealing, etc. ... Not insurgency. I fired them.

How many of them did you fire?

You can't clean [the Ministry of the Interior]. They can't, because all the officers are Saddam's officers.

Three hundred from the criminals who we found a document against, and [proved] they are criminals by their fingerprints. ...

Steve Casteel [adviser to Iraq's Ministry of the Interior, 2003-2005], told me that you were under a lot of pressure from Abdul Aziz al-Hakim at SCIRI [Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shi'ite party] to make certain hires at the ministry.

No, no, I don't remember that. That's not right.

Steve Casteel told me that whole units were brought into the ministry from the Badr Brigade.

Totally wrong. ... We [were] recruiting from all the Iraqis.

Why would Steve Casteel tell me that you brought in Badr Brigade units intact?

I appointed only 15,000 [men], distributed in all 15 provinces. If I bring 100 person for this, 1,000 for here, this is nothing. If you know what's in the MOI [Ministry of Interior] when I came, it was 200,000 police when I came. If you add even the 15,000, it's nothing.

There have been many accusations that people were brought in who were former Badr Brigade commanders to tough jobs within the ministry after you fired the initial 300 Sunni insurgent --

No, no. ... They are criminals. There are documents against them. Kurd and Sunni and Shi'a, we don't [distinguish]. Because there are fingerprints, ... we saw that [they had] the same the finger of this criminals, and then we fire them.

Not the fact that they were Sunni?

No. The leader of the special forces was Adnan Thabit; he is Sunni. The leader of Baghdad police, he is Sunni.

Matt Sherman, for instance, tells me that it's true that Adnan Thabit remained as the boss of the commandos, but his operational control was ceded --

[To whom?] Give me names.

Hussein Ali Kamal.

Hussein Ali Kamal is Kurdish and my deputy for intelligence. He is Kurdish, and he was deputy of the ex-ministers.

Engineer Ahmed?

Engineer Ahmed is the deputy of Intelligence Command.

And he was former Badr?

Yes, he was. This one. You cannot fire all the Iraqis. ...

Were you a former member of the Badr Brigade?

No, no, no. I am political. I live in Damascus; I don't live in Iran. The Badr group, they were in Iran. If you ask your embassy in Damascus, they will tell you I was in Damascus. ...

So numerous reports that say you were a Badr commander --

That is only rumors.

What happened beginning in the summer of 2005 that there became so many sectarian incidents, Shi'a police against Sunni citizens?

That's not right. ... We focus on how to stop the terrorists, how to fight the insurgency. If the insurgency, they are Kurds, we are fighting the terrorists. If they are Shi'a, we are fighting the terrorists. If they are Sunni, we are fighting the terrorists. The battle, it's between the police and the terrorists.

Was there Badr infiltration inside the Ministry of the Interior?

No, that's not right. Believe me, that's not right.

The Americans tell me there were. Even Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim said, "Yes, we had some infiltration in the ministry" --

Some, yes. I told you. For example, I said, Engineer Ahmed, yes, I appoint him as the new deputy.

But he said that there were units that were operating as --

No, no, no, no, no. That is totally wrong, totally wrong. Believe me. That's only the rumors. The same thing was happening in Al-Jadiriyah when they --

What happened in Al-Jadiriyah?

Editor's Note: In 2005, a U.S. general discovered a ministry building, the Jadiriyah bunker, containing 169 prisoners and evidence of torture; almost all of the detainees were Sunnis.

Well, Al-Jadiriyah was a political issue. They found 36 Shi'a detainees.

Two-thirds were Sunni.

Because the majority of the insurgency, they are Sunni. What shall I do?

You stood up in a news conference, and you waved a bunch of papers and said these were passports. You said, "Those who were held inside Jadiriyah ... were some of the most dangerous criminal terrorists of various Arab nationalities." ... By saying that these were criminal terrorists, are you justifying the treatment and torture of these prisoners?

No tortures.

There were no tortures? We have pictures of torture.

The picture they found, this is the mistake of the commission. They found a CD that belonged to an officer from the police, [and it was about torture somewhere else]. And that CD, I want to send it to the MOD [Ministry of Defense] minister. They found it, and they show in the Arabia [Al Arabiya News Channel]. That's totally wrong, because it belong to one officer of the police.

When Steve Casteel, who was your American adviser, says that there was trouble in the [Jadiriyah bunker] --

Maybe. Maybe everywhere. And I said, "If there is trouble, if there is torture, I will punish them." And for that, the prime minister built a committee to investigate, led by the deputy prime minister and some ministers. They sent the result to the prime minister. And till now I didn't receive any result. I said, "If I receive any report there is torture, I will punish the officers." But I didn't receive anything.

Did Engineer Ahmed run the bunker?

He was in control of it. He was the head of the officers at that time. He was the deputy in command.

He was the deputy of Hussein Kamal --


Two men together were responsible for the bunker?


And responsible for the treatment of the detainees.

Treatment? What do you mean, "treatment"?

What happened to the detainees. There are marks on their backs. When Gen. Karl Horst came into the bunker and he found --

Who sent him to the bunker? Who give him the permission to enter the bunker?

You gave him the permission.

I give him. If I know there is torture, I don't give him any permission. This is the truth. ...

They found 170 approximately --

Hundred or 200 that is detainees. They are criminals. Many of them killed. One of them killed 60 former Iraqis by car bombs.

Does that justify torture?

No, no. I am against the torture everywhere. If I know there is a torture, I don't give permission to Gen. Horst to enter directly without any [time] to clean or to do something. I told them, "Go directly to the bunker."

So you're saying there was no torture in the Jadiriyah bunker?

No, I didn't receive any report from this committee built by the prime minister. ...

What happened at Site Four?

Site Four, also there are some rumors, and I ask the Ministry of Human Rights and I ask my inspector general to go there and to find. He told me there are something, and I fired two officers in that time. I don't remember their names. Finally, I receive a positive report on Site Four. And I have it.

You're saying there was torture --

Yes. There was some torture.

And you did fire people?

Yes, I fired two of the offi