JANUARY 11 @ 4:00 PM EST

Ambassador Paul Bremer Interview Call Notes
Post From Intel4U Chat - Transcription By FLPatriot59

Jan 11 4:31 PM [FLPatriot59] Mr. Bremer is most know as the administrator for the Head of State of Iraq during the Bush years, from 2003. In June 2003 he became head of the office of the Provisional Coalition Authority.

BL - Do you feel the Iraqis will be able to win the battle over terrorism in their country or do you think the UN will have to step in?

PB - I think it's a close call at this point. They did it once before when our troops were there. Whether they can do that now without our troops on the ground is a question... I think we need to give them more military equipment. The key will be whether the Suni-based tribes will decide to fight alongside the Iraq Gov. That's a key question that's still open. I don't think the UN will get involved and I doubt the political support is there for the USA to put troops back there. It's important to remember that the violence level is 1/3 what it was 4 years ago and much less than under Saddaam. During the height of civil unrest it was like a 9/11 attack every day.

BL - Mr. Bremer, since you aided in writing their Constitution, can you describe Article 140 that's in the news now, with contracts, oil contracts, the HCL law? Can you explain?

PB - It's part of a broader problem because it concerns a division of power. We supported a model of a Federal structure, like India and Germany and not so much like the USA. The Kurds had this in their demands. The first question was "what about the oil wells?" When I was there they hadn't even begun drafting the oil law. The question will not be resolved until the GOI can bring the civil unrest in the western provinces under control. Otherwise, I don't expect to see much motion. If they can't hold it together, I expect the Kurds will start making their own deals with Turkey and that will be a big problem for Baghdad and could take years to solve.

BL - How can they ever power-share? 

PB - You need to step back. They've had 5 elections since we left. They have the most liberal Constitution but it's still the best Constitution around, and another election in April. Maliki has certainly done some back-sliding trying to sideline the Sunni politicians. There is a lot of pressure to work together.

4:42 PM [FLPatriot59] Note: Can't hear the current speaker so I'll use "Q" for his question. (Note: The following is Timmy (Tlm724) Moderator at BLC)

T - What were you feeling when Saddaam was captured? 

PB - What got me was the reaction of the Iraqi audience when I said "we got him." There were 200-300 of them who stood up and shouted, which is uncommon for them. They didn't believe it until we showed the pictures. It was a moment when we could hope that there would be a broader reconciliation in Iraq and we saw a significant attack against coalltion forces in the following months because it took Saddaam off the stage

T - As we speak of the separation of the different tribes and the HCL, Baghdad and Kurdistan seem to be on the right side regarding the HCL. Do you think this will calm the waters? 

PB - Yes, it would certainly help to have the HCL because it would reduce the tension between the north and south. The more immediate question is whether they can bring the two back together.

4:46 PM [FLPatriot59] S = SHREDD

S - Now that your highly-decorated service is well-documented, in a nutshell what is your current assessment of Iraq from back then economically and politically? 

PB - It's a good question that doesn't get asked by the mainstream media. The Iraqi people are dramatically better off today than they were under Saddaam. The per capita income is 6 times higher than when I arrived there in 2003. Infant mortality has plunged. 27M Iraqis have cell phones now. The test right now is whether they can bring this Al Queda terrorism under control and have an open election in April.

S - Do you have any comments regarding the upcoming elections and what they Iraqi people will look for? 

PB - I'm not involved in the day to-day politics to give that. But the important thing is that they are having elections in April and that they are open and fair. One of the things I tried to emphasize when I was there is that "majority rule" is fine but "majoritarian rule" is not. You have to remember that the Sunni has been running Iraq for over a thousand years. So when Saddaam was overthrown it was a major power shift for the control and the Shia had to learn that just because they had the majority didn't mean they could always have their way. They had to realize that the lesson of being in the minority is an important lesson to learn. The question about going forward with this election will be an important benchmark for them.

BL - Between 2003 and 2004 the Coalition Provisional Authority printed new dinar notes. These new bank notes lead to a new industry of selling them to the overseas investors who hope to make a profit. How does this as well as 13303 benefit and protect investors like us, as speculators. On one side we hear it's a scam and then banks selling it makes it seem it's okay. Does 13303 cover us as well?

PB - When I left Iraq I made a decision not to have any economic interest in Iraq. I am not well-enough informed to know how the exchange rate will work. When I got there I found that the GOI was only producing 2 different notes. It's the equivalent of running a government with $3 notes and nickels. The effect of this was that my advisors said there is a real risk we would dollarize the economy if we didn't do something. We made it clear from the start that the Iraqi currency would flow freely. In terms of the economy it is doing quite well and will grow over 6% this year (GDP). If the currency reflects the economy then the dinar should reflect that growth.

BL - Executive Order 13303 was issued on May 22, 2003 by United States President George W. Bush to protect the Development Fund for Iraq for the rebuilding of Iraq from any legal attachments or liens. Further, it protects Iraqi oil products and interests and ownership by US persons (defined to include US corporations) from attachment as well. Executive Order 13303 also terminates sanctions specified in EO 12722, EO 12724, EO 13290, as it applies to the development fund. In effect, EO 13303 provides an extraordinarily broad legal shield for any and all contractors and mercenaries working in Iraq on behalf of US corporations in any oil related enterprise.

PB - Sounds like the objective of this was to protect the reserves and I would be very surprised if it was designed to protect investors. I'm not an attorney and I have no economic interest in Iraq. I think there is no mechanical way to predict what a currency will do. But the market will reflect an assessment of the economic situation as well as the currency. There is a risk with the dinar where there isn't one with other country.

T - They have imposed more tariffs in the country recently. Based on your knowledge, do you think Iraq's assension into the WTO is imminent? 

PB - I'm not sure about their discussions but it is within Iraq's interests to join the WTO and it's in America's interests for them to join as well. We have some important interests in Iraq. I don't follow the negotiations but I would be strongly in favor of them joining the WTO but that would involved long negotiations including tariffs. They produce 3.5M barrels/day and have the capacity to be a major supplier in the world. But it is good in general to have additional capacity coming online. If they can solve their political problems the outlook for the economy is good.

5:06 PM [FLPatriot59] Q&A FROM MEMBERS...

Q - (caller is quoting from Bremer's parting statement when he left 2004). What is the 1 thing you wish you could have done differently during your time in rebuilding Iraq? 

PB - The biggest mistake I made is when I issued the decree on de-Bathification, what I did was say that the top 2% of the could not have jobs in the GOI. The mistake was turning that over to the politicians who used that to punish their enemies. I should've turned it over to a panel of Iraqi lawyers who are judges instead of turning it over to the GOI

S - Do you feel confident the Iraqi army can win the battle over the terrorists and has the current administrations helped or hurt Iraq in becoming a completely autonomous country? 

PB - It's the most important question. I certainly hope they can win. They are fully sovereign, that is clear. It was a serious mistake for America to pull its troops out in 2011 and was absolutely predictable in what would happen. The Iraqi army was not able by itself to maintain what we did, as I wrote about in my book. I hope we don't make the same mistake in Afghanistan.

Q - What was the total amount of Iraqi dinar printed and what was the intended duration of this project? 

PB - I don't remember the value. We had a $20B GDP which went up 20% in 2004, so we were looking at a GDP of 30-40% when oil came back online. As far as the actual currency exchange, we set out to start the exchange all over the country in October 2003 and finish 3 months later. We took this 6000 tons of new currency out into the villages and country. Remember, there were not banks or wire transfer capability, no system. Other than that it was a piece of cake.

Q - I cannot fathom the logistics of that, with no roads. 

PB - We had roads but they were littered with IEDs. It was an extraordinary thing, doing in 3 months what the Europeans took 3 years to do. The amount of weaponry in the country when we got there was staggering. We flew over one in a BlackHawk and it took 20 minutes to fly over it in the desert. We talked earlier about the capture of Saddaam. I never met a single Iraqi who didn't have a story about a family member or friend who wasn't tortured or killed by Saddaam. It was extraordinary. A good day is when your neighbor's daughter is taken away and tortured because it wasn't your own daughter. It's simply beyond the understanding of most Americans. When he was finally captured in December 2003 I had several conversations with someone in government. Her brother had been taken away and she never told her children about their uncle that he had been taken away 25 years earlier. Another story was about a woman whose son was burned with acid by Saddaam and fled to Netherlands. It wasn't until 30 years later that she was able to speak to him by after Saddaam was captured.

S - Do you think it was the plan back then for Iraq to be using the USD like they are today? 

PB - It wasn't the calculation for it to be around so long. Our intention was for them to be using their own currency. It's up to them and not something we Americans should be lecturing them about.

Q - Do you remember how much dinar was printed back them? 

PB - It was over 6,000 tons but I can't tell you the value.

Q - Was there a cut-off time? 

PB - I don't think you can put a timeframe on it. I think realistically we had to assume it would take time for them to put together an economic and political system. But we didn't have a timeframe attached to that happening.

Q - What was your monetary policy when you got there? 

PB - The monetary policy had a major element to create the independence of the Central Bank, which it never had. Under Saddaam, every Friday they figured out how much currency they needed and then they'd call down to the Central Bank and ask them to print more money. They caused over 115,000% inflation annually. So the first thing we had to do was create an independent central bank. The second thing we had to do was get a credible currency. The third thing was free the interest rates. Under Saddaam interest rates were set by bureaucrats. What you paid in interest depended on who you knew. So we had to create interest rates determined by the market.

Q - Touch briefly on what led you into art?

PB - I was an art historian in college and decided to try it myself. It is a form of stress-relief. All the paintings are on bremerenterprises.com. Most of the landscapes are of Vermont in the winter and some from Washington. They're all oil.

Q - Where can we find your book? 

PB - They are available on Amazon.