Baghdad: Political Challenges and the Fight against Terrorism

11 July 2014 | 23:10 Code : 1935651 Interview General category
Excerpts of an interview with Hossein Kazemi Ghomi, Iran’s former ambassador to Iraq
Baghdad: Political Challenges and the Fight against Terrorism

The pressure is growing on Mr. Maleki to share power with other groups including the Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites. This is while the Daesh crisis and the rift that has been created has made the formation of such a government impossible because there has been some opposition against Maleki’s presence. What is the solution to remove this gap?

If we study the trend of political developments in Iraq since 2003, which led to the downfall of the previous regime and the establishment of the new political system, we will see that the political trend has moved in a positive direction. This means that the political leaders and the people, under the leadership and encouragement of the religious Maraje’, have been able to move past the most difficult security situations and political challenges. The last election was also an epic incident wherein the majority of people participated. Now the present situation must be analyzed along with the trend of past developments. The fact is that the parliament and the new government were on the verge of establishment. A look at the events prior to Daesh’s attack shows that different factions were conferring with each other and this issue was well understood in Iraq’s political atmosphere that the faction which had gained the majority of votes had the right to form the new government. That is why there were consultations among political factions with regard to different issues including the bigger list which was the government of law. Other factions also consulted with each other regarding the new government. Meanwhile some political factions and parties stated their agreement with the government of law in their official statements. This is a reality.

Then, on the verge of the establishment of the government, Daesh attacked Iraq. Then the positions were changed and domestic pressures against the Maleki government were increased. The US position with regard to the Maleki government changed and they demanded his resignation and the establishment of the government of national unity. It can be concluded that the planning of the Daesh attack, which was brutal and inhumane, was related to the establishment of the new government; it means the creation of a security crisis for a political end. Therefore, there are two components in the establishment of the new government; one is the political rivalries between the factions and the other the attack launched by Daesh with political objectives including to exert pressure for the establishment of the government of national unity. With regard to the political rivalries between the parties and factions, it must be said that this is a natural and obvious issue. This competition has always been serious in the political trend of this country from 2003 to 2014 and in the end the Iraqis established a government despite all the differences and challenges.

Thus, based on your statements, if the element of Daesh had not been added to the internal political disputes in Iraq, would the government, with Maleki as its prime minister, have easily been established?

I believe that if the atmosphere in Iraq is the same atmosphere of political competition, the government would have certainly been established. How it is going to be established is another issue. But a new component entered the political equation and that was the political demands and movements which were imposed by the foreign countries. This pressure was exerted on Maleki and also provoked and encouraged others to stand against the government. This issue was beyond the determination of the people and national interests of Iraq. Past experiences have shown that although foreign elements attempted to provoke the political factions, due to the existence of a young democracy in Iraq and the new parties there are sometimes contradictions between national and ethnic interests and this trend is time-consuming because of the political bargaining to reach an agreement over the establishment of the government.

During the previous era, where the issue of Daesh and foreign pressures did not exist, it took nine months for the government to be established. That is why I say that on the verge of the establishment of the new government one must not rapidly conclude that Iraq is faced with a security crisis and challenge and has reached a deadlock. The Iraqis have shown that, despite all their criticisms against the present government, they participated in the election as soon as the Maraje’ asked them to cast their votes. In the previous election 59% of the people had participated but in this election 73% of the people came to the ballot boxes to cast their votes. I believe that if the new parliament and government is established, it will be more powerful due to the presence of certain personalities.

It seems that several significant political groups oppose the re-election of Mr. Maleki. Will Maleki’s resignation, in your opinion, end the political crisis in Iraq?

The question is exactly, what guarantee is there so that when Maleki resigns, a new candidate will be announced from the list of the government of law? Has foreign pressure imposed with terrorist measures really solved the problem? The issue of political competition inside Iraq must not be mistaken with other issues. In the previous election, when Mr. Ja’fari gained the majority of votes, some expressed their opposition and the US pressures led to him stepping down from power due to the national interests of the country. Today, those who had insisted on the resignation of Mr. Jaafari feel remorse. Therefore, we must accept the rules of the game in a democracy. Ignoring people’s rights would mean ignoring democracy and their rights. Political bargaining must continue to move ahead. I am sure that if others do not interfere in the internal issues of Iraq, the Iraqis, themselves, will reach a political solution.

Should the political solution in Iraq involve the interference of other countries including the US or Iran or be based on other internal political components including the Sunni, Kurd and Shiite groups?

The experience in Iraq has shown that political challenges have ultimately led to an agreement. Any foreign involvement could intensify the political challenges and problems. The US is being accused of interference and is hated by the people of Iraq. The Iraqi leaders also mistrust the US. The US claimed to want to establish security in Iraq but was not able to save the lives of its own soldiers. Contrary to all the attempts which were made by the US to impose issues which were against the people of Iraq in the security agreement, the Iraqis did not accept them and finally the US decided to leave Iraq. Therefore, the US is neither capable of resolving the problem nor has the trust of the people and the political leaders of Iraq. The Iraqis have also reached a political maturity to resolve their problems. Political rivalries and bargaining are positive elements of a young democracy. The issue is not interference. The Iraqis may once ask a country for its advice because they trust it and that is very good. If they ask for such advice, then that country must respond to it. The Islamic Republic of Iran has always politically and spiritually supported Iraq and if at the present juncture the Iraqis consult with Iran with regard to certain matters, the Islamic Republic of Iran will certainly respond. I do not believe that there is a crisis in Iraq as of now.

Due to the ethnic issues, Iraq will, for long, be faced with security problems. What measures should the government take to strengthen the army while maintaining its independence?

Today, Daesh and the Baathist groups are not political opposition movements which observe certain rules. They brutally kill people. On one hand, their supporters give them sufficient arms, equipments and logistics. It is a reality that the army and police cannot overcome this issue but the potentials of Iraq are not limited to the army and the police only. Didn’t the Islamic Republic of Iran experience such a thing before? Iran established revolutionary forces under the prudent leadership of Imam Khomeini despite the existence of the army. Then the 20 million mobilized forces were established. What was the role of the Basij in the war? The Revolutionary Guards Corps defended the revolution as a revolutionary force. Today, Iraq needs such revolutionary forces due to the existence of terrorism and the support of the reactionary Arab states, Zionism and the US. That is why following the fatwa issued by the Shiite Marja’, such forces were formed.

The issue of the Iraqi Kurds and their demand for independence from Baghdad has recently been loudly heard of. Why wasn’t Maleki able to end this separationist feeling of the Kurds?

It is said that there are no good relations between the Kurds and Baghdad. I will mention the example of the issue of Kirkuk. This issue is not only related to the government. All  Arabs, whether Shiite or Sunni, are sensitive about the issue of Kirkuk. Now, if the government announces that, on the issue of Kirkuk, it will move within the framework of the law and the Kurds oppose it, then they say that this is a challenge between Maleki and the Kurds while this is a national issue. I believe that despite all the shortcomings, challenges and problems, security in Iraq has not yet been stabilized and that is due to the existence of terrorism which is supported by the foreign countries. There is no doubt that Israel seeks to disintegrate the Islamic countries including Iraq. This move will affect the domestic security of Iraq. One of the developments after the Daesh attack was the issue of Iraq’s disintegration. This shows that Daesh is not only a domestic issue. It is not clear whether if anyone beside Maleki had come to power, he would have had better records. This government has had a positive record but it has not been able to overcome some challenges and problems.

What is Iran’s policy with regard to Iraq? Some accuse Iran of supporting Maleki. This is while Iran’s official position has always been to provide the demands of the people of Iraq.

The policy pursued by the Islamic Republic of Iran since 2003 has been in line with the interests, independence and territorial integrity of Iraq. The Islamic Republic of Iran is against any foreign interference but is willing to help the people and political leaders of this country in forming the new parliament and the government. Furthermore, if it is asked, Iran is ready to help this country in the establishment of security and development of economic cooperation. Since certain regions have become insecure and the possibility of importing the basic needs of the country from the western borders has been reduced, Iran must, as before, render its aid in economic issues. Of course, this aid is within the bilateral cooperation between the two countries. Disintegration and any measure taken in this regard would damage the people of Iraq and the region. The Islamic Republic of Iran empahsizes the threats of ethnic war which will not be limited to Iraq. I believe that the political and cultural challenges in Iraq have not yet reached the point of war between the Shiites and the Sunnis. These movements are provoked by the foreign countries and I hope that they would fail.

Is Daesh, which is a threat against Iraq, a security threat against Iran as well? What are the security and military policies of Iran in Iraq and how does Iran intend to fight against this threat?

Terrorism has no boundaries. This is what we have said from the beginning. I reiterate that the spread of terrorism is similar to the occupation of the region. If terrorism succeeds in Iraq, the security atmosphere of all countries of the region, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, will also be threatened. Iran itself is the victim of terrorism and must fight against it. That is why it should have plans to strengthen its borders and provide the internal security and if Iraq is in need of its cooperation, it should help this country. The government of Iraq is legitimate and it is the right of this government to have defense and security relations with any country that it wishes. If Iran is asked by Iraq, it should render its aid. Not only the Islamic Republic of Iran, but also any other country which claims to play a role in world peace and security and against terrorism should help in this regard. Naturally, we have the bitter experience of fighting against terrorism. The Islamic Republic of Iran has even negotiated with the US with regard to the security of Iraq and showed that the issue of Iraq’s security is significant for Iran.

tags: iraniraqdaesh

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