Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister: Iraqi govenment committed to preventing the presence of Mojahedin Khalq Organisation (Rajavi cult)
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister: Iraqi govenment committed to preventing the presence of Mojahedin Khalq Organisation (Rajavi cult)
Al-Arabiya TV, Dubai, in Arabic,19 March 2008
... Asked if he found it a strange situation whereby the Americans provided protection to Ahmadinezhad, Salih laughs and says there are many paradoxes in the region, adding that the main protection was provided by the Iraqis, while the Americans control the skies and the Green Zone, and "if anyone wishes to draw a message from that let him do so." He says Iraq treasures its relations with the United States but "we do not want those relations to be a substitute for our regional relations. Ultimately we are part of this region, and we must build a network of interests with neighbouring states." Asked about the Iranian opposition group Mojahedin-e Khalq's presence in Iraq, Salih says the Iraqi government "is committed to preventing the presence of elements that harm neighbouring states," and the same situation that applies to PKK applies to other groups that use Iraq as a base for their operations. He notes that Mojahedin-e Khalq enjoys a "protected persons" status. Salih adds: "We do not want this organization to operate in Iraq and thus spoil relations with Iran, and equally we do not want Iran to use any cards against us internally."...
Full Reported interview:
Iraqi deputy PM discusses Turkish incursion, ties with USA, Iran
Al-Arabiya TV, Dubai, in Arabic,19 March 2008
Translated by BBC Monitoring Middle East
["Frankly Speaking" feature: Interview with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih by Eli Nakuzi, in Amman - live or recorded.]
Dubai Al-Arabiya Television in Arabic at 2005 gmt on 14 March 2008 carries in its "Frankly Speaking" feature a 46-minute interview with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih. The face-to-face interview is conducted by Eli Nakuzi in Amman.
Nakuzi begins by asking if Salih and the Kurdish leaders were disappointed by the US stand in "giving Turkey the green light" to launch its recent attack on areas in Iraqi Kurdistan. Salih says they had hoped the Americans would have adopted "a firmer stand" on the Turkish incursion, adding that later when Turkish attacks escalated "we saw a clear stand by the US command -the coalition forces command in Baghdad -and also by the US President who in public statements stressed the need to calm the situation and to resort to political and diplomatic means."
Asked if they are not disturbed by the fact that although the Kurds are US allies yet they are not a priority because the US relationship with Turkey is strategic and "bigger" than the US relationship with the Kurds, Salih says if one portrays the matter in this manner perhaps the result will not be to the liking of the Kurdish masses, but the issue is more complicated than that, for the Kurds in Iraq "are now part of an important political equation in Iraq." He says the Turkish incursion was "a threat to the entire political process and indeed to US policy in Iraq. Thus the real comparison is not one between the Kurds and Turkey but is with the priorities of stability in Iraq and the need to control the Iraqi-Turkish border." He says the Turkish incursion did not yield the results desired by Turkey, and there was "an unjustified escalation that led to the exacerbation of the crisis. The Kurdish Workers' Party [PKK] problem persists, for us and for Turkey. The situation should be tackled through cooperation between the Iraqi -including the Kurdistan province government -and Turkish sides, perhaps in cooperation with the coalition forces." He says it is time to understand that the problem cannot be resolved militarily, but a political solution must be found. He notes that for the first time the US President has spoken "frankly" about this issue and said military action alone is of no use, and it is necessary to find a political solution, including a political solution to the Kurdish situation within Turkey.
Salih adds: "We do not wish to interfere in Turkey's internal affairs, but when it comes to the invasion of our territory and the infrastructure in the Kurdistan province inside Iraqi territory is threatened by the Turkish army then we must say to the Turks: That does not benefit you or us. That is unacceptable and incompatible with the joint interests of the two countries."
Told they were asked not to provide a safe haven to the PKK, Salih says it is very misleading to say that, adding: "We do not shelter those elements. I am not defending my brother, right or wrong. We are talking about a chronic problem." He says those elements have been present in those rugged areas along the Iraqi-Turkish-Iranian border for more than two decades. He notes that the PKK also exists within Turkey, and if there is a military solution the Turkish army should carry out military operations inside Turkey. Salih adds: "We fear there are forces in Turkey that want to use the PKK card to undermine stability in the Kurdistan province and to exert pressure on the Iraqi political situation. We say to our neighbour Turkey: We share with you a basic interest, namely controlling security along the border, and not to have Iraqi territory used by any armed persons as a springboard for targeting our neighbours' security, and we want to cooperate with Turkey in establishing border security. However, if Turkey wants us to become its military instruments then it is mistaken." He says the solution is to resort to political means to tackle the causes of the problem.
Asked if he is saying the peshmerga (semi-regular Kurdish armed forces in Iraq) which controls security in Iraqi Kurdistan is unable to expel the PKK, Salih says: Our military assessment is that the military approach to the presence of those elements in those remote areas is not possible. And we talk from experience.
Salh says: "Turkey should not place on us the burden of its internal problems. That is a serious precedent," adding that there is a civilian leadership in Turkey that aspires to finding political and constitutional solutions to the problem, but there are also forces that want to burden the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan province government with their problems, and that is unacceptable.
Told that the presence of about 200,000 US soldiers in Iraq has not protected Iraq from a violation of its sovereignty and it was previously said that those forces are to protect Iraq from any external threat, and asked how he explains the fact that the Americans stood idly by during the Turkish incursion into Iraq, Salih says they said to the Americans the Turkish incursion could become a precedent for other states, that is why we called for "a firmer and more resolute stand." He says at first there were certain differences in view, but in the later days of the incursion there were clearer stands by the US President and the military command in Baghdad. He says the presence of PKK elements in rugged areas in Iraq "is not a problem for Turkey alone, but is also a problem for us. The solution lies in cooperation between the sides, with the support of the US and coalition side. However, opening the door wide open and depicting the matter as a US green light is a serious precedent."
Told it appears the Americans will not protect the Kurds against external invasion and should not that move the Kurds to have better relations with Iran and the Arabs, Salih says: I say frankly, if the Kurd imagines he can derive strength from the Americans and be hostile to Arab, Turkish, and Iranian interests then I say in advance that is a wrong view. Salih recalls that in the past the Kurds were a victim of changes in interests, as in 1975 when US support for the Kurdish movement stopped. Salih adds: "Regardless of our distinguished relationship with the United states -which we seek to strengthen, not only as Kurds but also as a democratic project in Iraq -we must understand that if we do not adapt to our region and if we do not extend bridges of common interests with the Turks, Arabs, and Iranians -for we are part of this region -we will not be able to enjoy our rights, prosperity, and stability. The Americans exist in the region and we are proud of our relations with them, but if we ever imagine that such a relationship is an alternative to our ties on various levels with neighbouring states and peoples we will be doing wrong to our people."
Told that during the Turkish invasion one did not feel the Shi'is in the south or the Sunnis in Baghdad felt that Iraq is being invaded, and whether that means Iraq is divided in reality, Salih says initially there was an impression that the Iraqi government's stand is hesitant and the Kurdish press and Kurdish public opinion were apprehensive about the absence of a clear official stand, but when Turkish operations escalated the ministerial committee for national security and the Cabinet took a clear stand in condemning the invasion. Salih says there may be some voices in Baghdad or the south that want to derive strength from Turkey or other states to cut down Kurdish influence to size, and that is paradoxical because "the overwhelming majority of Kurds -the overwhelming majority of the Kurdish leaders -want to join an Iraqi national project and to be among the builders of the new Iraqi state. It is truly paradoxical that there should be some Arab voices that perhaps see in the Turkish invasion a means of exerting pressure on the Kurdish situation." He says depicting the matter as a Turkish-Kurdish conflict is wrong, for the correct context is the relationship between the Iraqi and Turkish governments. He says in the later stage of the incursion a strong Iraqi popular and official stand evolved and perhaps that was one of the reasons that led to the Turks revising their position.
Told there has been criticism -even by the Kurds -of President Jalal Talabani's visit to Turkey and its timing so soon after the incursion, Salih says Talabani accepted the Turkish invitation because he believed there was a need "to communicate with Turkey's civilian leaders and to sustain a serious dialogue to solve the problem. We acknowledge there is a big problem. If President Talabani was able to achieve a breakthrough in surmounting the obstacles that prevented finding solutions to the problem, then that is the important thing." Salih adds there are positive indications regarding the results of the visit. Referring to contacts with the Turkish government Salih says: "My assessment is we are at a critical stage, and we may be able to achieve a great relaxation in this chronic problem that is plaguing Turkey and our relations with Turkey." He says Talabani was courageous in deciding to hold a dialogue with the Turks despite all the opposition.
Salih stresses there has to be a political solution to the problem, and it cannot be tackled "by targeting the infrastructure in the Kurdistan province, air sorties, or an incursion.", for such an approach is futile, unacceptable, and will not achieve the security Turkey seeks along its border."
Told the president of the Kurdistan province, Mas'ud Barzani, is not happy at all with Talabani's visit to Turkey, and it is said that differences will soon emerge between the two main Kurdish parties, Salih says observers and those lying in wait should not wager on any basic differences between Talabani and Barzani, for although the two leaders have different characters and approaches yet they are in agreement and coordinate their stands.
Asked if he fears for Kurdish unity particularly in view of reports that Turkey is now "playing a very complex game to disrupt that unity," Salih says there are many attempts by various sides to create discord between the Kurdish parties. He stresses that Talabani and Barzani are agreed on the basics, and while differences occasionally emerge on this or that matter "Kurdish unity cannot be forfeited, a Kurdish unity for a democratic project that ensures stability for Iraq and secures Kurdish rights in Iraq."
Told that some people believe the present Iraqi government is no longer viable and asked if he believes the government is equal to the challenges facing it, Salih says: "The short answer is: the challenges are great. This government -in its present formation and in the light of the political back-and-forth plaguing it -is not capable of facing those challenges. Iraq needs a wider and more comprehensive national alignment to confront those challenges." Salih says important security achievements were accomplished in the last year by strengthening Iraq's security capabilities through US support and also as a result of a change in the social situation in Al-Anbar, Baghdad, and other areas, as well as the decision to suspend the Al-Mahdi Army.
Salih warns that the improvement in security will not last "without a political solution to Iraq's problems." Salih says five years after the fall of the previous regime "it must be acknowledged there is a great flaw in the political process. We have not been able to galvanize the potential of our people and our capabilities to move the country forward towards safe and secure shores." He says the government's chronic problems and the constant withdrawals from the government restricted the government's ability to fulfil its commitments and to improve Iraqis' living standard. He says the Iraqi citizen's minimum expectations have not been achieved, "and perhaps there will be dire consequences for everyone. The situation calls for radical and structural reform, and we should have the courage and ability to review some of the basics in our method of administering the State and the political process."
Asked if the main problem lies with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and is it that the Sunnis can no longer reach understanding with Al-Maliki, or does the problem lie in the government's sectarian composition, Salih says "the government is governed in Iraq, governed by political equations" such as parliament and the political blocs, and without revising those basics it will not be possible to have an effective government capable of harnessing the country's potential. He says most if not all the sides continue to back a government headed by Al-Maliki, "but we want reforms in the government."
Told therefore Al-Maliki is not the problem, Salih says: "Al-Maliki is part of that situation. Barham Salih, his deputy, is part of that political situation that produced the present government. If we do not tackle the basis of this problem, if you bring any person and make him prime minister in Iraq he will still be governed by that equation." He says the government came as a result of political equations such as sectarian or political quotas, and the solution is to form "a political-majority government" that represents the basic components of Iraqi society and secures the principle of genuine participation in decision-making and in shouldering responsibility.
Told some people say there is no solution to the problem of the government before the next parliamentary elections, Salih says if they continue in the present way and there are no radical structural reforms in the way the country is administered, the problems will be much greater in two years time, and the security achievements can collapse if the improvement in security "which is more akin to a cease-fire than to permanent peace" is not followed by real political solutions that guarantee the participation of the components of Iraqi society and a cohesive government.
Asked about the solution, Salih says discussions are taking place, but time is short, and if the base of the government remains narrow then bigger problems are anticipated.
Asked if Oil Minister Shahristani's insistence on cancelling the oil contracts concluded by the Kurdistan province could threaten the Kurds' presence in the government, Salih says the oil bill is important but they should focus on the failure to exploit Iraq's oil resources. He notes Iraq is still exporting 2 million bpd and they should have focused on rebuilding the oil sector and enhancing Iraq's production and export capabilities. He says the main problem is the existence of an administrative structure incapable of keeping abreast with technological and economic developments. He says the subject has not been raised in the Cabinet to decide a government policy on the issue, and there is constitutional disagreement on the mechanisms of concluding contracts, and if a solution is not reached then there should be recourse to the constitutional court and not having one minister threatening to ban this or that company from operating in Iraq.
Asked about Iranian President Ahmadinezhad's visit to Iraq, Salih says "undoubtedly Iran has an agenda and policies with which we disagree in many issues", but the basic interest of the two countries must be in the establishment of a network of economic, social, and security interests that prevent a return to the previous state of conflict, and that "can be achieved only by respect for sovereignty and noninterference in the two countries' internal affairs. We say to our neighbour Iran: You have greatly benefited from the removal of Saddam Husayn's regime which threatened you, the Iraqi people, and the region. You, the Americans, the Arabs, and Turkey should be part of a regional-international equation to support stability in Iraq."
Salih then says he wants to address a message to the Arab World, saying: It is time to approach what happened in Iraq realistically. A great change has occurred, and we may differ in assessing this or that part of the change that occurred five years ago, but the change is a reality and is irreversible.
Salih says the Arabs cannot imagine they can ignore the present situation and leave the Americans and Iranians to decide it. He says the Iraqi situation needs an internal equilibrium which should be backed by a regional Arab-Iranian-Turkish equilibrium together with the United States. Salih says the absence of an Arab role in Iraq "is harmful to us as Iraqis and is harmful to the region and to Arab security and interests."
Asked if he found it a strange situation whereby the Americans provided protection to Ahmadinezhad, Salih laughs and says there are many paradoxes in the region, adding that the main protection was provided by the Iraqis, while the Americans control the skies and the Green Zone, and "if anyone wishes to draw a message from that let him do so." He says Iraq treasures its relations with the United States but "we do not want those relations to be a substitute for our regional relations. Ultimately we are part of this region, and we must build a network of interests with neighbouring states."
Asked about the Iranian opposition group Mojahedin-e Khalq's presence in Iraq, Salih says the Iraqi government "is committed to preventing the presence of elements that harm neighbouring states," and the same situation that applies to PKK applies to other groups that use Iraq as a base for their operations. He notes that Mojahedin-e Khalq enjoys a "protected persons" status. Salih adds: "We do not want this organization to operate in Iraq and thus spoil relations with Iran, and equally we do not want Iran to use any cards against us internally."
Answering a question on what Iraq wants from Iran, Salih stresses noninterference in Iraq's internal affairs. He says "frank talks" are taking place with Iran and Iraq wants good relations with Iran.