Q&A: Kurdish leader speaks to Al Arabiya English about recent Sadr alliance

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The Kurdistan Democratic Party, led by Massoud Barzani, has said that his party believes in human rights, social justice, and the right of the Kurdish nation and other nations to self-determination. According to him, the party took the first step to work toward that goal when they held a referendum on the independence of the Kurdistan region in September of last year.

In the last legislative elections that were held on May 12, the party won 25 parliamentary seats in the parliament, listing as the fourth party among winning parties. The party exceeded the number of seats given to other factions with no alliances with other groups.

In an interview with Al Arabiya English in Erbil, the media advisor in Massoud Barzani’s office, Kifah Mamoud, said that the party does not have any issues with other factions, and engages in political discussions with all of them without needing a mediator in place.

After the events following the election, what is your position on the re-counting and manual counting of votes?

After the Federal Court’s decision to comply with the complaints and appeals filed in some electoral centers, we welcomed the decision as a government of the region and as a party.

The region expressed its readiness to cooperate with the Electoral Commission to follow up on complaints, especially in areas such as the Sinjar district whose inhabitants were completely deprived of their right to vote. The district’s almost 500,000 residents represent an equivalent of about five seats in the parliament.

We hope that the results of these votes will be recalculated for the almost 180 funds that need to be represented in the next parliament.

After the party went to Baghdad, what conclusions were drawn following the political talks to form the next government?

Since the final election results have been announced, small and large parties, including the Kurdish parties, are engaging in negotiations which has reached great results. The negotiations were not conducted on the basis of forming a government and distributing positions.

As the head of the delegation of the Democratic Party, Fadel Mirani said that the Kurdish parties’ visit to Baghdad was not to determine the position of each party, but to determine the approach the next government is going to take. We want to study the mechanisms necessary to solve Iraq’s problems as a whole, including the party’s problem in the center.

What is the party’s position on Muqtada al-Sadr, and will you ally with him when Iranian-backed militia chief Hadi al-Amiri and Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi join their blocs?

We do not have any problems with any other bloc, including the al-Nasr bloc headed by Haider al-Abadi and the Fatah bloc headed by Hadi al-Amiri. We also have historical ties with the Badr organization and the former Supreme Council and government.

From an emotional point of view, they are the closest to the region and have great relations with Massoud Barzani and the rest of the Kurdish officials.

Do you think Iran will have a role in the process of forming the government?

The United States and Iran have been vital players in most of the political and economic joints of the Iraqi political system since 2003. Certainly everyone knows about the Iranian conflict and their desire to limit the United States’ role in changing the political system in Iraq, which aims to provide a successful alternative to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

We see members of the public crowd mobilizing against an American presence, but their movement does not impact this presence.

The United States has strategic relations with the federal government in the political, military, and economic sectors, and has strong relations with Kurdistan. A few days ago, we witnessed the cooperation between the Peshmerga forces and the international coalition in Makhmour and Karajuk in western and southern Kirkuk to preempt activities by “ISIS, and kill the so-called governor of Kirkuk, which shows that the United States continues its cooperation with Baghdad and Erbil.

How is everything going at the northern border crossings? How did you communicate with al-Abadi in this regard and about exporting oil?

I believe that the issues of the region and Baghdad had been exaggerated by the media, by some parties who would benefit from creating a crisis. The fact that the international borders of Kurdistan with Turkey, Syria and Iran had been under the authority of the federal government since 2005, it is controlled by three brigades of the border guards, following the Federal Ministry of the Interior in appointment, uniforms, weapons and movement orders.

What is mentioned in the media is illusionary, it also did not highlight the terrible punishment imposed on Erbil and Sulaymaniyah airports. Since the beginning of using these two airports, no airplane took off or landed without taking the permission from Baghdad.

No one coming from outside Iraq can enter Erbil or Sulaymaniyah, if he did not have a visa from the Iraqi embassies which represents the federal government. Also, all the employees who work in the airport follow Baghdad authorities same as all the employees of the federal institutions who work in the crossing border, tax authority, personal affairs department and passports department.

After the violations that occurred in Kirkuk, Saladin and Diyala, would the Peshmerga forces return to preserve security?

There are negotiations between Baghdad and Erbil, but it is slow because of forming the government the formation of the government negotiations. The US seeks to gather Baghdad and Erbil to arrange an agreement to make the Peshmerga forces return to preserve the security with the federal security forces in these areas. After the federal forces and the popular mobilization had failed to preserve security in these areas.

Since 2005 these areas were well secured, however unfortunately after the invasion of the popular crowd and some of the federal forces, ISIS returned back once again and criminal groups were active in the same terrible way as ISIS. What happened in Tuz Khurmatu is not less than what ISIS did.

As described by Muqtada al-Sadr; the rude factions of the popular crowd that carried out ethnic and sectarian cleansing operations in Tuz Khurmatu, killed dozens of judiciary people of, and burned hundreds of houses for doctrinal backgrounds. As what is happening now in Sinjar, some popular mobilization militias are preventing the residents to return and their official institutions from the Surrogate, the Judiciary Council and the local police to start working normally.

The crowd plundering and looting of the crowd allowed ISIS to continue its activity by infiltrating these areas and exploiting the gaps to carry out terrorist operations, like what happened in Diyala-Kirkuk and Baghdad-Kirkuk roads. The decentralization of security decision centers had led to these violations.

Allow me to clarify for you that Mr. al-Abadi is not the only decision maker, this guy is carrying a heavy responsibility. What happens most of the time might be planned behind his back. We are saying this, because if he knew it, then this would be a huge disaster. These outlaw militias are responsible for the reactivation of ISIS, it bears the responsibility in this regard.

Would Kurdistan Independence slogan remain the coming slogan for the Kurdistan Democratic Party in the regional elections in the next stage?

The independence issue is an important goal for all Kurdish parties, including the opposition, but the mechanisms would differ. The decision to hold a regional referendum was not for Mr. Barzani or the Kurdistan Democratic Party. All parties agreed to hold the referendum, everyone took part in the process and showed this for the media, such as the leaders of Kuran, the Islamic Movement, Barham Salih and the Islamic Party, all of them participated. Furthermore, the referendum was not a declaration of independence.

I also confirm that this is one of the illusions used by Baghdad’s authorities, to provoke the public opinion against Kurdistan. President Barzani said then, if the referendum was not held, there would have been invaded by popular crowd militias which is loyal to the State of Law Coalition; to overthrow the federalism and go back to totalitarian rule led by the Dawa Party, as was the case with the Ba’ath socialist Party.

Thus I believe that if the political elites in Baghdad did not reach national rational solution to solve the issues with Erbil, it would be responsible when the Kurdish people declare independence to get out of this miserable reality, in which the Iraqi people had been living for the past 15 years, where billions of dollars have been wasted without taking one step further toward social development.

Everyone testifies that the social peace is missing from Mosul to Basra, and the Iraqi industry and agriculture have been destroyed.