“Governance and Stability in Iraq” Remarks by Deputy PM Saleh al-Mutlaq

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP), the National Defense University (NDU), and the Iraqi American Community Center (IAC) hosts H.E. Mr. Saleh al-Mutlaq, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq, and members of the Iraqi Council of Representatives for public remarks and a discussion on governance, services, transition, and peace and stability in Iraq. Live-stream link will show discussion by Deputy PM followed by discussion by two Members of Iraqi Parliament.  

Photo by PITAPOLICY

Saleh al-Mutlaq on Terrorism, Sectarianism, Elections & Reconciliation

  • Iraq is not the only country suffering from terrorism–since terrorism has no borders.
  • We want to help everyone get rid of that disease, terrorism, because Iraq has paid a high price in fighting terrorism to kick Al-Qaeda out of Iraq.
  • We need your help: arming the Iraq army is not enough.
  • Sectarianism is a real danger in Iraq–bigger threat than terrorism–b/c its’ the basis of terrorism.
  • People who are uprising are former military soldiers and Ba’aathists.
  • Some people are feeling that they are marginalized…
  • If no stability, then no development. Important for everyone to cooperate.
  • Response to people uprising in Anbar: “weapons alone cannot do the job.”
  • Response to elections and his concern regarding the conduct of those elections
  • There was a mistake in the last election: b/c of pressure from Iran, and that the US didn’t act in a strong way, “my feeling is that without a national coalition, the country will not become united”
  • If there is a transparent and fair election–“until now I cannot see” then the outcome is promising.
  • “but if there’s a curfew and sectarian speech continues”, then the outcome won’t be promising.
  • “It will take time.” Response to moderator question: “Will government formation take as long as last time?
  • Good question. “Corruption is a huge concern. It will affect the result, definitely. I hope it’s not as much as people are expecting Response to moderator question: “How much is the role of foreign funding taking place in elections?
  • Displacement isn’t a problem only in Anbar–but also in Baghdad.  Defeating Al Qaeda in one place means that we’ll see them somewhere else.
  • The problem isn’t between the Iraqis themselves, but between the politicians. The politicians use secatarianism. Every 2 years we will have this same problem w/this tendency.
  • What happened to Iraq was mainly down by an external power.
  • There is a distance between the people and the military in Anbar–and it should be addressed.
  • “I will fight sectarianism, Al-Qaeda, and ISIS at the same time. This is among one of the main issues in the upcoming elections–in addition to fighting for inclusive governance.”

Note: Al-Mutlaq comes from the Anbar province in Iraq.

Al-Mutlaq on Syria and upcoming Geneva2 Talks

  • “What’s happening in Syria is annoying everyone,” — would like to see opposition ready to compromise.
  • Most of the complication comes from the outside, so would be best to see the U.S. and Russia positions reach agreement before arriving at Geneva2.

Al-Mutlaq on US relationship and security

  • Sale of weapons must be in parallel with reconciliation.  There’s no reconciliation in country.  But the weapons we need might be much less than what we need now.
  • Don’t neglect the other aspects: Inclusive government, sharing of power, and include discussion of security composition and need b/c it’s limited to one party.
  • Security should not be run by one person or one party.  Draws comparison with U.S. Commander in Chief: even he doesn’t take the decision on his own, he consults.
  • There is a US legal obligation to Iraq.

Energy & Governate Relations

  • I don’t agree w/any decision to export oil without decision participation by central government of Iraq response to Baghdad and Erbil energy relations, which have been tense.
  • Our country was written within 3 months time. That was a mistake!  We (his party) voted against the constitution.  If you ask Mr. Maliki, he will now say that this constitution has a problem.
  • Article 142 says amendment to constitution in 4 months time.  But it was clear constitution was written for the benefit of a certain region. “Gave too much decentralization” or devolving power to governates.
  • Again, this is where US politicians can discuss and advise Iraqi politicians to reach conciliation on problematic parts of amendments.
  • Certain amendments are unclear.

Note: ADCI-VOCA, a US international consulting firm focusing on agricultural development, working in Iraq since 2003, organized townhalls to address the capacity building issue, or what al-Muqatal described as “local governance proficiency’.   As a former employee of ADCI-VOCA told PITAPOLICY: it is simply untrue when Deputy PM Al-Muqatal argues that the Iraqi local governance officials lack “proficiency” because they have been trained before and after elections.  Looks like it’s a classic issue of federalism tension versus local governance power.    

Al-Muqatal on Iran, Egypt & Gulf

  • Egypt’s success is a success in the Arab region.
  • You know the answer to that (said with a smile) in response to “Does the road to reconciliation lead through Iran?”
  • It’s a given how much Iraq suffered under sanctions.
  • What does Iraq look like in two to four years?  I hope that my country is kept united, and that the people will live together in a peaceful way. “We didn’t think of sectarianism, or thought if the person sitting next to me was Shi’ite. This was introduced after 2003. Intermarriage between Sunni-Shiite is at 25 percent.  I am among them.”

Part 2: Town Hall Discussion with Iraqi Members of Council of Representatives

Photo by PITAPOLICY

Sarhang Hamasaeed, Opening Remarks and Moderator, Senior Program Officer for the Middle East and Africa, U.S. Institute of Peace

  • Asks for comments on sectarianism and whether it’s feeding the violence in Iraq.  Is it impeding the institutions in Iraq.
  • Why backdoor channels and how long do we need to sustain these backdoor channel conversations?

Ezzat al-Shebander, Member of Council of Representatives

  • It’s not uprising in Iraq. Rather, Al-Qaeda has an objective where they want to bring all their operatives from Yemen, Tunisia, etc to Iraq.  There are historical roots that Iraq has been against this type of ideology.
  • Communication between all sides of the parties is important.  Since 2010, 2nd term of Al Maliki,we’ve had a tough dialogue that has not happened publicly.  “The Shi’ites were forced to vote for PM Al-Maliki and accept him.” responding to Hamasaeed question on backdoor channels.
  • The problem is that the current Iraqi government failed to achieve confidence and trust with the other side.  That’s why the other side transferred, forcefully, to become an incubator of terrorism.  This resulted from misdealings in the government.  “I blame leaders who don’t distinguish from terrorists.”
  • On budgeting: “I’ve never heard of PM Al Maliki interfering with governate budgets.”
  • “I left the State Law coalition.After 4th year, felt there was a change: Mr. Al-Maliki abandoned his positions and reconciliation points.  I know Mr. Al-Maliki is not sectarian, but because of the environment around the upcoming elections, he adjusted and resorted towards a more Shi’ite appeal in his speech,” responding to why he departed from al Maliki’s party.
  • In the last election: only 35% of Iraqis voted.  “That means that the 65% who stayed at home, didn’t vote b/c of mistrust. Instead of going out and voting for better candidates, prefer to stay home and leave space to same failures.  We are witnessing a kind of peril. Those people will. Hopeful sign for me: the Shiite block that was elected on sectarian basis is dismantled.”
  • De-Ba’athification was a mistake because it made all those who participated in politics, especially if they disagreed with the Baath, were removed and lost in the reconciliation process.
  • Unfair to compare Assad and Al-Maliki in how each used military forces.  -Response to audience question about holding Al-Maliki accountable if we’re holding Assad accountable.

Mustafa al-Hiti, Member of Council of Representatives

Nada al-Juburi, Member of Council of Representatives

  • There is a relationship between the three: corruption, violence, and sectarianism in that they affect the institutions.  In the end, the citizen is dissatisfied.
  • “They elected the right people in 2010.  I’m working on the Commission of 5, which is looking at the demands of the people.  There is a shortage in basic services, like electricity in Najaf.”  Nobody is ignoring that there are terrorists.  Terrorism has no religion.
  • At the end of the day: the people who pay the price is the Iraqi people.  If you detain 100 people, what’s going to happen when they leave detention centers.  There needs to be due process.  Second point: legislation process needs to follow legal procedures,” that need to be passed but couldn’t be passed because of political differences between parliament and Ministers.   in responding to the question on likelihood of some governates seceding.  [Note: no reference to secession possibility in al-Juburi’s response.]
  • We have to work on amnesty: you cannot punish a certain group.  “Prison is not the answer at the end of the day,” responding to Accountability & Justice Law.

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