Iraq's Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi speaking to Rudaw TV.
Prominent Sunni leader and Iraq’s Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi says that Shiite or sectarian forces must stay away from the battle for the west of Mosul otherwise it will complicate the whole war, affect people’s perception and strengthen ISIS. In this interview with Rudaw, al-Nujaifi says that some acts of violence and revenge killing have taken place in eastern Mosul but only on an individual basis and not large scale.
Al-Nujaifi believes that the Sunnis of Iraq have more divided than the Kurds and Shiites are, adding that their efforts to unify are blocked by outside forces who do not want the Sunnis united and strong.
Al-Nujaifi who is counted among the few Sunnis who survived for Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki’s purges, believes that Maliki’s chances of becoming prime minister for a second time are slim and that there is strong opposition to him regaining that post ever again.
The first question should be: How is the Mosul operation going?
Iraqi forces eventually reached the city where they were welcomed by the locals and were helped with information.
The occupation of Nineveh by terrorists was a disaster for Iraq, the region and the world. But the collaboration of all forces, especially between Iraq and the Kurdistan Region was very vital. Iraqi forces eventually reached the city where they were welcomed by the locals and were helped with information. Retaking the east side was a major achievement and now the fight for the right side of the city lies ahead, with some obstacles of course.
What kind of obstacles?
For instance establishing security in areas retaken and treatment of their people in terms of public services, infrastructure and restoring order. There is also some uncertainty because terrorists still exist in the eastern side and have sleeper cells.
Some Sunnis worry that the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi are gearing up for participation in the battle for the right side of the city.
The same forces that took part in the battle for the left side of the city will be the same ones going to other side. The Hashd are not in the city. They’re in the open areas near Tal Afar. We too will be concerned about the Hashd coming into Mosul and we believe they must be given tasks in the distance.
You have visited the eastern side of Mosul after liberation. What did you see and what impacted you most? Did you see sectarian flags or signs?
We must distinguish political parties from security forces. The coming of political parties and their agenda and slogans to Mosul is something to do with elections only otherwise they will create hurdles for the ongoing battle and will distort people’s view of the authorities and will in turn strengthen ISIS. The coming of political parties and their flags at this time will complicate the war against ISIS.
The same forces that took part in the battle for the left side of the city will be the same ones going to other side.
It is said that groups of masked men have abducted people in Mosul and killed them while chanting slogans such as avenging Imam Hussein.
In reality, yes some incidents of this kind have taken place. But I’m not sure if it was happening on a large scale. Perhaps was done by some individuals or by ISIS to plant a sense of tension. We will though, monitor the situation and take a stance of this kind of act happens.
After the visit of Turkish prime minister’s visit to Baghdad ties between Turkey and Iraq seem to have improved and they both speak of withdrawing the Turkish troops. Do you think it is better if they withdrew or stayed?
Yes, relations between Iraq and Turkey are normalized and all policies are transparent in this regard. And it was decided that Turkish troops will pull out but it has been postponed for after the Mosul operation.
Did Turkish forces come to fight ISIS or the PKK, especially when it was reported that the Iraqi government was funding the PKK presence there?
It was the case before, yes. But Turkey recently reached a deal with the Kurdistan Region and Iraq and this thing came to an end. Their salaries were stopped as well as the support that went to a Yezidi group formed by the PKK. To my knowledge, this was solved under American supervision.
Do you have any disputes with the Kurds and Shiites over the future of Nineveh?
The Kurds as well as the Shiites have many political parties and groups, but we say that Nineveh should become a region of its own within the constitution. And there are some outstanding issues to be solved with the Kurdistan Region, such as the disputed territories. The Kurdistan Region has the same view as we do and I hope we can solve things through understanding with the Shiites. Of course there are some among them who believe Nineveh and even the Kurdistan Region must be invaded and with these people we cannot deal.
Who is the main Sunni authority in Iraq?
The disputes are political and the sectarian agenda imposed on Iraq has affected the entire society.
The Sunnis have various groups and have more internal disputes than others, but there are efforts to bridge the gap between them and work on common projects. The disputes are political and the sectarian agenda imposed on Iraq has affected the entire society.
Some Sunni leaders have been accused of terrorism and now live outside Iraq. Have you done anything for their return?
We have we done a lot legally and politically to solve the issues and bring them home, but it has all been in vain because there is a strong sectarian will outside Iraq that only wants to make sure the Sunnis aren’t together or become a strong force.
There is an arrest warrant on former Nineveh governor Athil al-Nujaifi. What is this about?
I think it is absolutely political and wanting to arrest him is to not give any authority to the people of Mosul for self-governance or limiting their role in the military and security sphere.
Former Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki is trying to regain his post and Kurdish President Barzani says if he becomes prime minister of Iraq again he will declare independence.
I am one of those who did my best to make sure Maliki steps down and in 2012 I worked with Mr. Barzani to take away from Maliki his post. No matter how much he may try I don’t think he will be able to become prime minister again because there is a strong voice inside Iraq against Maliki who think he was the cause of Iraq’s failure.