The crisis in Syria is spilling over into Iraq, which makes Iraqis obligated to defend their country, says a political commentator.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Sa’ad Motallebi, with the State of the Law Coalition from Baghdad. He is joined by an additional guest: Edward Peck, a former US chief of mission in Iraq from Washington. What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.
Sa’ad al-Motallebi why has Iraq witnessed such an increased violence recently?
It is quite unusual. We had a report published in the Guardian
and they talked about the sources within the Anbar province of clear citing that they have received support with equipment and finances from the Persian Gulf states.
Now this is disturbing in the essence that we now have a report on behalf of the insurgents and the terrorists themselves citing and declaring that they are receiving military hardware and support and financial backing from the Persian Gulf states.
This is one issue that the United States should stand firm against and should assist Iraq in combating such transition of disturbing issues that could destabilize Iraq and could destabilize the region.
Hence there is the danger of the interference from the neighboring countries further than the financial support because that could increase the dependency on regional supports, where Iraq - if faces problems - Iraq will definitely try to align itself to certain elements within the region to defend its democracy.
Therefore I think that [we] are entering a very worrying stage and I think that there are grounds now for the United States to interfere directly with the Persian Gulf states in efforts to stop such a meddling in Iraq’s affairs.
Do you agree with what Edward Peck has said there?
No I do not. I mean there are certain facts to what ambassador says, but in reality what we are facing now in Iraq with the whole picture was caused by the incorrect policies that were committed directly by the United States’ actions within Iraq, not by talking but actual action and deciding the policy of Iraq by the United States allowing the Kurdish region to expand over its size and allow certain elements within the Sunni population to gain support and gain financial backing; that was the doing of the United States.
Iraq did not have this problem before the Americans entered into Iraq.
Well, once you mentioned the countries, Sa’ad al-Motallebi, because they are alleged here, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are in a sense, undermining democracy as fledgling as it is, inside Iraq.
To be honest we have noticed a trend in improving, or efforts to improve the relationships between Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
We have seen some signals from Saudi Arabia that leads us to understand our hope that there is light in the end of the tunnel but that does not go for Qatar and the other Persian Gulf states that have links with the insurgents and with the terrorists and in particular the al-Qaeda in the western Iraq and as I said today’s Guardian
report was very disturbing because it actually talked to the groups that were within the al-Qaeda organizations and now are realigning themselves with the tribes and with the other insurgent groups and preparing with the support of the Persian Gulf states into a new wave of terrorism within the region.
Sa’ad al-Motallebi if you want to backtrack and rewind back to December of 2011; that is when the US final withdrawal supposedly was done; it coincided with the arrest warrant of Tariq al-Hashemi and that was a golden opportunity - was it not - for Saudi Arabia and Qatar to ramp up this ethnic or sectarian issue a notch higher, even Edward Peck says that always did exist. Do you agree with that?
Well, in reality the issue of Tariq al-Hashemi failed miserably. I mean Tariq al-Hashemi failed to incite further violence between Sunnis and Shias because he was a criminal and he was not close, it seems, to the other Sunni leaders.
So his efforts to incite violence was not very successful, but now after the start of the US support to the elements of the Free Syrian Army alongside the Turkish support and the Qatari support to al-Qaeda in Syria under the name of the Jabhat al-Nusrah; now we see a different picture.
Now we see return of violence back again from Syria reaching into Iraq, supposedly, with the blessing and the green light from the United States, because when Britain and France and the United States do not object to arming militias in Syria, that is the Iraqi, the western province, sees it as an extension of the Free Syrian Army and as probably people would know that the Free Syrian Army was raised in western Iraq… I do not know they are Iraqis or Syrians but anyways the flag was raised and there is traffic going both ways in that area so we do have the Syrian issue spilling over Iraq and that is what we warned in the beginning and that will naturally drive us to take a very defensive position regarding this issue because we have an obligation to defend our country and defend democracy in Iraq.
Sa’ad al-Motallebi since we want to focus a little bit more about this Saudi and Qatari factor here.
Can you give us your thoughts about the arrest of the nine bodyguards, which happened in December 2012, of the finance minister?
Tell us what benefits, for example, Saudi Arabia and Qatar would have in keeping the central government of Maliki busy with issues inside Iraq in terms of what is going on in Syria.
This is actually a unique case, which is quite strange, because the minister of finance knew that his head bodyguard was wanted by the police and wanted by the army and he was in hiding for the last six months.
And on Thursday he calls him and asks him to come to report a duty within the international zone, the fortified international zone, where there are specified gates, you can only enter through certain gates and that you will be checked thoroughly.
So when this head bodyguard came, the retired colonel, he came to the green zone, immediately he was arrested and hence he reported on the other colleagues who also became arrested and so the whole incident was caused by the minister of finance himself, who knew that there was an arrest warrant for his bodyguard. He knew their involvement in terrorism and he himself called him in.
So it is very natural that one would [deduce] that there is a conspiracy here that they wanted to implicate the government in an issue that would raise the tempo once again and raise tension between the Sunnis and the Shias.
Since lately we have seen a decline in the sectarianism. We were talking of the [United Current] which is a new party, political party, which compromises the State of Law, the alliance that I belong to and Mr. Maliki belongs to, with other groups, other Sunni groups, to create a [national current] to enter the general elections next year with a united front made up of Shias, Sunnis and even Kurds to pave the way for a democratic government away from consensual government; to form the majority - kind of - government that is formed in other democracies.
So the whole thing is very, very strange.
Quickly if you can. You mentioned, at the beginning of the program, that Iraq is going to align itself with certain elements in the region basically in the context of defending and securing itself - the Maliki government securing itself. Is that a sense that war may be looming? Which is a spillover from Syria? Quickly please.
Well. To stop the war from spilling over and the trouble spilling over I think that the United States could do something here. That is by adding Iraq to the lobby or to the group that is deciding the fate of Syria - Iraq alongside with Turkey, Qatar and the United States, France, Britain.
Iraq should be involved in the detailed planning and the detailed information and the detailed circumstances that is ruling over Syria and support of insurgency or nonsupport of material or not, Iraq should have a seat in that group…