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Iraq at the turning point: causes-and-effects of a burning situation
   
 
 
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Iraq at the turning point: causes-and-effects of a burning situation

 
Friday, 13 March 2015 23:11
 
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Epos converses with Mr. Zainul-Abdeen and Mr. Ammash

by EPOS
EPOS Conversations

 

EPOS: Mr. Zainul-Abdeen, you are a political analyst and you lived in Mosul before ISIS arrived. As an "inhabitant" of Mosul, could you please give us a picture from the field?

Mr. Ammar Wajih Zainul-Abdeen: We should start from the 9th or 10th of June, 2014 when Mosul was attacked by ISIS. Before that time Mosul was already divided from the within: the population, the army and the institutions were working for their own interests, and most of the people were corrupted. There are evidence that Al-Qaeda was already in Mosul and that it was already working side by side with some people. The terrorists used to take goods and money from some inhabitants of Mosul: it seems that Al-Qaeda gained 12 million dollars yearly from the city of Mosul. It took money from doctors, constructors, engineers, businessmen etc.

At that time Mosul was exhausted, fed up. People were in need and wanted to find a solution to the divisions inside the society. Al-Qaeda took the chance and started to be more popular day by day. People were attracted by jihadism and most of them openly started to support the jihad. By the way, we did not expect what happened in Fallujah and Ramadi at the beginning of last year, 2013, when ISIS invaded Fallujah. It did however happen, and some people did argue there was an agreement between the army leaders, Mosul and certain countries to withdraw their troops and give ISIS the chance to attack the city with ease. Within a few hours it was all over, and Mosul, the second biggest city in Iraq, was under the total control of ISIS.

ISIS has organized Mosul like a "normal city", althought there are a lot of daily difficulties: for example, there is electricity only a few hours every three days, and it is hard to get salaries. People receive salaries from the banks, but there is a shortage of everything, from medicine to anestesia.

Nowadays in Mosul, without the concrete institutional walls, life is easier than it used to be before, but there is no order, no governor, no provincial council and everybody knows and is aware of what ISIS does with people.

We, as spectators of a film, think this is a minor issue compared to the overall picture. The real scenario is that most of the Sunni provinces of Iraq have been attacked by the jihadists, and we have more than 2 million people displaced from their cities. People go to the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan, but the Kurds have their own regulations there, and even if the Sunni people are freed of security measures they need to follow certain regulations and procedures that could be, and maybe are different from their background, and life for them becomes very hard. Everybody knows what happens with displacements and camps and IDPs.

EPOS: Many people think ISIS has came out as a consequence of the crisis in Baghdad which has been ongoing for so long. What do you think about? What is your interpretation of the birth and raise of ISIS? Do you really think it is as dangerous as it seems and that it will last for a long time? What is your perception?

Mr. Zainul-Abdeen: First of all ISIS is the continuation of forty years of anger and affliction, since the 1970's-80's, due to the dictatorships of the Arabian governors. People began to rebel and become unhappy and violent against these regimes. The second thing is the continuity of wars just like what happened in Iraq: eight years of war with Iran, the invasion of Kuwait, the embargo and the stifling dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. The third aspect is the invasion of Iraq by the USA, and the presence of the Americans for eleven years in our land. It was in 2003 that Al-Qaeda entered into Iraq through Afganistan and Iran crossing the borders easily. Before that time, we knew nothing of Al-Qaeda. So, it was like a disease that suddently contaminated our people and our society. Since then, this disease has grown up and has become dangerous.

EPOS: Do you think that the responsibility behind the raise of the fundamentalism and the extremism is of both the West and the central government of Baghdad itself?

Mr. Zainul-Abdeen: No doubt, of course! The Iraqi government has had strong ties with Iran since the birth of the Federal Republic in 2003. From 2004 to 2008 some militants of Al-Qaeda, who were based in Iraq, were imprisoned by the American troops. Most of them were jailed in a prison in the south of Iraq called  Puka. The American soldiers let them do whatever they wanted. I remeber that one day Mr.Tariq al-Hashimi, who was the vice president during al-Maliki presidency, talked to Mrs. Condoleeza Rice, at that time the United States Secretary, and asked her what she was doing. He told her that the USA was putting innocent young people in prison allowing them to enter in contact with the most dangerous militants of Al-Qaeda, already jailed in those prisons, that would have taught them only violence and extremist ideas and opinions. In 2007, when I was in Puka prison to have a speeach about human rights, I spoke to a prisoner. I asked him about Al-Qaeda and what Al-Qaeda was doing there, and he answered that the jihadists were sentencing to death all the disbelievers. They used to execute them with a nylon rope, making a very noisy sound. The worst thing is that the American troops knew about these assassinations and they never did anything to punish the guilty convicts. They simply burnt the bodies. So, the truth is that prisons like Puka became schools and training-camps of violence and terror. This is the real truth and we have lots of evidence of this.

EPOS: How has ISIS had the chance to become an organization, and why, if there were dangerous convicts who were organizing themselves as an extremist group, nothing was done to avoid the creation of a such "powerful" terror-cell?

Mr. Zainul-Abdeen: The most extremist and violent members of Al-Qaeda became the leaders of ISIS. Al-Qaeda is the prototype of ISIS, a school for ISIS, the training-camp for ISIS. ISIS is a mixture of all the most dangerous elements ever. We have some evidence that Al-Qaeda trained hundreds of people in some regional areas of Iraq. No doubt that Al-Qaeda also have relations with the Iraqi intelligence and secret services. This is what happened.

The message that we should let the International Community understand is that Sunni people have any kind of relations with ISIS or Al-Qaeda for the reason why they are Sunni. Being Sunni is not a prerogative to be or to become a terrorist. Most of Al-Qaeda and ISIS militants come from rural areas, with a low social and economical background. Unfotunately, people believe that Mosul is a city that welcomed ISIS. This is not the truth because people from Mosul are highly educated and they do not like to use weapons against people who attack them. This is what we want people to know. Mosul is an educated city with a fortune, with oil, agriculture, a lot of man-power and people who use their heads and who are able to think in their own way. Now, we should deal with them as if we have friends in prison.

EPOS: Did the different communities in Mosul benefit from this common enemy represented by ISIS? Has the situation in Mosul changed after the takeover of ISIS? Are you more united as people who belong to different communities? Is there a common policy towards ISIS?

Mr. Zainul-Abdeen: People of Mosul are very sorry about what happened, but honestly I do not think that in the near future they will be able to change the current situation. We should help them because people there do not want to return to the same political situation of al-Maliki administration. But they do not want even ISIS to remain in town. They want to be free and happy once again as they used to be before. Unfortunately, they do not have decision making power because going against ISIS is very difficult. It is quite complicated and even impossible at the moment. If they had any intention of fight against ISIS they would have done it with the help of the central government. The inhabitants of Mosul are peaceful, and all that people have heard about the fact that they are malicious is just propaganda.

EPOS: Do you think that in Mosul there was and there is right now a part of the population in favour of ISIS?

Mr. Zainul-Abdeen: Of course there are, especially young peole who belong to low social classes. They support ISIS because they receive salaries and weapons, and because they are considered valorous and courageous men, but the truth is that they are only ignorant people and just a small part of the whole population. Many academics, scholars and businessmen from the left bank of Mosul do not like ISIS. I can confirm that about 75% of people in Mosul do not like ISIS.


EPOS: What about the International Community? As Iraqi citizen, do you think that an international intervention is needed?

Mr. Mohammed Shaker Ammash: The intervention of the International Community is definitely needed becaue we do not have any power at the moment. We are similiar to Bosnia right now. This is not good at all. What we asked General Allen when we met him last September was that the National Guards were sent in cities like Mosul and Anbar. The central government has always been interested in establishing the military unit of the National Guards, but it wants them to be loyal to Iran and to depend on Teheran. We want the National Guards to be eager and to have the will to save our cities. They should be Sunni and they should not follow the Iranian regime. This is important. They should be nationalist and patriotic. If the International Community is willing to help us, it needs to appreciate and understand this element. It is just like everywhere else in the world: we need a National Guards unit that wants what we, as common people, want.

EPOS: What do you think about the Kurdish situation considering that the Kurds and the Peshmerga have been one of the main characters of this story? What do you think about their role and their aspiration for independence?

Mr. Ammash: Presently, Kurdistan is facing a conflict. The Kurds want to become an independent state. They want to be separated from Iraq or, at least, they want to gain more autonomy. The Kurds have their own priorities, they want to protect their own interests and they want to take the so-called disputed areas. This is a good chance for them to get Kirkuk entirely, and they are pushing a lot to reach this aim. They also want the north part of Mosul in which some Kurdish communities are based.

There is a sectarian mentality in Iraq, and the Federal Republic is not united and unified at all. This is the truth. The Kurds could also be interested in retaking some Arab-Sunni provinces like some areas nearby Kirkuk and the northern part of Mosul, but in which way they could contribute in changing this sectarian menatlity that is fully destroying our country?

EPOS: Regarding ISIS, do you think that it really deserves all the attention we are giving to it, or we should be focusing more on other aspects of this situation like how to retake Mosul? Do you personally think ISIS represents a real danger?

Mr. Ammash: ISIS is a real danger: the jihadists are occupying new lands day by day, they are buying and selling oil from and to someone else, they are organizing and managing themselves as a real state, and this is the main point we need to focus on. By the way, I think we need not to deal with ISIS itself, but with all the countries that are supporting ISIS. Several countries both from the East and from the West.

EPOS: Are there Western countries that are supporting ISIS?

Mr. Ammash: We have no solid proof, but if we did, I would not be afraid to answer.

EPOS: And why would they be supporting ISIS?

Mr. Ammash: There are many theories. It seems that the Sykes-Picot agreement is over, and that some kind of change is coming, not only in Iraq and Syria but also in North Africa. Some countries, probably due to economic reasons, do not like to deal with big states like Iraq and Syria. They want to work with smaller divided countries because it is easier for them. I think that we should be pragmatic and deal even with ISIS. Even if the International Community looks at ISIS as a danger, and ISIS is a real danger, we also know that it is not as dangerous as it seems, because what happened in the past has been worse.  Everybody remembers the Iran-Iraq war: it lasted eight long years, and they were years of suffering and anger. All the bombs and the weapons used in that occasion were worse than the bombs and the weapons used by ISIS, and yet the war ended. An happy ending is still possible!

I do not think ISIS is a virus, but I think ISIS is a dangerous side-effect: it will kill people but the disease is not ISIS. If we do not consider the serious problems and just look at maintaining all the regimes in the Middle East, all the dictators in power, and if we do not give these young people who are joining ISIS their rights, everything they deserve and the opportunity to express themselves freely, if this does not happen, we are simply offering ISIS and other terrorist groups the fuel to continue to grow. As civilians, as believers of the civilization, we want to control our own lives just as much as ISIS or any other terrorist group with the darkest minds want to do. We must focus on the young people, they are the fuel for them to continue to be powerful and fearful. We need to make them happy, give them opportunities, remove or help them to remove these old regimes and support them in doing that. I do not understand why we continue to keep Syria under the regime of Bashar al-Assaf. The savagery used by ISIS and displayed on TV is less or equal to the savagery used by the regime in Syria. Therefore, it is a reaction to a previous action. If a young man sees his family killed or his mother or his sister rapped, he will react. If people lose their families, they lose their lives and they will join ISIS or any other terrorist groups because they allow them to feel as a part of a big family that loves them.

EPOS: What do you think about the fear in the West of some European citizens who are joining ISIS? Do you think this represents a real problem?

Mr. Ammash: I think we have enough of our own problems to worry about other problems. This is not our business, and I do not know why these young men and women from Europe have decided to join ISIS. I do not have enough information about that.

EPOS: Regarding the Syrian Civil War, do you have any suggestions on how to solve the problem with Bashar al-Assad? Do you think that the West should intervene in such a way?

Mr. Ammash: Wester countries have simply drawn the red line without doing anything on the field. We must put pressure on and speak with the influencial countries in order to find a solution which is shared by all the actors in the game, because the Syrian Civil War really endangers the security of the whole world.

The International Community did not do anything concretely when the crisis burst in Egypt in 2011, in Iran in 2009, or in Turkey last year. Who sat with the Turkish government and told Ankara what was wrong and that was needed to stop the revolts in Gezi Park? Any Wester countries! But I think that now is the time to work together, and everyone should be involved in the negotiations. Even Israel, for example. We need to consider what has happened, we have to discuss it together and decide what needs to be done after Assad. This is my suggestion.

For example, we can repeat and reproduce the same experience of Iraq in 1991, when a no-fly zone was set up between lines 32 and 36. We can do the same in Aleppo and in northern Syria, in Rojava region. I personally think that a no-fly zone in Rojava would be useful not only for the Kurds who live there, but for everybody because it would assure a humanitarian corridor to allow the safe transit of humanitarian aid which is in need in Syria.

Several areas in northern Iraq and even in the north of Syria have been attacked. So, it is fundamental to impose a no-fly zone which would allow displaced people to come back home. The most important thing is to find a solution between the Sunni governors of the whole area and Syria together with the Kurds and Barzani. We should be frank and reach an agreement regardless of the fact that Barzani would have or would not have some cities in Syria. First of all, it should be solved the "crisis" between the Kurds themselves, and avoid that this crisis will then explode between the Arabs and the Kurds. All the Kurdish leaders should cooperate in finding a peaceful and useful solution for everybody in Syria.

If we want people to think that something better than the current bad situation is possible, we must have something that is believable, we must have a good exampe to refer to. For example, we should take into consideration the experience of KRG and try to reproduce it. People look at Kurdistan as a model. People need to think that a better future is possible, and the project of EPOS "My Future" is very important in that sense because you are giving young people a good opportunity to acquire new skills and to develop a new approach to life.

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DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are the people interviewed's own and do not necessarily reflect EPOS WorldView’s editorial policy


 


Last modified on Saturday, 14 March 2015 13:14
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