Sunday, April 30, 2006

Interview with Vice President Al-Hashimi

Yesterday Al Jazeera interviewed Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi. Al Hashimi is the leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, one of the three main Sunni parties that comprise the Al-Tawafuq Front, which is the Sunni bloc in the Council of Representatives. Vice President al-Hashimi, while never a member of the Ba'ath Party, opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq, was at least a sympathizer of Sunni Arab insurgents, and is known to reject the Iraqi constitution.

Given his personal and political history, his comments on the continued need for a U.S. troop presence, sympathy for Kurdish concerns, and declaration of the Iraqi political process's legitimacy illustrates just how significant the political progress in Iraq has been. [My apologies for providing excerpts without a link to the entire interview. This transcript was sent to me via an email from the Embassy's press office].

Al Jazeera: Dr. Tariq, we welcome you. At the beginning, it is our duty to offer you our sincerest condolences for the loss of your sister and before her your brother. Do you accuse any side? [In the last month, terrorists have assassinated both his brother and his sister in separate attacks.]

Al-Hashimi: In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate, I was hoping that you will congratulate me for this honor that Almighty God has bestowed on me personally, on Al-Hashimi family, and on the Iraqi Islamic Party. I believe that with their martyrdom within a period of two weeks, Almighty God has support this blessed God-inspired project. I was hoping you would congratulate me for this great honor and I ask almighty God to have them rest in peace, not to deprive us of their support on Doomsday, and to let us meet again in the everlasting abode, God willing.

On U.S. troop withdrawals
al-Hashimi: . . . The current problem is about the security vacuum. The stand of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the Al-Tawafuq Front and all the nationalists is to ask the Americans, the British, and others to announce a timetable for the expeditious withdrawal of forces. But this must take place after the armed forces are restructured on a national and professional basis. Otherwise, there will be a security vacuum. This security vacuum will lead Iraq toward a civil war particularly that the first signs of a civil war are there through the sectarian sedition, may God curse those who ignited it.

On Militias and the Pesh Merga
AJ: Mr. Tariq al-Hashimi, you spoke about the militias. However, many ranking political leaders do not view the Peshmerga, for example, as armed militias and reject the principle of dissolving them or incorporating them into the Iraqi army. What is your stand on this?

al-Hashimi: Dear brother, I believe that Kurdistan has a special status not only in terms of constitutional, administrative, and legal frameworks but also within the framework of the armed forces. We cannot compare the Peshmerga to the militias that were active on 22, 23, and 24 in what took place in Baghdad [This is a reference to the wave of retribution killings, likely by Shi'a militias, in the wake of the bombing of the al-Askariya Mosque in Samarra on 22 Feb.

On the legitimacy of the Iraqi political process
AJ: Will the decision to join the political process make you a target for the resistance in Iraq, particularly in the wake of al-Zarqawi's tape?

al-Hashimi: . . . The political process that Al-Tawafuq Front has joined is the result of an extensive popular mandate in which Al-Tawafuq got around 2 million votes and won 44 seats in the House of Deputies. In addition to this, a vote took place on the usefulness, justifications, and legitimacy of the participation of Al-Tawafuq Front in the forthcoming government. The results were positive. We have a popular mandate and legitimate term of reference and we are satisfied at the soundness of our course. The blood that was shed and the martyrs who had fallen are the tax we pay and show that the people support our God-inspired project, Inshallah.