Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat- Based in a modest house in the Kirkh region in Baghdad, Adnan al Dulaymi, head of the Iraqi Accordance Front, sits behind a desk in a small room and greets his visitors, replies to his mail and meets with his advisors to take decisions during these critical times in Iraq.
The main Sunni parliamentary bloc, the Iraqi Accordance Front includes the Iraqi Islamic Party, led by Tariq al Hshemi, and the National Dialogue Council, headed by Khalf al Aliyan and the Iraqi People’s Conference. It has been accused by Iraqi political figures of being a Sunni sectarian entity and “placing itself under Arab Sunni tutelage”, according to Salih and Mutlaq, head of the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue.
Asharq al Awsat met al Dulaymi in his offices and asked him about the accusations leveled against the Accordance Front and other issues in Iraq .
Below is the transcript of the interview in full:
Q: Have you become involved in the sectarian project or did your Front espouse sectarianism from its inception to represent Arab Sunnis?
A: Our Front is not sectarian. This is simply not true.
Q: But you are currently working on how to distribute government posts according to a sectarian quota system?
A: Let us be realistic and honest with ourselves, the people of Iraq and the world. The sectarian quota system was established by the governing council. The council itself was built on this basis. All subsequent governments have followed this quota system. Ibrahim al Jaafari’s government was sectarian and included representatives from across communities in Iraq in order to soothe the atmosphere. The sectarian quota system has therefore become a principle.
Q: You used to peak out against this quota system. Has it become law?
A: We don’t want this principle to continue and become a law by which governments should abide. There is almost unanimous agreement that this system should not continue and that it should be restricted to the present government and parliament.
Q: But why don’t you give up the sectarian quota system starting with the current parliament? Why don’t Iraqi politicians start to build a national unity government and not one based on sectarianism?
A: It’s not easy to cancel this principle at the time being. We hope that an education campaign by religious, political, popular and governmental authorities to educate the people of Iraq . The Constitution does not include any article that discusses the quota system or supports it. The sectarian quota system is a disease and the treatment begins after it is diagnosed.
Q: Why don’t you start treating the disease, since it has been already diagnosed?
A: The treatment lies in education, provided there is enough courage to overcome it and no faction claims it is the majority and imposes its dominance on the Iraqi people. In the Accord Front, we hope our brothers in other coalitions realize the fact that Iraq is made up of many components. Security will never prevail unless these components understand the necessity to live together like brothers with fairness and justice, away from feelings of control and attempts to marginalize others in order to impose a specific sectarian policy. I don’t care who will govern me, as long as he is fair, just and dedicated to ensuring the rights of all Iraqis are respected. He should also believe in equal opportunities, support the unity of Iraq and cast aside the spirit of revenge.
Q: Does this make you custodians over Arab Sunnis, as some politicians have accused you of?
A: We do not claim that we are the custodians of Arab Sunnis. However, we continue to say, frankly and courageously that we defend the Sunni population of Iraq, like we defend all Iraqis. Can anybody deny us this right? The Sunnis are our people. Isn’t it our duty to defend them? Is it right to remain silent about the injustice being inflicted on the Sunnis in Iraq? Consider the murders, displacement, arrests of Sunnis. We, the Sunni community in Iraq, are suffering from terrorism and voluntary or compulsory displacement. No other sect is suffering as much as we are. The media is inciting sectarian strife in Iraq. This is wrong and is dangerous for Iraq and all Iraqis.
Q: Let us go back to the political process. You had entered into a pact of honor with the Iraqi National List, headed by Iyad Allawi. You breached this pact when you opposed Allawi’s nomination to the post of vice-presidency. Why?
A: There is not pact of honor between us and the Iraqi List. We had an agreement in principal but our brothers breached it. Allawi left [ Iraq ] at one of the busiest and most critical stages while we were in the middle of negotiations. In a statement, the leading figure in the Iraqi List, Izzat al Shabandar, made a statement in which he accused the Accordance Front of sectarianism. He said the Front and the United Iraqi Alliance were two sides of the same coin and that both were to blame for sectarian problems in Iraq . We were hoping to create a strong [parliamentary] bloc with the Iraqi List, the Kurds and parts of the United Iraqi Alliance.
Q: But the Iraqi List later announced that Shabandar’s statements express his own personal views and not those of the group.
A: Al Shabandar continues to issue statements that are harming the reputation of the Accordance Front.
Q: Does this mean a divorce has occurred between your group and the Iraqi List?
A: (smiling). We remain prepared to cooperate with them and the National Dialogue Council and all other political groups. If we don’t cooperate, the Iraqi problem will not be solved.
Q: Wherever one goes in Baghdad , he hears talk of foreign interference in Iraq . How do you look at this issue?
A: Yes, there is Iranian interference in the government’s affairs. If such interference by our neighbor Iran wasn’t taking place, Abdulaziz al Hakim would not have called for negotiations between the US and Iran to solve the security problem in Iraq. Al Hakim maintains strong relations with Iraq. He has lived in Iran and is loyal to Iran . He has admitted so publicly. Many of our Shiaa brothers in central and southern Iraq visit our offices and complain about the presence of Iranian intelligence officers in their area. We lack firm evidence but there are reports of such occurrences. Isn’t it they duty of the government and occupation forces to verify if this is the case? Does it make sense that they do not know the size of Iranian involvement in Iraq ? The mere fact that drugs from Iran are being distributed in Iraq is evidence. Iraq was one of the cleanest countries, as far as drugs are concerned. It has now become a center for drug smuggling.