London, Asharq Al-Awsat- A leader of an armed Iraqi group has denied the existence of any dialogue with the current Iraqi Government or US Ambassador in Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad.
The armed leader, who goes by the name Abu-Umar, stated that “resistance factions” have rejected the national reconciliation initiative proposed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, “because it is not a comprehensive plan, and lacks a lot of the objectives for which thousands of Iraqis were martyred.”
Regarding dialogue with US Ambassador Khalilzad, which began seven months ago, the field commander told Asharq Al-Awsat in a phone call from an undisclosed location in Iraq, “Yes, we had a dialogue with the Americans, but they cut short these talks although our approach was supported on the political, religious, and popular levels. We would have reached positive results had the dialogue continued. The US Administration, however, ignored our proposals and formed the government without asking our opinion and without our participation. In our latest memorandum to the US ambassador, we told him that the majority of the cabinet members are seekers of [government] posts, and will offer the Iraqi people nothing. We told him that the armed operations will increase and double in number.”
When asked about Prime Minister’s Al-Maliki’s initiative for national reconciliation, the militant leader said, “This initiative does not entail practical steps to save Iraq, and has nothing to do with what is happening on the ground, especially with respect to the issue of the armed militias that are backed by parties represented in the parliament and the government.”
Abu-Umar noted that an area in Baghdad “was bombed with 120[mm] mortar shells by the Muqtada al-Sadr group. We do not call them the Al-Mahdi Army, because imam Al-Mahdi would not send his army to kill the sons of the Iraqi people.” He added, “The initiative excludes reconciliation with the Baathist and the resistance factions. It excludes anyone who killed a US soldier, and those whom it called takfiris [Muslims holding fellow Muslims to be infidels]. The initiative protects the armed militias. We do not know who this reconciliation will be with.”
Commenting on Iraqi resistance, the faction leader, told Asharq Al-Awsat that, “There is a resistance [movement], which is a real one. The takfiris aside, if the Americans themselves and President Bush admit that there is resistance, why does the Iraqi government not recognize us and talk to us to agree on a timetable for the withdrawal of the foreign forces from the villages, and then from the cities, to their bases and barracks before they withdraw from Iraq? We are not saying that the US forces should withdraw immediately; this is unreasonable. The Iraqi situation is going through serious stages, and it is not part of our strategy to get the Americans out immediately. As I explained, it is also not in the interest of Iraq and the Iraqis that the foreign forces leave the country under these circumstances. However, we are saying that they should set a timetable for their departure after one or two years, more or less. Many Iraqis and resistance factions support this idea. If the US forces announce their intention to withdraw based on timetables, no one will afterward dare attack them.”
On resolving the crisis in Iraq Abu-Umar said that, “The US Administration knows full well what we want, and a solution for the crisis of the country is in its hand. We here suggest a repeat of the elections without using the Islamic religion, the sect, or the doctrine in them, that is, separating religion from politics. We do not care if people perform their rites, each according to his religion and doctrine, but we are against using the True Religion [Islam] politically. We suggest canceling the Debathification Act. If the government is not afraid of the Baath [Party], it should allow it to run in the elections, or they should give the Baathist any chance to have representation.” He noted that, “the radical Islamic trends, be they Sunnis or Shia, have failed to build the state of the new Iraq, and the Iraqi street is fed up with these ideas.”
He added that, “One of our proposals is to form a national salvation government away from sectarian quotas and to depend on a strong statesman like Iyad Allawi, who, although he is Shia and I am a Sunni, showed he is non-sectarian. The man is acceptable to the majority of the resistance factions, the Baathist, the secularists, the nationalists, and the military. We believe that he has a lot of keys for a solution to the crisis. We hear that the Iraqi street wants the return of Allawi to save the country from this tragic situation, especially since he resisted the presence of militias during his tenure, which did not witness what is happening today despite the fact that he did not form his government as he wished. This does not mean that the current government has no competent ministers. These, however, cannot offer anything in light of the current situation. And then [the other proposal is] to prepare for democratic elections under the UN supervision.”
Regarding the proposal for establishing an Islamic State and including the Al-Anbar Governorate in it, “The Islamic State plan will not succeed in Iraq; some are promoting this plan to steal more money from Iraq. The government depended on some tribal sides to protect Al-Anbar. This side is known as a money-stealing gang although it works for the security apparatuses.”
He admitted that there are, “Sunni militias, but they are there to protect the Sunnis who are in power. The power of these militias does not exceed 5 percent of the power and activity of the Shia militias.”
Regarding the Mecca document, Abu-Umar said, “We respect Sheikh Harith al-Dari, are proud of his ideas, and trust his policies and his signing of this important document. If, however, the provisions of this document are not implemented and the Iraqi street does not feel it, it will not be adopted. We, the Iraqis, are one nation. I do not want to use a sectarian language. There are no Sunnis or Shia, but rather Iraqis, whether Muslims or non-Muslims. The sectarian confrontations in Iraq were planned by radical Sunnis and Shia. We strongly reject calling the Shia brothers infidels, and we also reject the murder of Sunnis at the hands of Shia militias. Today, the victims are from both sides and from the Christians as well. This is unacceptable and very painful. The political blocs should reach an agreement to stop the armed operations. If these operations actually stop, this means that these blocs, or some of them, are responsible for these operations. If they do not, then this means the government is weak and unable to control the situation, and therefore it should step down. We believe that the government is indeed weak and unable to control the situation.”
The field commander admitted that there is coordination among the armed factions. He said, “The real resistance does not inflict harm on any Iraqi civilian, even if that costs us the loss of a US target.” He divided the axes of the resistance, in order of importance, as follows: The Baath Party Organizations; the Islamic resistance movement, which includes several factions; and the Mujahidin Shura Council (Al-Qaeda) and its strong factions. There are also other unconnected factions, which are not acting under a unified leadership, but which are very influential in their areas. Some of them are identified, such as the Islamic Army, the Mujahidin, Ansar Al-Sunnah, and Jaysh Muhammad.
On the announcement by Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi about his dialogue with the resistance factions, the field commander said, “He may have possibly talked to one of the factions of the Islamic Army, which is divided into three groups. One of these groups coordinates with the Islamic Party.”
On the call by some Sunni tribes for the return of Saddam Hussein, he explained that, “This call is undoubtedly spearheaded and supported by the Baath Party organizations. I believe that if they today offer Saddam Hussein to return to power, he will refuse. Besides, he is today incapable of leading Iraq. We believe that the case of Saddam will be part of a comprehensive solution for the Iraqi question.”