Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said that it is verifying reports about the signing of a protocol between the US side and parties from the “Iraqi resistance” without the Iraqi Government’s knowledge with the aim of including these parties in the political process and allowing them to participate in the upcoming legislative elections, due to be held in January next year.
The local media circulated documents, which they said are secret. These documents indicate that the US side signed a protocol with the so-called “political council of the Iraqi resistance,” and this move prompted some parliamentary blocs to table questions to, and ask the Iraqi Government and the Foreign Ministry to verify the situation.
Meanwhile, Labid Abawi, Iraqi Foreign Ministry under secretary, said: “The Foreign Ministry has not yet received information on this issue, and it is in the process of verifying it by way of contacts that it is holding with the US side. This move cannot be confirmed because, until now, it has been merely a report carried by the media, which cannot be relied on. Nevertheless, we are verifying the issue with the parties concerned.”
When asked what measures the Iraqi Foreign Ministry will take if these reports turn out to be true, Abawi told Asharq Al-Awsat: “First, we have to verify the move. If the move is confirmed, the Foreign Ministry will take measures to deal with it. However, since it has not been confirmed, no action can betaken.”
When Asharq Al-Awsat asked the US Embassy in Baghdad whether these reports are true, it just said: “We have no comment.”
The document, the authenticity of which has not been confirmed, did not contain any details about the US side’s agreement with the alleged group. Rather, it included mechanisms to organize negotiation sessions between the two parties.
The document, which is assumed to have been signed in the Turkish City of Istanbul on 6 March, indicates that the political council of the resistance and representatives of the US Government will agree to pass to the US side the names of 15 representatives who are political leaders and members of the negotiating team.
If the negotiating team members are arrested or suffer problems during their travel inside Iraq or when they leave Iraq, the Turkish Government will notify the US authorities, which will solve the problem. And if the negotiating team members are arrested by Iraqi forces inside Iraq, the US side and the Turks will exert efforts with the Iraqi Government to have them released.
The two sides also agreed to coordinate and define the negotiating team’s level of representation sometime before holding the meeting. They agreed that the venue of the negotiation sessions will be designated 10 days in advance and that the sessions will be held by no later than the end of June. The two sides also agreed that the Turkish side will act as a mediator and guarantor throughout the duration of the negotiations and that the “Iraqi resistance” has the right to ask for other guarantors.
For his part, Iraqi MP Hamid al-Malah for the Iraqi Coalition told Asharq Al-Awsat: “If the authenticity of these reports is verified, we will make a statement then.” He added: “In spite of the ambiguity that surrounds the details of the protocol and the parties that signed it, it has not been denied to date.”
Al-Malah, who is a leading figure in the [Shiite] Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council, led by Abdulaziz al-Hakim, emphasized: “The Iraqi Government must clarify what the protocol is and what the topics of the agenda of the negotiation sessions are. It must also clarify whether this is an attempt by the Americans to bring back terrorism to Iraq. And we are awaiting the government’s answers to these questions.”
Al-Malah said the information indicates that the Iraqi resistance council represents the group of Izzat al-Duri, deputy of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
He added: “They are a terrorist group, and some people believe that this is an attempt to disarm these groups and include them in the political process.”
In the past, Al-Duri prohibited the shedding of the Iraqi blood and called for halting the armed operations that target the Iraqis, even those who serve in the Army, police, and Iraqi Government, except in self-defense. The armed groups mostly target these personnel and accuse them of “treachery” and of working with the Americans.
Al-Malah said: “The political forces ask the parties concerned to take a clear stand in order to learn the effects of such a move, particularly because the Iraqi constitution is clear in its dealing with the armed groups.”
He added: “Besides, the political forces are unanimous on the need to put an end to foreign agendas’ interference in Iraqi domestic affairs and not allow these agendas and political money to change and distort the election results.”
He explained: “The reason is that the genuine way to engage in politics is the elections in accordance with the provisions of the electoral law on the qualifications of the candidates and voters and in accordance with the provisions of the constitution regarding the forces that are allowed to participate in the elections.”
Meanwhile, Muhammad Bashar al-Faydi, spokesman for the banned [Sunni] Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq, said that “the resistance” in Iraq has 100 factions and that only four of them formed “the political council of the Iraqi resistance.” He said that these factions are the Hamas of Iraq, the Islamic Army, the Islamic Front for the Iraqi Resistance– JAMI, and the Ansar al-Sunnah Shariaa Commission.”
He added that other parties and formations from the resistance, including 13 Iraqi resistance factions, authorized a while ago Sheikh Harith al-Dari, secretary general of the Association of Muslim Scholars, to speak for them on political issues.
In reply to a question whether the Association of Muslim Scholars engaged in dialogue with the US side to join the political process, Al-Faydi told Asharq Al-Awsat: “There has been no dialogue with the occupier. Currently, the talk is about the political council of the resistance, which is negotiating with the Americans.”
Asked if there were intentions to unify the resistance ranks and what the declared goals of the resistance are, Al-Faydi said: “In general, the goals of the resistance are to drive out the occupier, cancel the political process because it is conducted under the occupier’s sponsorship, and build a unified Iraq with political plurality while preserving the Iraqi identity.”
He added: “With regard to the unification of the resistance ranks, this cannot be done for security and political reasons because the factions from the north to the south operate separately and sometimes collectively. Their work and policies cannot be unified because there is resistance in every inch in Iraq.”
Asked whether the Baath and Al-Qaeda organizations are considered part of these factions, Al-Faydi said: “The Baathists have their jihad and liberation leadership, and they operate separately under this leadership. As for Al-Qaeda, it has global goals that have nothing to do with the resistance.”