Ahmad Al-Alwali, one of the most prominent organizers of the Anbar protests and an MP for the Mutahidoun bloc, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the popular coordination committees at the heart of the protests would “issue a statement within a couple of days identifying their position on events surrounding the dialogue.”
This would include a deadline for the talks, he added, “so that time does not remain open endlessly to a dialogue which does not guarantee a result.”
Thousands of Iraqis in the western province of Anbar—which is largely Sunni—have been protesting against the policies of the central government in Baghdad since 2012, accusing the government led by Shi’ite prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki of sectarian persecution.
However, the protesters have been divided over the issue of negotiating with Baghdad.
In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Alwali said “we do not want the protests which started 10 months ago to be used for any political or electoral bargaining, because it is a popular movement with demands which have not changed from the beginning and are not linked to stances against one personality or another.”
He said “the demands which are within the government’s remit have not been met and this will be limited to a time ceiling…As for matters related to parliament, the general amnesty law for instance has been presented a number of times for a vote but the State of Law [Coalition] keeps withdrawing and causing the voting process to fail.”
Responding to earlier comments by MP Izzat Shahbandar, a member of Maliki’s State of Law Coalition, Alwali told Asharq Al-Awsat that “these comments according to our understanding aim to cause confusion and create crisis and strife in the governorate.”
While Maliki denied in an official statement that he had authorized Shahbandar to hold talks on his behalf with former Deputy Prime Minister Rafi’a Al-Isawi, Shahbandar said in a telephone call to Asharq Al-Awsat that “I did not intend to hold talks with Isawi on behalf of Maliki and what I meant by my statement was that I passed on Maliki’s views in my personal capacity.”
He added that “the prime minister told me that he could not intervene in these two issues,” and added that “the expression ‘on behalf of Maliki’ in the statement was taken as if I was carrying out the task in an official capacity.”