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Iraq: Interior Minister Discuses Security Issues | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani said that the terrorist attacks, which were carried out in the Al-Azamiyah Neighborhood of Al-Rasafah in Baghdad last week and in the Al-Mansur Neighborhood of Al-Karkh two days ago, were “attempts by terrorists to prove their presence.”

He added: “Whenever the Iraqi security agencies defeat and tighten the grip on them, the terrorists carry out criminal actions against security agency personnel and civilians.” He noted that these attacks are “a natural result of the situation in Iraq, given the imminent withdrawal of the US forces and the delay in forming a government.”

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat from Baghdad by telephone, Al-Bulani said: “The latest two operations in Al-Azamiyah and Al-Mansur were part of the terrorists’ attempts to impede the US forces’ withdrawal plans.”

He added: “These attacks came after our security agencies carried out qualitative operations based on intelligence plans against terrorists. Leading terrorists in the so-called Islamic State of Iraq were arrested during these operations, and the investigation of these leading figures helped us dismantle terrorist cells and arrest many of their members.”

The Iraqi interior minister said: “The terrorists thought that withdrawal of the US forces and the delay in the efforts to form a government would serve as an opportunity for them to undermine the security situation that recently stabilized.” He added: “The delay in the efforts to form a government will have many consequences that will lead to limited terrorist operations.”

Al-Bulani, leader of the Iraqi Unity Alliance bloc, which consists of Iraqi politicians, Sunni and Shiite Arabs, Kurds, and non-Muslims, said: “A speedy action to form a government will be an important factor in deterring terrorism and organized crime in Iraq.” He noted: “Security stability does not mean only security agencies, training, and equipment. Rather, it is associated with the general political and economic situation and services in Iraq.”

Al-Bulani explained: “Formation of a new government will reinforce security capabilities a great deal and help stabilize the situation in the country because every new government seeks to assert its capabilities and presence.”

He said: “Besides, the formation of a government means that there is a powerful parliament, a presidency of the republic, and firmly established institutions. This situation will make the citizens feel stability and will send a powerful message to the terrorists indicating that there is a powerful state that can deter them.”

He added: “Formation of a government also means a stable Iraqi economy, investments, and jobs for the unemployed. These large numbers of the unemployed, the citizens’ sense of hopelessness and need, and absence of services are all favorable circumstances for the terrorists and for the growth of the gangs of organized crime.”

He continued: “On the opposite side, improvement of the political and economic situation and services will create a large number of jobs for the unemployed and will make people respect the law. Therefore, we believe that the next government’s battle will be development and assertion of the need for development and construction projects, which require sincere efforts by devoted competent Iraqis.”

Asked to what extent the US forces’ withdrawal will affect the security situation in Iraq, Al-Bulani said: “The US forces’ withdrawal will take place according to a definitive timetable under the Iraqi-US security agreement, and the aim behind the latest terrorist attacks was to confuse these plans.”

He added: “The US forces will withdraw according to plan, and I am not absolutely sure that their withdrawal will have no effect on the security situation. This is because the terrorists will take advantage of these circumstances and of the delay in the formation of a government in order to find a way to attack security agency personnel and kill civilians. However, our plans that are based on reliable intelligence information face and confront the terrorists’ plots.”

Commenting on the Iraqi security agencies’ preparedness to fill the vacuum that will be left by the US forces, Al-Bulani said: “The US forces withdrew from the streets of Iraqi cities long ago, and their task now is support and planning. When the US forces commander asserts that the Iraqi security and military forces are ready, we consider his statement a testimony that our security agencies and forces enjoy field experiences that enable them to impose security and confront the terrorists and gangs of organized crime.”

The Iraqi interior minister said: “If we go back to the terrorist attacks that were carried out during the years 2006 and 2007, we will find that 200 attacks were carried out and that 25-30 of them had an impact, while around 15 terrorist attacks were carried out this year and only three of them had an impact.”

He added: “I am talking about attacks in Iraq as a whole, not only in Baghdad. The reason behind this decrease in the number of terrorist attacks is the training that the personnel of our security forces receive and these forces’ high-level professionalism. Yet, we will need the remaining US forces’ efforts for the purposes of training and consultation. Besides, our forces need equipment and advanced armament, and this is contingent on the formation of a new government.”

Al-Bulani praised the level of security cooperation with some of the states that neighbor Iraq, “especially Saudi Arabia with which there is security coordination on the exchange of information and criminal cases.”

He said: “Our battle against terrorism is a joint one, and stability of the security situation in Iraq is important to the neighboring states, especially Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia too suffers from the problem of terror and terrorists. God willing, we will agree on joint formulas to eliminate terrorism, as Iraq is an important state to the region and to security in the neighboring states.”

With regard to the Iranian interference in Iraqi internal affairs, Al-Bulani said: “We are able to confront any foreign interference in the security situation. However, what is required is political immunity and prevention of interference in political issues, particularly in the formation of a government. We are confident that our politicians are able to take decisions in a high national spirit.”

Al-Bulani called for the need to expedite the efforts to form a government because this will create a sense of trust between the political regime and the people who made sacrifices and behaved in a high spirit during the elections.

He said: “The security agencies too made sacrifices and created a favorable climate to hold successful elections. The need for a peaceful rotation of power must be asserted. Failing that, the citizens will have no confidence in any political regime and, therefore, will not turn up to vote in coming elections.”