AMMAN,(Reuters)-Saddam Hussein”s cousin Muzahem al-Majeed, who spent eight years in prison for opposing his relative, said on Friday U.S. officials must open talks with Sunni Muslim insurgents if they want a tranquil Iraq.
"There should be a dialogue with those leaders or those who represent them if they really want Iraq to stabilise," said Majeed, 39, freed from solitary confinement only after the collapse of Saddam”s regime after the U.S led invasion in 2003.
Majeed, deputy head of the broad-based National Salvation Front, a legal political group, told Reuters in Amman during a stop on his way to Iraq, that he was not surprised the Americans were failing to win over many Sunnis and facing a ferocious insurgency.
"The Americans marginalised acceptable figures in Iraq and went along with those who propagated lies before the occupation and who hold sectarian views," Majeed said.
U.S. officials have said most insurgents come from Saddam”s once-dominant Sunni minority, along with some militant foreign fighters led by al Qaeda”s leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
U.S. and Iraqi officials have recently said they were talking to tribal leaders, clerics and some groups linked to the Sunni insurgency, but deny any contact with Zarqawi.
Majeed echoes views of Sunni Arabs across Iraq who say U.S. postwar policy alienated them and who want the United States to have a dialogue with credible Sunni leaders.
Sunni Arabs, who make up around 20 percent of the population, have had to settle with minimal representation in parliament after many of them boycotted the January elections.
Any Sunni boycott of the constitutional process would damage government efforts to draw Sunnis into the political mainstream.
"This is a new Iraq, it”s not fair or right that this group or the other should be marginalised. They all have rights as Iraqis to participate," Majeed said.
"If the Americans continue to deal with the same people they rely on it will be like sitting and talking in front of a mirror. Had they sat with people with grassroots support in the Iraqi street they wouldn”t have fallen into this mess," he said.
"Unless the Americans learn the correct lessons from their mistakes, I fear a deterioration to an even worse situation", Majeed said.