The Kurdish Globe
Interview by Hawdeng Farouq
Globe: When will President Barzani visit Russia?
Hussein: When a Russian Minister visited here, he officially invited Mr. President. However, till now there is no specific schedule for the visit, but it will be made during the current year.
Globe: If the visit takes place, on what level it will be and for which purpose?
Hussein: I think it is too early to talk about the level, but the issue of Russia is clear, as it is the replacer of the Soviet Union and has a history with the Kurdish nation, the Barzani family and the Mahabad Republic's Peshmerga's, especially when they went to Russia and all of which are part of the history. Moreover there is a history between Russia, the old Soviet Union and Kurdish movement, and there are currently a large number of Kurds in Russia. I believe the Kurdish-Russian relations should have been established earlier but it is still important to establish this relation.
Globe: Russia has an extensive experience in oil and gas. Is the Kurdistan Region ready to give license to any of the large Russian companies to invest their capital in this sector?
Hussein: Our oil and gas policy is an open one, by which the world's companies come and they are allowed to get into contracts with the KRG. And one of them is Russia with experience in this field and has its own companies. It also has state owned companies. Besides Russia is one of the world's large oil and gas producers. Hence our ties in this aspect with Russia are important. Additionally, if a Russian company comes to participate in the exploration activities in Kurdistan, this is very important for us, like any other countries that come to Kurdistan. I believe if they come it will be a good thing.
Globe: A recent news report published in the Sahrq ul Awsat Newspaper states that Maliki has sent a letter to Obama in which he warns that if Exxon Mobil's contract with the KRG is not canceled, a war might break out. What is your comment?
Hussein: I don't know if this message is sent or not, or it is a verbal or written message. Anyway, if they or Maliki think that a contract with Exxon Mobil results in a civil war, they are wrong, because what has been done is according to the constitution and the Kurdistan Region's Oil and Gas Law. These giant companies have their own legal advisors and work in accordance with the constitution. If they realized that something is against the constitution they would not come here at the first place. But the thing that brings about war is dictatorship and behaving in a dictator's way. The Iraqi government has a contract with Exxon Mobil as well. Then what brings about war is what denies others, rights and disregards the constitution, or if you give a promise and do not respect it. This has always been present in the history of Iraq. If you look at the old and contemporary history you will realize that.
Globe: Is there a decision that the Iraqi leaders would meet at the parliament about summoning Maliki for the purpose of withdrawing support from his cabinet?
Hussein: There is an effort, but I don't know the time, because the parliament starts its sessions on Thursday. This meeting will not take place until after the parliament session. But in my opinion it is important that after the parliament resumes its sessions, a meeting be held among the three powers that are now together, i.e. Al Iraqiya Bloc, Sadr Movement and the Kurdistani Alliance Bloc.
Globe: All the three groups you mentioned are still in the committees and are determined to withdraw support from Maliki?
Hussein: Yes they are determined to withdraw support from Maliki.
Globe: You visited Nawshirwan Mustafa, Ali Bapir and Mohammed Faraj. What message did you have for them from President Barzani or the Region's Presidency?
Hussein: I have visited these gentlemen several times, and my last visit was following the Dokan visit in the presence of His Excellency the [Iraqi] President. 30 to 40 people from the Sadr Movement and Al Iraqi Block were present. Immediately after the Dokan visit I visited His Excellency Mr. Nawshirwan Mustafa and had a long meeting with him. I briefed him about the Dokan meeting. We also talked about the idea that there is an agreement to withdraw support from Maliki and that there is an effort to collect signatures against him to be submitted to the President, and then the President writes his letter to the parliament. After that and when I returned I visited the Excellency's Mohammed Faraj and Ali Bapir. Additionally I visited Mr. Hama Haji Mahmoud and discussed the same issue with them as well.
Globe: What was Mr. Nawshirwan's comment on your efforts in that respect?
Hussein: He had a number of questions. For the signature collection issue he said that they would do investigations and get back to me.
Globe: To what extent are you confident that the Gorran Movement parliament members will vote for the withdrawal of support from Maliki?
Hussein: I believe that the Kurdish representatives in Baghdad will reach an agreement and have one stance.
Globe: Rumors say that Maliki has sent a letter to His Excellency Jalal Talabani in which he requested to arrange a meeting and keep part of the promises. Is that true?
Hussein: I am not aware of the message that is come through His Excellency Mr. Talabani, but what I know is that Maliki keeps sending messages through many people and channels stating that he is willing to implement his promises, or meet with the Region's President, but I don't think that there is any meeting between Kurdistan's President and Maliki.
Globe: Has he also asked to visit the Kurdish President?
Hussein: No, I haven't heard that.
Globe: If he comes, is the President ready to meet him?
Hussein: This is a possibility, but he hasn't requested to come and visit the Region.
Globe: If for any reason Maliki stays in his post, what will happen with the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad in the next year?
Hussein: What is currently being worked for is that Maliki should not stay in his post. When you talk about summoning to the parliament and collecting signatures against him, it means you don't want him to stay.
Globe: But changes happen continuously in politics?
Hussein: So, when changes happen, we can answer this question.
Globe: Whether Maliki stays or not, do you think that electionns will be held in June 2013?
Hussein: In my opinion if Maliki stays the election is not held, and even if it does, Maliki does not do that till the higher Electoral Commission is re-elected in a way that guarantees that he will be re-elected as Prime Minister. The election he wants is the election of "Maliki".
Globe: In the previous election, a media war erupted among the Kurdish parties, and in the parliamentary election in Kirkuk they ran separately. Do you think they have learned a lesson from that so that the coming election is held in a more peaceful way?
Hussein: I wish that when something happens; we learn a lesson from it. In the last election there were two issues, first the election law, which is a big threat for us and we definitely need to change this law, which is one of the pints that we have agreed upon with Maliki, the State of the Law, National Alliance and with every Iraqi, who are with this amendment. The law should become one circle, the circle of Iraq. This is one point, which the Kurdistan's political groups should work for. The second point is that we need to be together for the whole country. The experience of running separately in Kirkuk hurt us a lot.
Globe: A while ago a letter was sent to Kurdistan Region's President, Iraqi President and the Sadr movement. Then Moqtada Sadr visited Iran. Although, it was planned that Nechirvan Barzani and Mala Bakhtiyar also visit Iran, the plan was canceled. Why did the Region's Presidency cancel this plan?
Hussein: The delegation that was supposed to visit Iran was supposed to headed by the Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and attended by Mala Bakhtiyar and Dr. Najmaddin Karim from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and Fazil Miran and Azad Barwari from the Kurdistan Democratic Party, as well as myself representing the Kurdistan Region's Presidency. However this visit should have been made after the letter that was supposed to be written by the Iraqi President for the withdrawal of support from Maliki, and since this letter was not written, the visit did not take place.
Globe: What has Iran requested from the Kurdish leadership about the Maliki issue?
Hussein: It is not only about the Kurdish leaders, but Iran is in principle with the stay of Maliki. They want Maliki to be given a second chance to start the reforms and implement the agreements he has signed. So, Iran is with the idea of giving another chance to Maliki to prove himself and implement the tasks.
Globe: But has Iran asked to give the chance to Maliki on a temporary basis?
Hussein: I don't know. But there have been talks about allowing some time for implementing the reforms.
Globe: It is reported that the U.S. is neutral in this crisis. Is that correct?
Hussein: Yes, the U.S. has announced neutrality, because the U.S. does not like the existence of a problem in Iraq, and this is not related to Iraq, but to the U.S. elections, because if something happens in Iraq it will become a topic in the American media, and if something goes wrong in Iraq, the Republicans can use it against Obama.
The priority for the Americans is that there is stability in everywhere, so as to allow them to do what they want in the election, which is expected to be held in November. Moreover, they are afraid that if a problem occurs in Iraq, oil prices would increase, and in return exports will fall and fuel prices will increase in the U.S. And these fuel price fluctuations have a lot of impact on the election and people's votes. Hence they want to have stability and peace, continuous oil supply, stability of fuel prices till the time of election. So when the U.S. talks about Iraq, it talks from its own interest perspective, and even if a power transfer occurs in peace, they have no problem.
Globe: What else can be read from the U.S. stance behind the curtains?
Hussein: Only oil and stability, nothing else.
Globe: There was a report that Joe Biden will come to Iraq. Do you have any idea about this visit?
Hussein: No, this is far from reality. But Tony Blinken, the advisor for national security policy for Biden, came to Baghdad to meet President Barzani. He was trying to find a solution for the problems and he was saying: "Kurds are always our friends, and we in the U.S. are friends of Kurds. Whatever option is within the framework of the constitution and is democratic we cannot be against it, and what you have done is according to the constitutional framework.?
Globe: Did they have any concerns about Maliki or you?
Hussein: They know who Maliki is and who we are, you can ask them.
Globe: When Iran has Hakim and other parties, what has Maliki done that Iran supports him?
Hussein: This is not true that Iran has His Excellency Mr. Hakim and other parties, because these are political figures and parties and have their own policies. But why Iran wants Maliki at this stage; this should be addressed to Iran, because everyone has his own idea. But this is a question that is addressed to the Iranians.
We as Kurds are in Iraq and there exists a crisis in Iraq, the problem is not tolerable. Till now there has not been electricity; half of Baghdad does not have water. It is an unsuccessful government. Man should ask himself whether this is a failed government or not. How many projects it has implemented and what he has done for the people. Where is the power connection project? Where are the other projects? No project has been implemented. If you ask the residents of Baghdad you will see that they are living in hell. In addition to all of these the stability issue. All the dossiers are under his control. No one can do anything without him. No budget is released without his knowledge. He has put a ministry in his office for each ministry. Even when he says that all the ministries are not under his control, and some of the service ministries are under Sadrist or Kurdish control, but all the security ministries are under his own control, but a few days ago, there were explosions in 30 different places. If he feels responsible he needs to explain to the media and tell them: Sorry I did not succeed. I don't have any connection with the international policy. If one thinks as an Iraqi citizen, he should ask what will happen and where all this money and budget goes.
Globe: you have claimed that you have documents and proofs against Maliki. Are there any surprises for the day when support is withdrawn from Maliki?
Hussein: You know, in a democratic system if two allies did not agree in working together, one should say goodbye, we cannot agree. Second, the Prime Minister does not want to work with anyone. Forget about Kurds, but what about Al Iraqiya or Sadr. If you investigate about this person, you will see that he makes the decisions and he implements himself. His government is under the control of his office and the army is under his own control.
Globe: There is some doubt that this effort might not succeed inside the parliament. Are you confident and do you have sufficient votes ready?
Hussein: I don't know this. The parliament makes this decision. I don't know either how people will behave inside the parliament. But what I know from the signatures of the MPs, which is with me, there are currently 174 signatures, two of which are still on the way. So I already have 172 signatures. This is without the signatures of Gorran and a Christian group. But if they change their mind when they enter the parliament hall, that is a different story, but they have signed in person.
Globe: Why did Ashti Hawrami visit Nawshirwan Mustafa?
Hussein: Ask Mr. Ashti. His visit was because till now Iraq's oil policy is unclear. The oil issue is very complicated. Financial issues as well. Oil and oil policy should be explained to the politicians on a daily basis. Mr. Nawshirwan is also a political leader, the leader of a political movement. Gorran people have a lot of criticism towards the Natural Resources Minister. I think he went there to explain these issues.
Globe: Why is there a lot of criticism against his ministry and some claim that his ministry is inside his black suitcase and is not transparent, Why is this ministry and minister not clear to the people?
Hussein: you need to address this question to those who think this way, and the answer should be with Mr. Ashti not me. But the oil issue has started from the late 1920s when oil was discovered in this country in Khanaqeen and Kirkuk, and it is clear that this has always created problems for us and resulted in the oppression of Kurds. During the Baathist regime there was a secret oil policy, and till the fall of this regime companies did not come to Kurdistan and we did not know that we are so rich in oil.
Globe: Who proposed the idea of withdrawing support from Maliki?
Hussein: In fact here was a common belief about this issue. The direction of the meetings went in this way to create a common belief in this respect.
Globe: It is being reported that President Barzani has asked President Talabani during the Erbil meeting not to sign the letter about withdrawing support from Maliki?
Hussein: When this letter was drafted President Talabani said that as a President he is neutral. But President Barzani said that since Talabani is the President, let him not sign it, and President Barzani signed the letter representing the Kurdistani Alliance.
The meeting was more of the political parties rather than official posts, because Moqtada Sadr is a political leader does not have an official post in the state, but still it was true that President Barzani said this to President Talabani.