Sheikh Majid Abdul Razzaq Al-Ali Suleiman, head chief of the Sunni tribal confederation of Dulaim in western Iraq, regarded the political process in Iraq as a “failure,” because it is based on sectarian quotas, instead of the intricate social Iraqi fabric, he told the pan-Arab Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper Thursday in an interview at Amman. Sheikh Suleiman stressed the role of Iraqi tribal leaders to put an end to the sectarian bloodshed in the country, especially since major Iraqi tribes often transcend the Sunni-Shia sectarian divide, but he also said he would not participate in the political process without an end to sectarianism. “Sectarianism is a huge blunder, but the major disaster is the blatant Iranian meddling in Iraqi affairs and to destroy all that is Iraqi,” he said.
In regard to Al-Qaeda and recent tribal efforts in the Anbar governorate to eliminate their presence, Sheikh Suleiman acknowledged that Al-Qaeda militants mainly target Iraqis instead of Americans. “Al-Qaeda is a cancer in our country,” he said, “but there is also an honorable resistance that is confronting the intrusion of Iran and Al-Qaeda in the country, although we have recently received dangerous information that Iran is backing some militants affiliated with Al-Qaeda.” Sheikh Suleiman added that his tribesmen have taken upon themselves to root out Al-Qaeda militants from their territory after they realized that Al-Qaeda is targeting all Iraqis without discrimination. “We saw car bombs attacking everyone, from students to religious clerics, hospitals and children playgrounds. This is not resistance,” he said.
Sheikh Suleiman had strong criticisms for the U.S. military in the Anbar governorate. “In the past we used to capture Al-Qaeda militants and hand them over to Americans, but within two weeks we would see them free again,” he said. “Now, we deal with those we capture.”
Sheikh Suleiman had fled Iraq to the Jordanian capital in 2005 after he survived three assassination attempts in Iraq. He visited again last summer to participate in the national reconciliation conference in Baghdad, where he called on the Iraqi government to reverse de-Ba’athification laws and to invite former army officers to rejoin the Iraqi army in order for reconciliation to succeed. Sheikh Suleiman also openly endorsed former PM Ayad Allawi’s National Iraqi List. When asked he said, “The National Iraqi List is non-sectarian, and any Iraqi from north to south can belong to it. That is why we support it.”
Sheikh Suleiman confirmed that he maintains channels of communication with the U.S. “They want a way out, and we want a way out,” he said. “Americans are good listeners, but they are bad deciders.” On a possible withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, Sheikh Suleiman said, “ We demand U.S. forces to expel the Iranian invaders first before they leave. The Americans cannot leave while the Iranian occupiers remain.”
Independent Kurdish politician MP Mahmoud Othman strongly criticized the unannounced visit of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney to Baghdad Wednesday, describing it as “silly.” In an interview with the UAE’s Al-Khaleej newspaper, Othman accused the U.S. government of disrespecting the sovereignty of the Iraqi government. “Iraq was not on his schedule of countries to visit, but suddenly we see Cheney in the Green Zone,” he said. Cheney’s visit to Baghdad on Wednesday was the first since November 23, when he made a regional tour, including visits to Saudi Arabia and Jordan. “We are tired of these unannounced visits of U.S. officials for the last four years. There is no justification for this manner of visits. If it was because of the security situation, then it sends a message that security improvements in Iraq are not real,” Othman said.
The Islamic State of Iraq, an Al-Qaeda-affiliated Sunni insurgent group, has published a video clip on the Internet showing the killing of nine abducted Iraqi army and police officers. Masked gunmen appeared in the video shooting each of the nine blindfolded and handcuffed men in the head. In an earlier video, the group had demanded from the Iraqi government to turn over Iraqi officers accused of raping a Sunni woman in Baghdad within 72 hours. The authenticity of the video could not be confirmed by an independent source.
In Basrah, southern Iraq, residents of the Baradha’iya district, adjacent to Saddam’s former palace compound, which houses the British consulate and a small military base, protested on Wednesday in demand for an end to daily mortar and rocket attacks against their neighborhood, targeting the British base, southeast of the city, Al-Shaheed Organization reported. The attacks are suspected to be carried out by Mahdi Army militiamen, according to residents. Demonstrators carried mock coffins and banners reading, “God’s mercy on Basrah” and “Recite the Fatiha for the soul of Basrah.” The consulate and the Basrah International Airport are the two remaining British military bases in Basrah, and the consulate is expected to be handed over to Iraqi security forces in the summer, according to a British military spokesman.