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ViewPoint:Interviews
Interview
New Iraqi Islamic Party Leader Osama al-Tikriti
Hashimi's Resignation, and al-Maliki Being Behind Claims of IIP al-Qaeda Link
By DANIEL W. SMITH 06/02/2009 1:46 PM ET
Osama al-Tikriti
Photo: Daniel W. Smith
Osama al-Tikriti


Iraqslogger continues its series of in-depth interviews with people of note in the Iraqi scene. In the interest of better understanding, we try to give a bit more time than is allotted for most interviews, and not limit the topic to one newsworthy event or comment.
The Iraqi Islamic Party is one of the leading Sunni Arab-led parties in Iraq. One of its prominent members, Ayad al-Samarraie, has proved to be something of a maverick since taking the helm as the new speaker of parliament.

Recently though, interrogations of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the man who the Iraqi government claims is the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq (an al-Qaeda in Iraq coalition, for lack of a better term), linked the IIP to the insurgent group.

Shortly afterward, a surprise announcement was made that Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi had resigned as the Secretary General of the IIP, and that founding member Dr. Osama al-Tikriti had been voted in by the party’s council. Ayad al-Samarraie was elected as the Deputy Secretary General.

Many career politicians can appear bored, or to be 'going through the motions' in an interview, but Al-Tikriti seems instead to be energized by discussion on a range of issues. He spoke to us at the IIP office in the parliament building.
IRAQSLOGGER:
First of all, congratulations on being elected to the Secretary General position.

OSAMA AL-TIKRITI
Thank you very much.

IRAQSLOGGER:
What is your first order of business as leader of the IIP?

OSAMA AL-TIKRITI
The first thing we are planning is to organize our inner house – the Islamic Party itself. The second thing is to rebuild the relationship with other blocs in the parliament that have been damaged in the past. Also one of the main goals is to build a better relationship between the parliament and the executive branch.

IRAQSLOGGER:
There has been speculation as to why al-Hashimi resigned, or at least why his resignation was accepted at this time. Can you speak to this?

OSAMA AL-TIKRITI
According to our inner rules, any member who obtains a high position in the government should not be in the secretary general position. This was so he could have more time to do his work.

IRAQSLOGGER:
But, Vice President al-Hashimi has been vice president for over three years.

OSAMA AL-TIKRITI
He actually tried to resign a few other times, but the situation never allowed us to accept the resignation.

IRAQSLOGGER:
What has changed? Again, why now?

OSAMA AL-TIKRITI
The situation is much better than before. We now can have leadership that has time to lead the party, as well as giving al-Hashimi himself time to do his job as vice president. Before there was no one available to fill the position, but now there is.

IRAQSLOGGER:
What do you think the biggest change in the leadership now will be, in regards to your style of leadership?

OSAMA AL-TIKRITI
I am an original founder of the Islamic Party, when we established it in 1992 in the UK. I have a history of relationships with leaders from other parties, which will allow us to have a better connection with them.

IRAQSLOGGER:
Does this mean that Vice President al-Hashimi prevented this?

OSAMA AL-TIKRITI
(laughs) No, it is only a matter of him not having time to meet with all the leaders enough. When you hold this position for three years, you find yourself in confrontation with others sometimes. Therefore, we start fresh with everybody.

IRAQSLOGGER:
A recent issue that has dominated news about the IIP has been claimed links of the party to terrorism, released by Gen. Qassim Atta. There have been public denials of these charges by the IIP, saying that the information was false and, in fact, fabricated. Could you tell us why you think the government would fabricate such evidence?

OSAMA AL-TIKRITI
After Ayad al-Samarraie was elected as speaker of the parliament, there started a conflict between the parliament and the government (executive branch) because the parliament is now very active. After parliament announced that it would question the Trade Minister, the government started to find any weak points in the Islamic Party, for revenge, or to minimize the influence of parliament.

The accusations themselves are ridiculous. The Islamic Party’s members were actually victims of al-Qaeda, and the leaders have been targeted. I, myself, and the other four leaders are on the list of al-Qaeda to be killed – to be beheaded by Omar al-Baghdadi. He said “I will give a big reward to anybody who gives me the head of those people.” So, in fact, it is silly.

But, anyway, we are trying to quickly improve relations with all parties. Just one hour ago, the leaders of al-Dawa were here to say that they would like to open a new page in our relations. This should continue, because in the days of opposition, outside of Iraq (during the rule of Saddam Hussein, when many of today’s Iraqi parties were developed while its leaders were in exile), we were in one boat, and we acted together. So, they said, “We would like to come back into the previous relationship, to go back and act together strongly.” We can do that.

IRAQSLOGGER:
Would you say then that you feel the accusations are not representative of the Dawa leadership in general, and that al-Maliki himself bears more responsibility for the attacks upon the IIP?

OSAMA AL-TIKRITI
Al-Maliki himself feels that he was wounded because he said that al-Samarraie should not get the speaker position. The, when he lost the battle, he tried to do something to press on us, to make pressure. The speaker would like to prove that he will be active. The parliament brought the Trade Minister in to be questioned, but this did not happen before. Al-Mashhadani would totally ignore requests to fight corruption. Now, this will affect the position of the prime minister, and he understands it as a message to him, that the speaker is saying, “I will go forward to bring some of your people before parliament for questioning.” We want him to understand that it is not this. We want the parliament to be active, but it is in cooperation with the prime minister, not in confrontation.

IRAQSLOGGER:
Do you think that it was a message from al-Maliki that was intended to affect the questioning of the ministers brought before parliament?

OSAMA AL-TIKRITI
Definitely. The prime minister would like to stop this story of questioning the ministers.

IRAQSLOGGER:
Why?

OSAMA AL-TIKRITI
Because every minister belongs to a front (coalition) or a party, and anyone who is questioned will make worry for his front or his party. In fact, the minister is a victim as well, probably, because when he did what he did – the corruption – the root of it might have been connected to his party. So, no party would want its minister to be questioned. This is one point.

The second point, really, is that al-Maliki feels that if this continues to go on, it will make a lack of confidence between the population and the government. Like, they would think, “What sort of government do we have if all our ministers are stealing, and all are corrupted?” It is something which we understand, therefore I would not like the story to go forward to the point where there is a negative affect on all the government and all the parties.

I told the speaker that it is fine to go forward, but it must be a bit easy – that a minister can come before a committee instead of the parliament and be in the public, especially when it is not a big story or very strong charges. So we will try to compromise, because we have other jobs that are very important, such as the laws which have not been passed yet, the needs of the stabilization of society.

IRAQSLOGGER:
When the Dawa leadership was here earlier today, is this something that they were pushing for?

OSAMA AL-TIKRITI
No. They didn’t say anything about that. It was only a visit of friendship.

IRAQSLOGGER:
Is there anything else you would like to say to the world in general, or to the Western world, in particular?

OSAMA AL-TIKRITI
We would like people to understand that, even though we are called the Islamic Party, they shouldn’t be sensitive to this name. They shouldn’t connect us with other Islamic parties that are behaving in very different ways. They should understand that we were started in order to build this country. We are victims of the terrorism, and we can’t accept these things to happen. We are fighting to finish this terrorism in Iraq and to build the country up to a high standard – this is our aim.


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