President's Chief of Staff: Kurds Cannot Decide to Replace Maliki Alone

15/05/2012 07:25:00RUDAW EXCLUSIVE

Kurdistan Region's presidential chief of staff Fuad Hussein. Photo Rudaw.

Fuad Hussein, chief of staff to Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani, sat down with Rudaw to discuss some of the high-stake issues currently facing the region, including the mounting tensions between Erbil and Baghdad, the possibility of withdrawing confidence from Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Maliki along with his recent visit to Kirkuk, and the future of a Kurdish state.

Rudaw: Since 2003, tensions between Baghdad and Erbil, especially with Prime Minister Nuri Maliki, have never been as high as they are now. Do the Kurds have an alternative to current Prime Minister Nuri Maliki?Fuad Hussein: The alternative should be a democratic system and power-sharing. If you say the alternative to Maliki is Maliki himself, it means there is no one else in the country except Maliki. If the country has an organized system, there should be an alternative for everyone. But if the country has a dictatorship, the alternative to a dictator is only a dictator. The Kurds donít have an alternative to Maliki. Parliament must finalize this matter. The Kurds cannot make the decision to replace the prime minister alone.Rudaw: Does the Kurdish leadership demand replacing Maliki?
ďIf the country has a dictatorship, the alternative to a dictator is only a dictator.Ē
Fuad Hussein: Maliki was given a 15-day ultimatum at the Erbil meeting between some key Iraqi leaders. He must respond after 15 days. The demands were given to Maliki in a letter from Muqtada Sadrís representative. Maliki must change his policy or he will be replaced. The message to Maliki is that if he can change his policy, he is welcome to do so; otherwise, he will be changed. Both initiatives must be performed through a democratic system. Maliki reacted strongly to the letter. It seems he wonít accept the demands in the letter, which means its contents must be implemented by the five key leaders who addressed the letter to Maliki. Rudaw: Was the 15-day ultimatum suggested by Iran or Muqtada Sadr?Fuad Hussein: It is not good to believe all decisions are made outside Iraq. Five key Iraqi leaders participated in the meeting and discussed all the details, so the suggestion was a national suggestion.Rudaw: In the next few days, the 15-day ultimatum will be over. What will be the next step?Fuad Hussein: If Maliki does not respond positively, parliament will make a decision, which was one of the points in the letter. I donít know what the following step will be. The Erbil meeting must be followed up with more meetings to decide what the next step should be. The five key leaders asked Maliki to abide by the constitution, the Erbil Agreement and the agreements between Iraqís political parties. If he does not, the only solution is to return to parliament. I believe the leaders who addressed the letter to Maliki should meet again to discuss his response and what should be done next. Rudaw: When the second meeting between the five leaders is held, will it be in Erbil again?Fuad Hussein: I donít know when the meeting will be held but they must expand it and invite more leaders to participate. Anyway, the next meeting must be held. The issues must be resolved. There are currently intense discussions and ideas being exchanged between Iraqís leaders on this issue and what should be done next if Maliki does not respond. They are discussing whether to meet again, the agenda of the meeting and where the meeting should be held. There have also been discussions among Kurdish leaders regarding these issues. The copy of the letter was also given to all the Kurdistan Regionís political leaders. Rudaw: What will the next meeting be about?
ďKurds were able to form a large coalition against Maliki. Ē
Fuad Hussein: If the meeting happens, the first question to be discussed would be what should be done if Maliki ignores the letter. The next step will be in accordance with the constitution and that means letting parliament make the final decision. However, political leaders must have a clear policy regarding what needs to be done if confidence is withdrawn from Maliki and what should be done if we cannot take this action before we return to parliament.Rudaw: Will Maliki remaining in his post mean that the Kurdish attempt has failed?Fuad Hussein: It is too early to say Maliki will remain in his post. Maliki might be replaced. I believe it is not a failure for the Kurds any way it turns out because the Kurds were able to form a large coalition against Maliki. The truth is, Maliki is now isolated and alone. So he has two options: to change his policy or be changed. It is the Kurds that are now on the strong side, not Maliki.Rudaw: When Maliki visited Kirkuk, Kurdish ministers didnít attend the Council of Ministers meeting there. However, the governor welcomed him. Were you aware of this?Fuad Hussein: The governor and provincial council are in Kirkuk. Prime Minister Maliki visited Kirkuk -- it would not be reasonable for them to not attend his meeting. The governor attended the meeting at the Iraqi president and KRG presidentís request. He was also told by the KRG prime minister to attend the meeting. The governor didnít decide independently. The truth is, the Kirkuk governor is always committed to the KRGís decisions. It would not be fair to say he acted independently. Maliki didnít lead the meeting as a prime minister, but as an Arab nationalist. His words in the meeting have deepened the issues in Kirkuk. To this day, Maliki is the prime minister and has the right to visit every Iraqi city. By not attending Malikiís meeting, the Kurdish deputy prime minister and ministers sent a strong message to him that the Kurds are united, including the KDP, PUK and IUK that have ministers in Malikiís government. If the Kurdish leadership had said so, the governor wouldnít have attended either. Rudaw: It is said that Malikiís visit to Kirkuk was agreed to by a Kurdish political party. Is this true?Fuad Hussein: It is not true. Malikiís visit was important. But his speech and the timing were questionable. It was a sensitive time. His visit was offensive as was his speech. The goal of the visit was, first of all, to show off his military power, then to create problems between Kurds and Arabs and between the KDP and PUK, and finally to create problems between the Kurdistan Alliance and Iraqiya bloc. Maliki didnít reach his goals.
ďTo this day, Maliki is the prime minister and has the right to visit every Iraqi city.Ē