Diyala is considered to be the most tense city in Iraq. Some say that the reason behind this tension is the city's location close to Iran, accused by the US of supporting al-Qaida and the Mahdi Army in the city. As tribes, how do you appraise these accusations especially after the recent detention of five Iranians in the city?
What I could say is that there are conflicts, fears and tensions between the two countries and they have been reflecting on our country, regardless of whether we wanted it or not. Diyala is the biggest looser in this conflict because it is located near the border with Iran, which is accused of supplying arms to insurgents, terrorists and Shi'ite groups. Iran knows well that the US administration will not miss a chance to launch a war against it when the opportunity allows such attack and Iran has the right to defend itself in one way or another.
With attacks targeting the shaykhs of Diyala, aren't you afraid that more tribal shaykhs who have declared war against al-Qaida will be killed? Aren't you afraid of being personally targeted, especially after the statements made by security sources confirming infiltrations in the police and army?
There is an organized effort to target tribal shaykhs and national conferences. The shaykh of the al-'Azza tribe has been recently killed; 8 tribal leaders who declared war against al-Qaida were kidnapped and later on released. This has been followed by the murder of six al-Ubaid shaykhs in the city of al-Khalis. I was targeted many times in more than one assassination attempts but I am absolutely not scared. I am making my efforts to unite tribal positions and to restore security and stability in Diyala. Al-Qaida has threatened to kill tribal shaykhs who support the Iraqi government and who declared war against it. But we try to provide ourselves with the protection needed. Regarding the infiltration of security apparatuses, such infiltration certainly exists in the security institutions of all Iraqi cities and not only in Diyala. I think that the political and sectarian conflict in the country has had its impact on the general circumstances of the country and we are afraid that security and military apparatuses will soon be transformed into institutions that take orders and instructions according to sectarian affiliation. If that happens, the political as well as the security crisis would profoundly deteriorate.
There are talks about a possibile of the emergence of a crisis between tribes after the latest assassinations. Some tribes accuse other tribes of being behind these acts. Does this imply that the person who launched the attack on the six shaykhs of the al-Ubaid tribe is a member of this tribe, given the fact that the tribal meeting in Diyala was held at the stronghold of al-Ubaid tribe?
I am certain that there will be no crisis between the tribes. There are massive security infiltrations in the military apparatus tasked to protect conferences. For example, what has happened to the al-Ubaid tribe differs from what has happened at Shafta mosque in Ba'quba, where a suicide bomber detonated his explosive belt at a national reconciliation gathering killing 37 government officials, members of the security and military apparatuses and tribal leaders. At the al-Ubaid conference, a boy, not yet eleven years old, was behind the terrorist attack. This provides enough evidence on the weakness and failure of al-Qaida. We believe that al-Qaida will seek to mobilize women suicide bombers instead of men. In this respect, religious scholars should take the right stances regarding the struggle of young people and women who are forbidden by God to join such a struggle.
If we look back at the "Operation Imposing Law", implemented by the US and Iraqi troops, what are the successes achieved by this operation especially seen against the background of the uninterrupted series of assassinations and unknown corpses?
One can say that the operation implemented by US and Iraqi troops has succeeded in many areas in Diyala despite the existence of some pockets of al-Qaida and the Islamic State of Iraq, and that is particularly true because before the Operation Imposing Law, Diyala and its neighborhoods has been transformed into a Qandahar-like place. Thousands of innocent people were killed because of their ethnicity and sectarian affiliation and hundreds of heads were thrown on the main roads, streets and garbage containers. Diyala would have become a city of death had it not been for the national conscious awakening. One year before the Anbar Awakening, a number of Sunni tribes rose in Diyala and threatened to launch a war against al-Qaida. The awakening declared by the martyr Shaykh Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha in al-Anbar came a year after the Diyala awakening and al-Qaida had lost its bases. This has led to the success of the operation declared by the Iraqi government in the city. Regarding ethnic cleansing campaigns, there are armed groups in Diyala, who fallaciously claimed their affiliation to the Sadr Movement and another group, who found themselves obliged to renounce any relations with al-Qaida while embracing its acts and these two groups are to be held responsible for the crimes being committed in the name of religion.
Do you agree with those who claim that the Maliki government had been too late in launching the security operation?
Yes, there has been a delay in launching the security operation and this delay has caused lots of suffering to the people of Ba'quba, especially as it gave time to al-Qaida leaders to escape to other areas and to hide in Iraqi cities such as Kirkuk and Mosul, which makes it possible for al-Qaida to return in the future. We have demanded from the responsible authorities to speed up the implementation of the security plan and it seems that the prime minister and the US leadership have preferred cleansing the capital city of Baghdad from al-Qaida activity and pushing it to Diyala to put a final end to its presence in Iraq.
Did this actually happen?
70% of the al-Qaida presence has been crushed but expelling the remainder depends largely on the unity and agreements to be reached between the Iraqi tribes in this regard.
An agreement has been reached between the Tamim tribe, which has a Shi'ite majority, and the Sunni Jabbur tribe. What is the purpose of this agreement?
We have agreed to expel al-Qaida from areas under the control of our tribes and we have signed a national charter with the presence of the governor, the commander of the US troops and leaders of Tamim and Jabbur tribes. The shaykhs of the tribes blessed this agreement and considered it as a step towards the unity of Sunnis and Shi'ites in the city and a clear and direct call to those tribes who are still ideologically connected to al-Qaida to return back to their national identity and to participate in the political process and the reconstruction of Diyala.
Was there a call to establish a Shi'ite awakening council?
I have stressed, in more than one occasion and event, the importance of abiding by the guiding principles of the Hawza represented by the Shi'ite cleric Ali al-Sistani, who is the source for Shi'ite decisions in Iraq. I have also welcomed the decision taken by Muqtada al-Sadr calling to freeze the Mahdi Army for six months. If the creation of a Shi'ite awakening council, with my reservation on the name, will lead to the success of the national reconciliation project and to security, we will uphold and support it.
You say you have your reservations on the name, why do you have these reservations?
It is because the Shi'ites in Iraq, having their religious leaders, do not need an awakening similar to that needed in al-Anbar, Diyala and Mosul and because Shi'ites are the most vulnerable to the crimes committed by al-Qaida and other terrorist and radical organizations. We would have opted to form a council to save the Shi'ites rather than a council for their awakening.