Sheikh Ali Hatem al-Suleiman is emir of the Dulaim tribe and leader of the Iraq National Salvation Front, the political front of Anbar province’s awakening movement. Niqash met with al-Suleiman and asked him about
Niqash: How are your preparations going for the provincial council elections?
Al-Suleiman: We have made all the necessary preparations for these elections. We will participate with great confidence of asserting our tribal weight. In our coalition we stress national unity; we have completely distanced ourselves from any Islamic or partisan forces that emerged out of the occupation and who contradict our tribal and Islamic values. Iraqis have a great deal of confidence in the national stance of this front which has challenged terrorism and sectarianism.
Niqash: Which parties do you think will win seats in Anbar province?
Al-Suleiman: There will be competition of course. The potential winners are tribal formations which have fought and defeated al-Qaeda, driving it out of Anbar and maintaining security and safety for the people. The Islamic Party which currently dominates jobs and institutions with the help of the US troops and some terrorist groups will not have the same chances because people now know the reality of this party.
Niqash: What about the demands of Anbar’s regular citizens - what can you offer them?
Al-Suleiman: Anbar’s citizens have suffered a great deal and they do not have many demands. They have very humble demands of the political groups and tribal coalitions. Anbar’s people need security, employment opportunities and better health and public services, and these last two are deteriorating. We have repeatedly heard about the financial allocations made to Anbar but we have not seen any completed projects; it is only propaganda and the people of Anbar are tired of promises.
Niqash: You have expressed fears of fraud during the up-coming elections. Why do you have such concerns?
Al-Suleiman: Of course there is a fear of fraud. Everybody knows how the Islamic Party in Anbar entered the last elections. There is no doubt that it will resort to twisted methods to obtain seats.
Niqash: Can you clarify further?
Al-Suleiman: The methods of the Islamic party are well-known. As it dominates the provincial council, it has already started to re-activate its work by distributing land to citizens. Since the party came to the province, it has attempted to control its resources and wealth. It has seized land through theft and illicit practices. As elections are approaching, it has started to return land to its rightful owners and it is attempting to infiltrate awakening supporters in order to gain their votes.
Niqash: How can there be fears of fraud when awakening troops will be present at all election centers?
Al-Suleiman: There are no more awakening troops. The government has completely taken over this file. The troops are now under the control of the Iraqi government and they take their orders only from the government. They are no longer related to the province. There are now political components in Anbar demanding that the government provide security and guarantee transparency and integrity during the electoral process.
Niqash: So, there are no more awakenings?
Al-Suleiman: Certainly not, the word awakening no longer exists. Awakening members have become part of the Iraqi government; they will be integrated into the state departments within carefully prepared laws and mechanisms. The government has taken into consideration the efforts of these members and expressed its commitment, on more than one occasion, to integrating them into its security forces. The government is in full control of the awakening file and all members of the awakenings. The number of fighters from Anbar province alone is around 30,000 and in the city of Baghdad 51,000 and this is a significant number.
Niqash: Do you aspire to participate in a future government if you achieve victory in the provincial elections?
Al-Suleiman: There is no intention to nominate ministers in the future. We did so when the Tawafuq Front withdrew from the government and it was only natural to nominate leaders to fill vacant seats. Now that that Tawafuq Front has returned to government, we have no desire to nominate ministers.