It is a country tipping on the brink of civil war, coupled with a catastrophic humanitarian and economic situation, and religious divisions that the incoming Iraqi prime minister will inherit along with the unity government which is supposed to formed as quickly as possible.
Haïdar Al-Abadi’s task will be complex, if not impossible. Many observers fear that the changes needed to reconcile all the different political forces will not be made. The current vice-president of parliament has had the backing of Kurdish ministers and the international community.
After eight years in power outgoing prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has morphed from a man of compromise into a man wholly defined by his faults. Iraq’s first democratically-elected PM did nothing to calm tensions, and alienated Iraq’s Sunnis.
Hoshyar Zebari became al-Maliki’s foreign minister in 2003, and he insists the job is still his, even following the withdrawal from government of the Kurdish ministers in July. His role in the next government remains to be decided.
To shed light on this subject euronews’ Daleen Hassan talked with the outgoing Iraqi Foreign Minister Mr Hoshyar Zebari: “Is the war against Islamic State to defend Kurdistan and the Kurdish areas, or is it a decision or stems from a unified decision with the new government to eradicate this extremist group?”
Hoshyar Zebari: “The war today is not only for defending Kurdistan and the Kurdish territory but is also a war for the defence of Iraq’s people and minorities. This war is for the defence of the whole region and humanity.”
euronews: “Kurdistan’s President Massoud Barzani said he repeatedly warned of the growth of extremist terrorist groups, and bearing in mind you have been foreign minister since 2003, why wait until the situation spun out of control?”
Hoshyar Zebari: “There are several reasons, namely the Syrian crisis which Islamic State has taken advantage of, the problems between Iraqi politicians , and also the Arab Sunnis who felt marginalised by government policies. These groups seized huge amounts of weapons and modern equipment and money. All these factors have not been properly appreciated by the intelligence services and Iraq’s leaders.”
euronews: “Why did President Obama decide to strike Islamic State when it approached Erbil, and not when they were at the gates of Baghdad?”
Hoshyar Zebari: “I think that opinions are clear about this case, it’s not just because there was a direct threat to American interests in Erbil, but there was a humanitarian emergency. The United States has provided significant assistance, including technical assistance, intelligence and armaments. The danger here in Erbil was huge, so it needed quick decisions and immediate action to stop the advance of Islamic State.”
euronews: “There are doubts and questions about the reality of the IS and who is supporting it. Hillary Clinton pointed out in her book that the United States may be involved because it did not confront IS in its infancy. How is the US going to deal with IS now?”
Hoshyar Zebari: “I do not agree with you, and I read the book. It’s not like this, perhaps it is a media interpretation?”
euronews: “But she pointed out that the failure of the US to fight IS since the beginning was a miscalculation by Washington, which led to the increase in the strength of the Islamic State.”
Hoshyar Zebari: “Well this is another topic, all the countries that supported the Syrian opposition and the Free Syrian Army and all the extremist militant groups in Syria fed the growth of the Islamic State phenomenon. Whoever it was helping IS, now things are out of control. Islamic State has very many modern weapons and a very sophisticated army. It is strong and self-financing, and has gone out of control.”
euronews: “There were political problems between Baghdad and Erbil over two important issues, namely the Peshmerga and oil. Do you expect that these problems will disappear with the new Abadi government?”
Hoshyar Zebari: “We will begin negotiations between Abadi and the Kurds.
Kurdistan formed a delegation to negotiate, and the reasons for what happened is that Peshmerga forces were outgunned by IS, and that was because of the government refusing to fund and support the Peshmerga. Concerning oil issues, the government must approve the new oil and gas law.”