Today, the existence of Iraq as a state is threatened. On one hand, there is the risk of division; on the other, there is the threat of terrorism and the control exercised by foreign countries.
To talk about the challenges Iraq currently faces, Euronews journalist Aissa Boukanoun met with the President of the Republic of Iraq, Dr Muhammad Fuad Masum.
Aissa Boukanoun, Euronews: “Mr President, you have lived in Great Britain, how did you utilise this democratic experience and how do you apply this to the situation in Iraq?”
President Masum: “I lived in London and I benefited greatly from a democratic life and its practices. In experiencing such an active democracy, I discovered what may be the future of Iraq, when it will be free from dictatorship. I also had other experiences in other countries similar to Iraq, with respect to cultural diversity, and this had an influence on me – as it does to those who live a long time abroad.
We thought that it could be an example of what Iraq could become and I think we find that in the drafting of the constitution.”
Aissa Boukanoun: “Today the Iraqi state is facing political and economic crises while preparing for the Battle of Mosul…”
President Masum: “Yes, the battle for Mosul is under military control of the chief commander of the armed forces, the Prime Minister. He works with military experts which has enabled the army, combatants, the Peshmergas and volunteers to make a great deal of progress. During this period, large areas were in the hands of Daesh; now we have managed to reduce these areas. There remains Mosul and there are military officers responsible for the planning and execution of these missions.”
Aissa Boukanoun: “There is the fear of a solution that could lead to a humanitarian disaster, because there are civilians in Mosul under the control of Daesh. What are your plans to house the displaced when the battle begins?”
President Masum: “Naturally we are frightened, because more than one million people are now in the city of Mosul. We must be careful because Daesh could use them as human shields.
But on the other hand, there are to some extent preparations which are not definitive, to receive those displaced people. And what caused the delay of the Battle of Mosul is that we had to take into account the population to avoid serious humanitarian disasters.”
Aissa Boukanoun: “Mr President, do you think that given the current situation in Iraq it will be possible to defeat Daesh?”
President Masum: “There is trust and confidence in the ability of the army, the police, the mobilization units and the Peshmerga. Now they are fighting against Daesh with great skill. On the ground, Daesh forces are declining in many regions.”
Aissa Boukanoun: “Can we really speak of an Iraqi authority given the presence of Turkish military forces, Americans and Iranians on Iraqi territory?”
President Masum: “All of these forces, with the exception of Turkey, came with the authorisation of Iraq. From the outset we have appealed to the allied countries to provide assistance to Iraq: experts, weapons and humanitarian support.”
Aissa Boukanoun: “There are still Turkish military forces in the north of Iraq who are there without the permission of the executive government. Do you think it will have an affect on your relationship with Ankara?”
President Masum: “The arrival of these forces without real authorisation from Iraq is subject to condemnation. We worked hard and established many contacts with Turkey to withdraw its troops until the introduction of a Turkish delegation in Iraq. We formed a joint committee to oversee the withdrawal of the troops, but officials in Ankara refused that withdrawal.”
Aissa Boukanoun: “Some are calling for a referendum to decide the fate of the region of Kurdistan in Iraq. As the president of all Iraqis, how do you feel about this matter?”
President Masum: “This referendum is not directly equivalent to a declaration of independence. A declaration of independence requires an understanding as well as an agreement with Iraq. It is the same thing with other countries in the region.”
Aissa Boukanoun: “What is the position of Iraq with respect to tensions between Riyadh and Tehran?”
President Masum: “They are not in agreement on many issues but, as for us, we are neither on the side of Saudi Arabia against Iran, nor the side of Iran against Saudi Arabia.”
Aissa Boukanoun: “On Syria, what is your position regarding the war, seeing as there are also Iraqi militias fighting on Syrian territory with Assad?”
President Masum: “There are volunteers who go to Syria, but unofficially, without the permission or the authorisation of the Iraqi government. This is to be expected because in Europe too, there are people who go there to join Daesh. Others come to Iraq or go to Syria to fight Daesh.”
Aissa Boukanoun: “What is your vision for the future of a post-Daesh Iraq?”
President Masum: “It is necessary to facilitate reconciliation between communities so that quarrels and disputes do not take root. This task is very serious, it is not easy. It requires meticulous work and devotion to the idea of reconciliation. Thereafter we will begin the reconstruction and erase the traces of the fighting that destroyed much of Iraq.”