Harith al-Dhari on Sectarian Conflict in Iraq
The Open Source Center translates an interview from al-Zaman with hard line Sunni Arab fundamentalist leader Harith al-Dhari.
‘ Al-Zaman: AMS Spokesman on Latest Political, Security Developments in Iraq
Interview with Association of Muslim Scholars Spokesman Dr Muthanna Harith al-Dari by Mustafa Amarah in Cairo “Recently”: “Association of Muslim Scholars Spokesman Tells Al-Zaman: Political Parties Favor Personal Interests, Plot To Divide Iraq Continues”
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
While Iraq was witnessing bloody events due to the Samarra bombings and the violence that followed, which raised fear of the eruption of a civil war, Association of Muslim Scholars Spokesman Dr Muthanna Harith al-Dari visited Cairo. During the visit, Al-Zaman interview Al-Dari. Following is the full text of the interview:
(Amarah) What are the goals of your current visit to Egypt?
(Al-Dari) It comes within the framework of visits by the Association of Muslim Scholars’ representatives to a number of Arab countries to explain the actual facts in Iraq to Arab media outlets, non-governmental organizations, and religious institutions. This is because the picture of the Iraqi situation has not been made clear yet, and the influence of Arabs is still below the required level. We have met with Al-Azhar Shaykh, Ambassador Bin Hili and others.
(Amarah) The (details) of the bombing of the Holy Shrine of Imam Hasan al-Askari are still vague. In your opinion, who was responsible for the bombing?
(Al-Dari) Certainly, the true Iraqis were not responsible for the bombing. From the very beginning, all indications suggested that some local and foreign parties, who do not wish any good for Iraq, planned and executed the attack. The timing of the bombing was very sensitive, hence a civil war could have been erupted in the country. In addition, we hold the Iraqi government responsible for what happened because it is responsible for the protection of the holy shrine. There was a curfew and soon after the withdrawal of security forces, the bombing took place. This was from a security point of view. However, from a political point of view, the interests of several parties lay in the deterioration of the political situation in the Iraqi arena, especially following the emergence of a tendency toward a national consensus. Moreover, the occupation is directly responsible for the decline in the Iraqi situation that paved the way before the bombings.
(Amarah) Why did the Shiite parties not adhere to the calls by Al-Sistani and Al-Sadr not to attack Sunni mosques?
(Al-Dari) The masses, who attacked and sabotaged Sunni mosques on the second and third days, did not adhere to the calls by Shiite religious authorities because they were driven by their emotions. In addition, they were directed by some parties who took advantages of the masses’ outrage. Stemming from this base, we did not support the idea of calling on people to demonstrate, because some parties might penetrate the demonstrations and turn them to its personal interests. I believe that the current political parties in the Iraqi arena are trying to exploit the religious authorities to achieve their own personal interests rather than the national interests.
(Amarah) Are the Iraqi Shiite parties loyal to Iran?
(Al-Dari) The current political parties in the Iraqi arena favor their own personal interests over Iraq’s national interests. I cannot comment on whether or not they are loyal to Iran.
(Amarah) Why did the Association of Muslim Scholars make bilateral agreements with Muqtada al-Sadr but not with the other parties?
(Al-Dari) It is not a matter of choice. A very dangerous problem occurred, thus it is the duty of regional parties to contain it. Hence, the Al-Kalisi trend and Al-Sadr trend met with other national forces participating in the anti-occupation Iraqi National Constituent Conference to act quickly to contain the problem. This is because these parties feel that it is their particular duty and responsibility to contain the situation in the country.
(Amarah) The reports from Baghdad indicate that Al-Sadr’s forces are currently attacking the Sunni mosques and properties in Iraq, how do you comment?
(Al-Dari) The Iraqi arena is witnessing a large variety of uncontrolled acts now that cannot be attributed to a particular party.
(Amarah) What measures have been taken to calm the situation?
(Al-Dari) Several measures were taken, including holding unified prayer sermons on the public level and the reconstruction of Sunni mosques. Moreover, the parties participating in the Iraqi National Constituent Conference have agreed to keep close contact in order to contain any small problem that may arise. In addition to the agreement on the importance of setting a timetable for the withdrawal of occupation forces from Iraq.
(Amarah) Do you expect the reemergence of this incident in the future? What measures are being taken to confront it?
(Al-Dari) We do not expect that these operation will come to an end. However, we anticipate that this understanding prevents their expansion. With regard to the measures taken to confront such incidents, we have issued our instructions to all mosque imams and clerics to be cautious. We vow to be the guardian and will protect our mosques with our souls.
(Amarah) Do you fear of that these incidents may lead to a civil war?
(Al-Dari) Civil war has not begun in Iraq yet. Civil wars have their elements and features, among which all parties assemble behind their leaders. So far, this has not happened in Iraq. I believe that the efforts that have been invested and will be invested in the next few days will prevent the danger of civil war. However, as long as fear of the reemergence of such incidents exists, we must be prepared to confront them.
(Amarah) Do you believe that the United States seeks to instigate a civil war in Iraq in the current stage?
(Al-Dari) The US is really determined to get out of Iraq due to the growing internal pressure as well as the huge casualties incurred by US forces as a result of the Iraqi resistance operations. The US Administration is divided into two groups over the Iraqi issue. The first emphasizes the importance of organizing the situation in Iraq in one way or another to show the achievement of some degree of understanding to facilitate the withdrawal of US forces from the country. The second group tends to favor the interests of Israel rather than the interests of the US by trying to instigate a civil war in order to occupy Iraqis with ethnic and sectarian war away from Israel.
(Amarah) Are the recent reports about Iranian plots to divide Iraq true? What are the dimensions of the Iranian role in Iraq?
(Al-Dari) Iraq’s neighbors, who wish good for Iraq, should realize and appreciate Iraq’s national demands. It is true that neighboring countries have their own interests that they want to maintain in Iraq, but we do not accept that they attain their interests at the expense of Iraqis. Although, they may not appear explicitly on the surface, serious and well-engineered attempts are certainly underway to divide Iraq by some parties, especially occupation forces. The occupation is trying to implement Iraq’s division quietly and gradually, so that the Iraqi people remains unaware of what is being cooked for them. The Wednesday incident was an attempt to probe the reaction of Iraqis.
(Amarah) How do you assess the Egyptian and Arab role towards Iraq?
(Al-Dari) The Egyptian and Arab role towards Iraq has not reached the required level. We blame Egypt in particular for its distinguished position in the Arab world.
(Amarah) What is the projected role that Egypt should play in your opinion?
(Al-Dari) Egypt has considerable weight in the Arab arena. I believe that Egypt can mediate between all Iraqi parties at such a time, in light of its previous role in the Cairo National Conciliation Conference. The conference was a step that must be followed by other steps. Egypt should try to have a real picture about the Iraqi situation because the picture is still not clear to many Egyptian officials. In addition, the Egyptian contacts with the Iraqi parties and their stances have not reached the desired level yet. This is because Egyptian officials are receiving incorrect information, a matter that I sensed clearly during the Cairo Conference.
(Amarah) How do you evaluate the Al-Azhar shaykh’s initiative to visit Iraq? Will this visit help resolve the problem?
(Al-Dari) The initiative of Al-Azhar shaykh is a noble gesture and is appreciated. Also his visit to the Iraqi Embassy in Cairo was very well received and appreciated by Iraqis. However, the problem in Iraq is too big to be resolved by a certain visit. It is a complicated political problem rather than a matter of preaching and guidance.
(Amarah) What is your stance regarding the projected National Dialogue Conference scheduled for next June?
(Al-Dari) The conference faces several obstacles. I do not understand why it was postponed until that time. It is strange that the Iraqi security forces did not allow Arab League Envoy Mustafa Uthman Isma’il to visit the Association of Muslim Scholars’ headquarters, during his last visit to Baghdad. With regard to our stance, it depends on the implementation of the recommendations adopted by the Cairo National Conciliation Conference.
(Amarah) What is your stance regarding the deployment of Arab forces or the appointment of Arab diplomatic missions in Iraq?
(Al-Dari) We will not be happy with the deployment of Arab peace-keeping forces before the withdrawal of occupation forces from Iraq. With regard to the appointment of Arab diplomatic missions in Iraq, we see that it is difficult to ensure their safety under the current circumstances.
(Amarah) How do you see the future of Iraq in the next stage?
(Al-Dari) Iraq has no future under the occupation and the control of some political forces who favor their personal interests over Iraq’s national interests. However, the withdrawal of occupation forces will lead to the disappearance of such political forces and emergence of other national forces who will work to achieve Iraq’s interests.
(Description of Source: Baghdad Al-Zaman in Arabic — Baghdad-based independent Iraqi daily providing coverage of Iraqi, Arab, and international issues, headed by Iraqi journalist Sa’d al-Bazzaz; Internet version available at: https://www.azzaman.com) ‘