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Sabah Alnasseri: Corruption and factional fighting within the parliament will soon be accompanied by intensified conflict as the army attempts to take Mosul from the Islamic State

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SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. U.S. Lieutenant General Shaun MacFarland told the Associated Press that the Islamic State has been reduced to as few as 15,000 fighters. He said, the enemy is in retreat on all fronts. With so much focus this week on Aleppo, Syria, and Turkey-Russia reset, there’s very little news that we hear coming out of Iraq. Why? Well, we’re going to talk about Iraq and what’s happening there. And joining us to do that is Sabah Alnasseri. Sabah is an associate professor and director of the graduate program of political science at York University in Toronto. Sabah, thank you so much for joining us today. SABAH ALNASSERI: Good to be with you, Sharmini. PERIES: Sabah, the comments of the U.S. general suggest that the campaign against the Islamic State has been successful and almost over. Do you think this has brought about some stability to the country, especially to the people of Iraq? ALNASSERI: Well, I’m not quite sure where General MacFarland has his numbers. But even if this is correct, they have 15,000 fighters–the problem is, you know, when the Iraqi army retook Fallujah and Ramadi, 100,000 people were displaced and 10,000 were killed, not only through the campaign to retake the city, but also through some sectarian militia killing on the local population. This is a breeding ground for ISIS. Many of these civilians who were killed, or their families are killed or displaced, they end up joining ISIS. So even if they have 15,000 fighters now, for this campaign and the killing of civilians, this will give them new recruits, those who want to take revenge on the Iraqi army, the militias, or the U.S. army and so on. So it is just a statistical figure which has less relevance on the reality of the ground. PERIES: Right. And then one of the things that we hear very little about is sort of the major dilemmas that are going on in the Iraqi government itself. You know, there’s a huge corruption case going on involving the Iraqi parliamentary speaker and the defense minister. Tell us a little bit about that. ALNASSERI: There are three issues here, I think, of concern. The one is the question of corruption, as I said. The second one, internal fight and struggle among different factions of politicians in the parliament. Then the third issue is, of course, the question of the city of Mosul, and the so-called liberation of the city of Mosul. The first one, the corruption affair. Last week one of the members, actually a few members of the parliament, especially [inaud.], they brought a corruption case against the defense minister al-Obaidi. He was summoned to the parliament last week, and questioned by the parliament. He actually accused the speaker of the house, Salim al-Jabouri, another five parliamentarians. He accused them of corruption and tried to blackmail them, or force them to seal the arms deals with the United States and so on. So much that the minister [inaud.] opened up an investigation against these MPs and issued a ban on their [troubles] until the investigation is over. Of course, three days ago the speaker of the house Salim al-Jabouri was cleared of these corruption affairs. But what does this tell me? That there’s an enormous pressure on the Iraqi street, on the Abadi government, to deal with corruption. And a few days ago, the Iraqi government signed an agreement with the UNTP, the United Nation development, to recruit a [inaud.] investigator, a trained Iraq investigator, to fight corruption. So there’s enormous pressure on the government to deal with corruption. This, of course, creates tension among different factions of politicians of different parties within the parliament. And facing an organization of corruption, and so on. The second issue is the internal quarrel and struggle around the question of this. Or better, around the question of post-liberated Mosul. Who will be in control of the city, and who will be in charge in Mosul, and how to deal with the many Iraqi generals and officers, also from Mosul, who were laid off during the [inaud.] period. PERIES: Why is Mosul so important? ALNASSERI: Well, see, the significance is, before going back to Mosul, is two days ago the Iraqi parliament issued a law of [inaud.] again. And it is significant because I think it refers to Mosul, because the majority of the Iraqi generals and officers come from Mosul. And most of them were laid off by [inaud.] at that time, and when the Iraqi government accusing them of [being biased], although the absolute majority of them were not biased. So all of these generals and officers and soldiers in Mosul, they are unemployed six years, they don’t have any pensions, and so on. Some of them are [inaud.] with ISIL. Some are not. So the question among these different factions, especially with the [inaud.] and the [inaud.] parties within the parliament, if we retake Mosul, what to do with all these 10,000 of generals and officers and bureaucrats? Because then they want to be hired, they want to be, they want to get back their public office and so on. So I think the quarrels now among these factions of politicians is to ensure that they’re employing their supporters, their party members, to keep their job, and there’s no way that those ex-generals, bureaucrats, officers, they can come back to the state [inaud.]. So just to give you an example. When, for instance, al-Obaidi accused the speaker of the house, al-Jabouri, of corruption, if we look at these two figures, al-Obaidi himself is from Mosul. The defense minister, he is from Mosul, from a different [inaud.] of Mosul. Whereas al-Jabouri is very close to the [inaud.], used to control Mosul into 2014, when ISIS captured Mosul, and al-Obaidi resigned, or was pushed out of his office. So you can see, also, the struggle among different plans for Mosul over the question of post-conflict of post-liberation [inaud.] the city. And the third question, I think the major one, is the preparation to, the so-called liberation. I don’t call it liberation because recapturing of other cities that [inaud.] Ramadi, et cetera, caused the death of 10,000 people and displacement of 100,000 people. So that in the meantime in Iraq you have 3.3 million displaced people within Iraq only. And in the last few months, 100,000 families from Mosul fled the city, fearing the offensive and, of course, the sectarian cleansing, et cetera. So this will create a disaster for the civil population. The preparation are [inaud.]. The Iraqi government thinks that they can liberate the city by the end of the year, which I don’t think that–that’s not realistic. But you can see they’ve been doing their preparation for the liberation of Mosul. These tensions started within different parties and politicians within the parliament, displacement of 100,000 people. Some conflict among the Peshmerga, the Kurdish forces, and the so-called [inaud.], the popular mobilization front, Shiite, some of them sectarian, backed by Iran, conflict with them and the Peshmerga. And between these mobilization fronts and [still] tribal forces. So we have a lot of conflict formation going on even before the city of Mosul is liberated, which reflects, again, on–and explains why there is conflict and tension within the parliament among different politicians and factions there. PERIES: And Sabah, in terms of the U.S. involvement in all of this in government, and their effort to, you know, what they were trying to do, negotiate between the different sides, is that still going on, and is it having any impact? ALNASSERI: Well, I think the U.S. is playing different games here. Because I was just looking at the news yesterday and today, and the parliament was outraged that the Iraqi government, Mr. Abadi, signed a deal, a memorandum of understanding, with the United States to supply weapons, U.S. weapons and arms to Iraq. But this was secured by a loan to the Iraqi government, a high interest rate on that. And the parliament was not informed of this deal. So there’s conflict now between the parliament and the government around these issues that, you know, arms supplies, or memorandum of understanding, or other deals that the parliaments have informed, especially in the preparation for the [liberation] of Mosul. So you have a lot of tension going on, also, between the parliament and the government because of the U.S. games with different factions within the Iraq parliament, or the Iraqi government, or with the Peshmerga or the Kurdish government vis-a-vis the Iraqi government. It creates a lot of tension and conflict within the parliament in Baghdad, but also in Kurdistan. PERIES: Right. Well, there’s no peace coming for the people of Iraq, [inaud.]. ALNASSERI: We will witness, within the next few weeks and months, an intensified conflict, war, displacement, refugee crisis, and of course killing on many sides. Not only fighting ISIS, but killing and fighting among the Peshmergas and the Shiite militias, the Shiite militias and Sunni tribal forces that were some of the forces within Mosul who were actually fighting ISIS, but not part of the Iraqi army. They would want to secure Mosul in the post-conflict time. So [inaud.] a lot of conflict, violence, and displacement within the next weeks and months. PERIES: It certainly raises the bigger question. You know, they’ve moved from Iraq, destroyed Afghanistan, Libya, now Syria, possibly Turkey, and it goes on. ALNASSERI: Yes, absolutely. PERIES: All right. Sabah Alnasseri, I thank you so much for joining us today, and we look forward to ongoing updates of developments in Iraq from you, so looking forward to that. ALNASSERI: It would be my pleasure. Thanks for having me, Sharmini. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.


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Sabah Alnasseri was born in Basra, Iraq, and earned his doctorate at the Johann-Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. He teaches Middle East politics and economy at the Political Science Department at York University in Toronto, Canada. His publications cover various topics in Marxist political economy, Marxist state theory in the tradition of Gramsci, Poulantzas and Althusser, theory of regulation, and Middle East politics and economy.