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Iraqi Sunni Leader Demands US Apology and Withdrawal
Saudi Research and Publishing
By Ma'ad Fayad
April 4, 2006

London, Asharq al-Awsat- In his evaluation of US policy on the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Saleh al-Mutlaq, a secular Iraqi politicians, has said that the United States made many mistakes, and it should open a new chapter with the Iraqis and correct these mistakes. He added that solving "the premiership problem lies in the choosing of a candidate from outside the political blocs, a technocrat who would be consensually chosen; otherwise, the circle of fighting and violence will continue and grow wider." He noted that "choosing a sectarian personality for the premier post would complicate the crisis."

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat over phone from his office in Baghdad, Al-Mutlaq said: "The formation of the government should take place within the next few days; otherwise, Iraq will drown in a river of blood." He considered what some politicians are doing as some sort of "sadism, for people are being slaughtered on streets while politicians are busy looking for posts." From his new office in Baghdad, which is close to the Green Zone, the Sunni politician, known for his opposition to the US presence in Iraq and his public calls for the US withdrawal, tried to draw general outlines through which he could evaluate the US policy during the past three years since the entry of the coalition forces into Iraq and the ouster of Saddam Hussein on 9 April 2003.

In an interview with Reuters, Al-Mutlaq, leader of the National Dialogue (Council) Front, which managed to win 11 seats in the parliament, said that any attempt to evaluate the US policy in Iraq will be faced with the fact that "it is very difficult to find any excuse for the US occupation of Iraq." He added that "it has been proved that the excuses the United States gave itself to invade Iraq were not right, as the US Administration itself admitted."

Al-Mutlaq called on the US president to open "a new chapter," which would begin with an apology to the Iraqis for the past period and end with the withdrawal or the setting of a timetable for the withdrawal. But this should not happen before "correcting the mistakes the United States made in Iraq."

Al-Mutlaq said: "Out of civilizational, humanitarian, and moral considerations, America should apologize to Iraq and the Iraqis for the big wrong it did them."

He added: "I believe that President Bush will be held in high regard by others if he admits to and corrects his mistake. Such a deed would be held in favor of, not against, Bush. He noted that for the US Administration to end "the chaos" it caused in Iraq, it should take two steps: "First, it should think of withdrawing (its troops) and setting a timetable for the withdrawal; and second, it should correct its strategically big mistakes against Iraq and the Iraqis."

Al-Mutlaq said that the dissolution of the Iraqi Army and the security institutions was a strategically big mistake by the US policy in Iraq during the past three years. He added: "The United States is now called upon to reinstate the Army and the security institutions, because it knows that the presence of that army and those institutions would have prevented the country from sliding into a furnace of sectarian strife."

Al-Mutlaq said: "America did the Iraqis much wrong, contributed to the high sectarian tension, and at some point allowed the presence of militias, which are currently invading the country."

Al-Mutlaq, who is trying to dissociate himself from sectarian affiliations and who managed to form a secular grouping of various parties, including the Christian Democratic Party, said that today and three years after the US forces took control of the country, the Iraqis are "exhausted, and America should help them."

He added: "The Iraqis are living without services and without hope...when the society loses hope, it turns into an extremist society...the United States should restore give hope back to the Iraqis."

Al-Mutlaq criticized the political process in Iraq, of which he himself is now part. He accused the United States of being behind "forfeiting the Iraqis' choice and giving power to those who do not deserve it." He said that the United States "handed power over to people who do not deserve it and paved the way for them to hold elections, not on the internationally recognized democratic basis, but rather on the basis of their presence in power." He added that Washington supported these forces "with money and militias...and when those forces won in the elections, they started to say that they represent the Iraqis' choice; this representation is not right, because they do not represent the Iraqis' choice." He went on to say that the Americans should realize the fact that "the parties currently in power are not political matures, are stained with the Iraqis' blood, and unqualified to lead the country...America should think of other people."

Al-Mutlaq said that solving the Iraqi problem should begin now, noting that "every day that passes without a real solution would further complicate the problem, and we will therefore need longer time to solve the aggravating problems." He added: "The solution today lies in the formation of a real national unity government, which would take into consideration the election criterion, which is not the sole criterion."

Al-Mutlaq said that the delay in forming an Iraqi Government is due to the attempts of the forces currently in the decision-making circles to control and dominate power. He noted that the political parties and forces, which have been in power "for some time, enjoy being in power and want to dominate it, even if at the expense of the Iraqis' blood." Al-Mutlaq called on these forces to stay away from narrow self and party interests and think of the Iraqis who are killed everyday."

The political process in Iraq has for the past four months been facing the problem of forming an Iraqi government for the next four years. Since the announcement of the final results of the Iraqi elections, held in December last year, the Iraqi arena has been witnessing a sharp conflict among the winning parliamentary blocs, which is manifest in the lack of an agreement on a candidate to head the next government.

Al-Mutlaq said that the United States, in a bid to create a climate of democracy in the aftermath of the invasion, pushed for holing elections, "whatever their results may be...the elections were held and produced facts on the ground, which do not represent the will of the Iraqis, but which were rather imposed by America." He noted that the elections engendered political blocs, "which do not represent the true will of the Iraqis, and so it is difficult for them to form an Iraqi national unity government."

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