Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi Interview Part 3 of 3
Q - Is removing the borders realistic?
A - You will be surprised how quick some of this can move. Remember the Berlin Wall? Nobody thought that it will happen so quickly. That Germany will be united into one state without many of the negative consequences that everybody has thought about at the time. Things can happen very quickly.
I can see now in Iraq here a new national movement, a new national mindset that we have to utilize to unify the country. I think we can do it. In Iraq and other areas, including Syria, including Turkey.
That is why my call on Turkey is let us work together rather than fighting each other. I mean the Turks were probably polarized or antagonized by events in Iraq, which I really don't understand. I think this antagonism started with our start of liberating Mosul.
Mosul was and still is part of Daesh, which is a very dangerous organization, a terrorist organization. No one should be alarmed by us moving to liberate these areas, liberate the people of these areas so people can live together.
I think there is a misunderstanding somewhere and that's why we are using diplomatic channels to relay the message: Look we are only trying to liberate the people, we want peace in our own country.
I don't have an interest in waging war with neighbors. In actual fact, I am against it and I am trying to avoid any conflict with our neighbors or in the region and that I what we are working on.
Q — What about the Turkish presence in Iraq? How will you respond if Turkish troops do not withdraw?
A - They must withdraw, we told them they must withdraw. They are telling us now 'yes, ok, we will withdraw once Mosul is liberated and Daesh is crushed.' Now, of course, their force is in Bashiqa.
They have become useless because we moved away. They were training some Iraqis and we have taken all these Iraqis they have been training. They are with us now.
So, there is no role for the Turkish military presence in Bashiqa. They are there without the invitation of the Iraqi government. We told them that. This is probably a thorn in the relationship between the two countries. There is no reason for it.
I think somebody has probably told them otherwise or told them that this is for the good of the relationship between Iraq and Turkey. It isn't. I hope the Turkish leadership will see this and the will withdraw.
Q- And what about Canadian or German support for the Kurds? Do you fear that training and technology they are receiving — they've also asked for more military hardware — could one day be used against Iraq if no satisfactory settlement is reached?
A - Well, of course, if there is no satisfactory settlement. That is why we are moving toward a satisfactory settlement between the Kurdish regional government and the federal government. That is why we are working together. Al this support has been done by the consent of the Iraqi government.
The Iraqi government accepted this. All this training that is provided by the Canadians, the Germans and the Americans and by the British to the Kurdish region is done by the acceptance of the Iraqi government.
But in actual fact, I consider the support of the Peshmerga as the same support for the Iraqi security forces because the Peshmerga has become part of the federal Iraqi security arrangement. In supporting the Peshmerga, they will be more capable of securing their own areas, of combating terrorism in the area.
Yes, I agree, we should work together otherwise this will probably be used or misused. The Kurds at one time were afraid that arming the Iraqi army will be used against the Kurds. And vis versa, probably some Iraqis will feel arming the Peshmerga will be used against the Iraqi army.
If we work together, I think we will be strengthening each other and that's why we agreed for the Peshmerga ... this was quite a challenge, nobody thought it would happen. Even the Turks were taken by surprise that the Peshmerga and the Iraqi army are fighting together and they are cooperating together.
This has used a lot of our energy, a lot of our own cooperation to make this possible and happening on the ground. We are moving in the right direction. I know that some others are used to differences and are trying to push us apart. I hope they will not be successful. We have to stay on track.
Q - What is your current view of the war in Syria — and Bashar Assad's position? Do you expect — and want — him to stay in power?
A - This is not a question for me. It's a question for the Syrian people. I think Syria cannot continue as is. It should not. It has become a civil war. It is not right. The Syrian people are now suffering. There are many terrorist organizations that have erupted in Syria.
I mean, look, this is like an enemy which has been created in Syria: Daesh, ISIL. It has received financial support and military support at the beginning of the war in Syria.
All of the sudden, we have seen this huge animal that attacked civilians in Syria , cross the border with Iraq and occupy many cities in Iraq, killed many civilians and damaged many cities. If the situation in Syria continues, Lebanon will not be in peace, Jordan will not be, the whole area will not, not even Turkey. I know the Turkish leadership may not be aware about this.
But I very much warned them at the time. This is dangerous to Turkey as well, because Turkey ... there are communities in Turkey as well. Turkey is not one. There are Turks, there are Kurds, Alawites, and there are other minorities in Turkey. Daesh, or ISIS, is trying to play on the differences within communities.
Every country they have their own differences within them and the terror plays on these differences. Look what Daesh did in Europe now by instigating this humanitarian issue, this refugees issue, which is a creation of this terrorist organization.
What they are trying to do, this is very much calculated, by committing terrorist acts in Europe, by instigating this movement of refugees, by pushing the political spectrum in Europe toward the far right and this will help terrorism by pushing the minorities and the Muslim community inside Europe more toward extremism. It is very much planned.
Someone asked me of these leaders, do you think Daesh is planning this, I said yes. This is a very dangerous ideological movement which is planning this. Whether they will be successful or not depends on us. If we allow them or not allow them.
If we work together we will not allow them to do this. So, I think Syria, if we don't end the war in Syria, there will still be problems in Syria. We are now on the brink of crushing Daesh in Iraq and the whole idea behind this is this: Some people within Iraq were against me when I moved to Mosul. They said you move very hastily in Mosul. I said, 'well look we have liberated Fallujah, liberated other areas.
This is a very dangerous terrorist organization I have to hit it on the head. This is like a snake, if you hit it in the middle or the tail, it's no use, I have to hit it on the head. And the head of this terrorist organization is Mosul.' If I remove Mosul from them, this is a huge blow to this terrorist organization, to its efforts to recruit young people from different countries of the world.
Now the number of recruits has been declining, I can tell you that. The support to this terrorist organization has been declining, in terms of financial support because people who have been supporting this organization are not seeing that it is not expanding any more. It is shrinking.
Some young people unfortunately long for the people who are successful, they think of this as a success story, we had better join it. If they see it otherwise, they don't join it. This is a major aim of our own operation. To complete it, we must do something in Syria.
We must hit the other head of Daesh in Syria, which is Raqqa and other areas. As the Iraqi prime minister, I want to see government troops on my border on the other side in Syria, I don't want to see militias or armed groups I don't know who they are and what they represent. Governments cannot deal with armed groups.
It has to deal on our border with a government on the other side. Yes, I would like to see a government on the other side in Syria, but for the type of leadership and the type of government this will be decided by the Syrian people, not by us.
Q - What intelligence are you receiving about IS fighters returning to Europe or Asia? Do you have estimates? And what countries in particular do you believe are threatened? Do you think that a borderless Europe is in fact playing into their hands and that the continent should rethink policy?
A - We are working very closely with the German, French and the British and with other European countries, including the United States, of course. The Australians are very alarmed by the number of Australian terrorists who travel to this area.
We are working very closely with them because we have a massive data base of information about these terrorists, what they are doing, how they are recruiting people. They started with a lower level of internet. Unfortunately, governments and intelligence services did not notice that they were reaching out to young recruits.
But I think everyone is now aware about this, is aware of what is happening. I think we have been successful even in Iraq, we have been successful in targeting them within the internet. We have developed our own means in doing this. Yes, we are very eager to cooperate with the rest of the world in combating terrorism. We have a lot of experience. We have to continue.
The residual of this organization is going to be very lethal, very dangerous. Once we crush it, they will try and do something, a big terrorist attack somewhere. They tried to do that in Baghdad in the last few months. They tried also to do it in the rest of the country. They will try to do it. The unfortunate thing is that we have to be very successful every time.
They only have to be successful one time to introduce havoc somewhere in the world. So, I think we have to be on the watch out, we have to be very careful and I am prepared to cooperate with these countries in terms of intelligence and other means to combat them.
Q - The idea of no borders is a romantic notion, do you think it is realistic?
A - I hope terror will not cause us to live in isolation. Look how much is done to the trade in the world, movement of people. It made the world a better place when people communicate and when people work together. I hope terrorism will not push us to isolate each of us from the other. This will cause more wars and will introduce more problems.