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BEAST Negotiates Iraq Withdrawal
A lifelong Kurdish diplomat, Dr. Mahmoud Othman is now a leading member of the Iraqi National Assembly. He is also our editor's uncle.
Do you think it's wrong that the PKK is listed as a terrorist agency?
Of course it's wrong, because I think Turkey is waging a sort of state terrorism against them for the last century. So when they defend themselves, you can't call it terrorism. Even if it's terrorism, the big terrorist is Turkey and the small one is these people. So I think it's wrong to call them terrorists, because if Turkey recognized Kurdish rights, basic cultural and human rights, then people fight, you can call them terrorists, but now they have no rights. So they are just demanding their rights, defending their rights. You can't by any means call them terrorists. The only two countries that call them terrorists are Turkey and America. Even Europe, they removed them from the list of terrorists last year. So it's only America that supports Turkey and calls them terrorists.
Do you think America should leave Iraq?
Definitely. There should be a timetable. I have been of this opinion for two years. Because at the end, you know, people should see a light at the end of the tunnel. And this is occupation. People don't like occupation. America itself calls it occupation. In the resolution of the security council 1483, they asked to rule Iraq directly. And the UN told them, “Well if you want to rule, you have to say you are occupying, you are an occupational force.” They say, “Okay, call us an occupational force.” And it's written in the resolution. So they call themselves occupiers. So...they are behaving not in a good way I must tell you, inside the country. So people, they'd like this sort of occupation to end—not immediately, of course, but through a timetable, an agreement, so that gradually Iraqi forces could take over, and Americans leave. Because Americans in Iraq now, they are not achieving much. There are a lot of Sunni-Shiite killings and so on. They are policing inside the towns and I think the more they do it, they can't achieve much. So I think there should be an end to it.
What happens when they do leave?
If they leave just suddenly, there will be more problems; that's very true. But if there is a timetable agreed on by the Iraqi side and the American side, that would be much better. Of course many people, as you have heard many times, they say if America leaves Iraq, it will play into the hands of terrorists. Yes, I agree with them, terrorists benefit. But Iraqi people will benefit more. Because first of all this is occupation—it has to end, people don't like it. And secondly when you have a timetable, and you say, “America will leave in one and a half years,” then you could easily talk to people who have carried arms and are fighting America, and say “Well look, this is the end, politically it could be ended, so why are you leaving armed?” You could persuade them to leave their arms and come to the political process, and that's very important, that question, which they don't usually talk about.
As far the America and al Qaeda conflict is concerned, we don't like it to be in Iraq because Iraqis are suffering for it.
Yeah, it seems to me when Bush says “We have to fight them there or we'll fight them here,” that doesn't seem very fair to people who are there.
It not fair, and he should never say that. He keeps saying it! And that means “Let Iraqi people be killed so American people are safe.” It's a very bad way to put it. It's not nice at all. “We sacrifice you people for us.”
What about the Shiites and Sunni Arabs? Is the situation there too far gone for reconciliation?
Well, it's a political conflict. It has a religious face but it's really because the Sunnis have been ruling Iraq, Arab Sunnis, for hundreds of years. The Shias were, well, oppressed. Now the Shias have got power. You don't ever want to leave it. And they don't make Sunnis their real partners. So Shias want to keep to the power, Sunnis want to gain some of the things they have lost. So this is a political conflict, over authority, but of course it has a religious face. I think it will go on for some time, because... never there has been a Sunni-Shia conflict in Iraq. Never have Sunni and Shia killed each other, even during Saddam. But now it is a matter of power. I'm ruling, and you want to regain your rule. So it's more a political conflict. I mean, look at Northern Ireland. It's Catholic and Protestant, but in practice it's political. It's similar.
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