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\'Iraq\'s division into three the only possible way out\'

InternationalFormer parliamentary deputy from the closed Welfare Party (RP) Hasim Hasimi, who is of Kurdish origin said that in order for the chaos that has governed northern Iraq, Iraq would have to be divided in to three separate states.

Hasimi said that the United States grounds for invading Iraq, \"eliminating weapons of mass destruction\" was a big lie, noting that it would be closer to the truth to say they invaded Iraq to topple a violent regime. He said U.S. intelligence was constantly proved wrong and claimed that the resistance was increasing because they were ignoring the religious sensitivities of the people. The biggest danger in the near future is a Shiite-Sunni conflict, noting that this would not only create local problems, but affect the whole region, including Pakistan.

Hasimi said the cooperation of Kurds in northern Iraq with the U.S. military had made Europeans, especially Germans, less interested in the region. He also believes that U.S. troop presence would continue no matter who became the president of the U.S. this fall.

TDN: What\'s happening in northern Iraq? What do Kurds in our region want to do?

HASIMI: Actually there have been many positive things happening in the region. Northern Iraq also has a history. The Iraq Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has a 67-year history. There has been resistance to the Iraqi government for the last four generations. This resistance sometimes ended in defeat, resulting in an exodus. Masacres were perpetrated against them. Don\'t get the impression that they are fighting against other ethnic or religious communities. Kurds have never acted against an ethnic group. They always tried to protect the democratic and fundamental rights.

TDN: Two large Kurdish groups cooperated with the U.S. during its invasion. The KDP leader Massoud Barzani and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader Jalal Talabani united in a single government. Is this unification a permanent structure or temporary process?

HASIMI: This is the Middle East. Anything can happen. However, the point we have reached today shows that the unification is permanent. Kurds are a nation that learns from history. This unification was produced after the 1991 Gulf War, with the cooperation of U.S. President Bush George Bush, British Prime Minister John Major and Turkish President Turgut Ozal. We contributed to the formation of such a status of this region. Turkey, the U.S., France and Britain cooperated. We know later France removed its support. All these countries are strong militarily and have their own agendas. There were regional conflicts. Turkey supported Barzani and Talabani during its conflict with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). After the capture of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, our attitude changed. Our policy deviated from one of support to one of disregard, because we had eliminated the PKK. That was unfortunate.

There are reports in newspapers that Turkish intelligence was sleeping while CIA agents were conducting their business. I would like to say that it is definitely untrue. It was the CIA that was defeated. The current state in Iraq clearly shows how good the U.S. intelligence services are.

US-Kurdish cooperation
TDN: What have northern Iraqi Kurds done in the last ten years? How equipped are they to govern themselves?

HASIMI: I believe they have produced a great mechanism in the past 12 years. International links, infrastructure, political attitudes were formulated. They have shown to the world that they can govern themselves. Even if we don\'t approve of it, the U.S., Britain and other western countries have accepted the Kurdish form of government. Many leftists criticize the Kurds\' cooperation with an occupying force. I don\'t think this is the right attitude. Kurds\' experience with the Iraqi regime was very upsetting. The previous Ba\'ath Party government was very violent. There was no other option but to fully support any power that was willing to topple that government.

TDN: However, in the past the U.S. abandoned the Kurds to the Ba\'ath regime. Isn\'t there the same risk now?

HASIMI: Not only once, but the U.S. has abandoned the Kurds three times in the past. First of all I have to clear up something. I am not naive enough to believe the U.S. cites as its reasons to invade Iraq. The U.S. grounds for invasion was not true. Invasion in order to eliminate weapons of mass destruction was a huge lie. If it had said that their intention was to topple a violent regime that mistreated its own people, it might have found more supporters. Here we are faced, once again, with the deficiencies of U.S. intelligence. We can also see an important role of the Greater Middle East initiative in these matters. The details of the initiative will be announced at the NATO summit in Istanbul in June. We can also see that European countries will be ignored in favor of Eastern Asian and Middle Eastern countries in U.S. foreign policy. U.S. presence can already be seen in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq and Central Asia. In other words, we see the slow realization of a giant process.

I am noting these in order to make clear that the United States grounds for invasion of Iraq were not true. Yes. Kurds cooperated with the U.S., but the KDP leader Barzani has great reservations about the U.S. attitude. U.S. officials in Iraq made no attempt to get involved with local communities. It had no intention of understanding the people. It constantly squandered opportunities. For example, it did not utilize the capture of Saddam Hussein. If the U.S. had implemented a serious social, political and economic program after Saddam\'s capture, things might have been different. They ignored the opinions of people who knew what was happening on the streets. They continue to do what they believe is right. This has to change.

Fear of Shiite-Sunni conflict
TDN: Shiite groups, who were with the U.S. in the beginning are now involved in clashes. Is the U.S. loosing its allies in Iraq?

HASIMI: The largest Shiite group in Iraq is the Islamic Action Party. Shiites are also divided among themselves. The most important Shiite leader is Ayatollah Ali Husseini Sistani. Then comes Hakim Bakr and Mukteda Sadr. What I am really fearful of is a Sunni-Shiite conlict in the near future. We see they are cooperating lately, but we can never discount such a conflict in a multi ethnic Iraq.

TDN: Majority of Kurds in Iraq are Sunnis, aren\'t they?

HASIMI: All Kurds are Sunnis, apart from a few. Most Turkmens are Shiites. I am sure our officials are not aware of this fact. Sunni fanatics ruled Iraq for many years. During Ottoman times, Sunnis were dominant. I believe their cooperation will not last long. A spark might lead to a larger conflict. Regional countries might be affected. It might even involve Pakistan. I am Sunni. The Sunni misperception towards Shiites also exists in our country.

TDN: Can the Sunni-Shiite conflict turn into an ethnic Arab-Kurd conflict?

HASIMI: No. We have to assess this matter. In the past, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul invited some heads of small tribes to Turkey. These were not important groups. However, they were treated carefully here. One of these groups had cooperated with Saddam in killing 4-5,000 Kurds. Some tribes were allowed in the north after the first Gulf-War. The tribal chiefs that came to Turkey were not among these, because they had perpetrated many crimes with the Saddam regime in the past. What our Foreign Ministry should do is maintain relations with the main players. Today, the main group with the power is the Kurds. Sunnis and Shiites want a regime more closely based on religion. Kurds are our neighbors, brothers and relatives. A large proportion of Kurds are conservative Muslims, but they are more liberal, democratic and secular. Turkey\'s regime and the main principles of this regime will force us to cooperate with Kurds.

AK Party\'s Iraq policy
TDN: How do you rate the AK Party\'s Iraq policy?

HASIMI: Actually developments in Iraq favor Turkey. AK Party government\'s policy was varying. The government promised the U.S. that it would allow American troops in to the country, but Parliament rejected it. The relations with the U.S. only normalized after the second government proposal was passed. As a result, things on Cyprus also developped in our favor. The U.S. sees Turkey as its founding stone in its Greater Middle East Initiative. This is my opinion.

TDN: You said Kurds suffered a lot in the past. However, it is the Arabs of Iraq that are suffering now. Do you think Kurds feel a sense of responsibility for the developments?

HASEMI: It is impossible to feel pitty as a human being. The human being is holy. Many people faced persecution in the past. For example, Jews faced genocide. The world never forgot that. The Arab world\'s policy is very insincere. They use the Palestinian problem to call for Jihad, while not granting the rights it asks for the Palestinian people to its own people. That\'s a fact. Here, the Greater Middle East initiative is very important. If it is based on conservative Christianity, it will end in a great defeat.

TDN: What do you understand of this project?

HASIMI: This is not only about oil. Moreover, the U.S. doesn\'t get much oil from the region. The region\'s oil goes to other countries. Some are talking about the objective of preventing another boycott like the one OPEC implemented in the past. Some say that conservative Christians view Islam as a threat. If this turns into a conflict between Islam and Christianity, that will be the greatest tragedy.

There are four lines of thought dominating the U.S. right now. Some believe the country should concentrate on domestic economy in order to get stronger. Others argue that the resources of the world could not be left in the hands of a few countries and see this as a threat against their security. I think this is just a conflict of interests. The puppet regimes in the Arab world, sustained by western support, have to go, and that human rights, economic liberalization and political rights should be ensured. However, this conflicts with what we see on the ground. The U.S. both supports these ideals and then supports the unilateral and violent actions of Israeli prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Special reasons behind Iraqi resistance
TDN: The most intense resistance to the U.S. occupation comes from the Sunni triangle. Is their a special reason for this?

HASIMI: Yes. The region was supported by Saddam for many years. Secondly, the leading members of the former regime went underground after the war. Thirdly, the religious sentiments in this region is closer to Wahabism. Another reason was the insensitivity of occupying powers to the values of the land.

Another fact that is often missed is the lack of a charismatic leader in the country. This lack is not felt in the Kurdish regions. Barzani and Talabani fill this gap. There are no such personalities among the Arab population, which opens the way for Ladin type people to dominate the agenda. Fanatical groups have arrived in the country.

TDN: How do such foreign elements enter the country?

HASIMI: Borders are not controlled. I believe some Arab countries that see their country as the next to be occupied are also aiding such forces. While some object to the U.S. initiative arguing that democracy cannot be imposed from the outside, they refuse to democratize their country. The U.S. argues that its fight is against anti-democratic regimes. I believe Iran and Syria are the next targets.

TDN: What is Iran\'s attitude towards Iraq and the Kurds?

HASIMI: Iran\'s, Turkey\'s and Syria\'s attitudes towards the Kurds are usually very similar. However, Iran\'s policies are more clever. Iranian Kurds had supported the Ayatullahs in toppling the Shah. They were promised freedom that did not materialize. Now, Syria faces a Kurdish problem. It already had a suitable environment. If a country doesn\'t give its people the right to get identity cards, own property, that community might become open to outside influences. Almost 60 percent of Kurds in Syria don\'t have identity papers. That\'s why Turkey should set an example. Turkey is the only country in the region that has an elected government.

Presidents may change, but not the policy
TDN: Next fall, presidential elections will be held in the U.S. Will it affect the region? What will happen if they withdraw?

HASIMI: Even if the U.S: President loses the elections, the U.S. will not pull out from the region. Bush is trying to rush things, before he is forced to agree on a process with his European allies. However, the policy is not personal. It is an administrative policy. There will be elections held in Iraq. The new government may ask U.S. troops to leave the country. I am saying this, knowing the Shiiites are a majority. If the elections are not free and fair, the conflict might intensify. Almost all Arab governments are nationalists and they don\'t like Kurds. The U.S. used to support regional governments, not the people. The strange thing is that it had to fight with two regimes it supported in the past. Saddam\'s Iraq and Afghanistan\'s Taliban.

Iraq should be divided into three
TDN: Is there a way to find permanent peace in Iraq?

HASEMI: The chaos in Iraq will not end shortly. Many are dying. Mosques are being bombed. Kurdish leaders repeatedly said that they had no intention to divide the country. However, new developments take place every day. A new policy is constructed, before the previous one is implemented. That\'s why I believe Iraq will eventually divide into three parts. A southern Shiite state, a central Sunni state and a northern Kurdish state. Nationalist Arabs don\'t like Kurds. There are 22 Arab countries. While these 22 countries have significant oil reserves, the total of their income is lower than Spain\'s. The reason behind this is the division and gap between the people and their governments.

Breaking point with Europe
TDN: Did relations between Iraqi Kurds and European countries, apart from Britain, suffer due to their cooperation with the U.S.? Did European countries lose interest in the Kurds?

HASIMI: I think there was a breaking point. For years, we have known that European countries have been getting closer to Kurds. However, they kept silent about the Iraq affair. European interest towards former Democracy Party (DEP) deputy Leyla Zana is competely different. However, we see that Germany, which was very interested in Kurds, is now cool towards them. The same can be said for France. Kurds are the most western oriented community in the Middle East. They are open to modernization. Kurdish population in the Middle east is 30 million. This is a very strong western oriented population. It is a very important aspect of the Greater Middle East initiative. Kurdish cooperation with the U.S. was a breaking point in their relations with Europe. European concern for Kurds was mainly moral. I believe every country needs to solve their own domestic problems. Turkey made great sacrifices concerning its domestic matters. If Turkey had made peace with Kurds, it would have produced a substantial synergy. Turkey would have been very strong. There is still an opportunity to realize this. Many reforms were implemented in the harmonization process. In Iraq, Europe chose to remain on the outside. However the region is very dynamic and everything can happen.


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