Worries mount over Iraq preserving its interests amid US-Iran standoff

Abadi accused fellow politicians of not being vocal against government policies he said were threatening the country’s stability.
Sunday 12/05/2019
Conflicting interests. A file photo shows Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi (L) speaking with former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad, last October.  (Reuters)
Conflicting interests. A file photo shows Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi (L) speaking with former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad, last October. (Reuters)

LONDON - The Iraqi government should prioritise the interests of Iraq and not lean too much in Iran’s favour in Tehran’s standoff with the United States, former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said.

The remarks were the latest criticism by Abadi towards the policies of Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who replaced Abadi as prime minister last October.

“We have to preserve our own interests. Some people believe that the current government is more interested in supporting Iranian interests (than our government had done),” Abadi told Al Sharqiya TV.

Abadi expressed scepticism about Abdul-Mahdi’s bid to make Iraq a “meeting point” for regional rivals following the prime minister’s recent visits to Iran and Saudi Arabia.

“The problem is where our priorities should be in this issue. What is Iraq’s interest? Is it in Iraq’s interest to play the role of a mediator now? Was Iraq asked to mediate?” Abadi asked.

“To be a mediator, the two parties must approve that mediation. However, if the two sides do not want my mediation, why do I sacrifice the interests of my country?”

Abadi accused fellow politicians of not being vocal against government policies he said were threatening the country’s stability.

“We must be vocal. The others are not opposing the government because they have their sights on (official) posts that they don’t want to lose,” he said in the 90-minute interview. “I tell them you can oppose policies to correct a path without being in the opposition to the government. I am not opposing the government but I’m pointing to where mistakes are.”

Abadi said Abdul-Mahdi committed a “grave error” by failing to appoint defence and interior ministers seven months after becoming prime minister. “It is worrying to leave two security ministries without heads. How can you leave two important security ministries without ministers?” Abadi asked.

He accused Abdul-Mahdi of being influenced by pro-Iran politicians who insisted on appointing candidates backed by Tehran.

“The prime minister should have picked two independent candidates for the ministries right from the start: professionals who are not siding with a party,” said Abadi. “He (Abdul-Mahdi) insisted on appointing figures who are backed by known sides. That’s why we have entered this crisis.”

Abadi warned that the crisis over the two ministries threatens the security of Iraq, notably from the dangers of the Islamic State.

“Our current security situation is an accomplishment that was achieved with a lot of sacrifice, it won’t last without reason,” said Abadi. “We are facing an international terrorist organisation, an ideology that’s not easy. We defeated it militarily on the ground but it returned to its terrorist methodology of the past.”

The interviewer, prominent TV presenter Ahmed Mulla Talal, said Abadi’s insistence on remaining a member of the Iran-backed Dawa Party is likely to have cost him securing a second term as prime minister in the 2018 elections.

Abadi sidestepped the issue of the Dawa Party, which is viewed with suspicion by critics of Iran who may have voted for the former prime minister had he disassociated himself from the party.

Abadi casted doubt on the fairness of the elections, suggesting it was the reason of his electoral loss.

“There was certainly widespread fraud in the elections and we opened an investigation,” he said. “If elections continue to be carried out this way, not only will there be a lower turnout but even many politicians might not take part.”

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