As It Happens

Iraqis don't want to be caught in the middle of a U.S.-Iran war, says MP

Iraqis shouldn't have to face more bloodshed in their homeland because of the Iranian-U.S. conflict, says opposition MP Sarkawt Shamsulddin.

Iraq besieged by countries 'trying to have their differences resolved on our soil,' says Sarkawt Shamsulddin

Sarkawt Shamsulddin is an Iraqi opposition MP and a member of the Iraq-U.S. friendship committee. (Submitted by Sarkawt Shamsulddin)
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Iraqis shouldn't have to face more bloodshed in their homeland because of the conflict between the U.S. and Iran, says opposition MP Sarkawt Shamsulddin.

The U.S. drone strike that targeted and killed Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani on Friday took place on Iraqi soil near the Baghdad airport and also killed nine others, including Iranian-backed Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Iraq's parliament has voted to expel U.S. troops from the country, while NATO suspended Canadian-led training of Iraqi security and armed forces. Meanwhile, both Iran and the U.S. continue to trade threats of further retaliation. 

Shamsulddin says the situation puts the Iraqi people at risk because their country is in the unfortunate position of being a U.S. ally that shares a border with Iran. Here is part of his conversation with As It Happens host Carol Off.  

As you know, [U.S.] President Donald Trump says he has made the world a safer place on Friday. How much safer are Iraqis today, in your view?

The consequences of ... the unilateral decision to strike members of Iranian government, and also Iraqi government, made the situation, at least for Iraqis, much more dangerous.

And as we speak, the foreign companies, the foreign investors, are leaving Iraq. The foreign missions are scaling down their activities in Iraq.

Mourners gather to pay homage to slain Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani, Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and other victims of a U.S. attack, in the Iranian capital of Tehran on Monday. (Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

We're talking about assassinations here, aren't we? And not just of Gen. Qassem Soleimanibut also the Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-MuhandisThey were assassinated. What do you think was behind that? Can you see a strategy or a course of action here?

We have been struggling to understand the United States' strategy in Iraq, and also in the entire region, administration to administration. But it has been very even more difficult with this administration. It's unpredictable what they want to do, and they are not sharing actually any intelligence ... that is crucial to the Iraqi side.

I don't think there's any strategy beyond just killing somebody who the U.S. sees as a threat to them. But, also, there was Iraqi elements within the strike. And U.S., if they didn't have any intention to kill Iraqi officials, they should have just apologize for that. 

They have problems with Iran; that's a different thing. They should have taken actions within Iranian territory, not Iraqi territory. Iraq is not a place for the U.S. to revenge or take action against Iranians.

We have been telling them we want to have business with U.S., we want to have a peaceful relationship, but also just to try not to drag Iraq into your conflict with Iran.

Why didn't you vote with other Iraqis in parliament ... to say that the American forces should leave?

That's the danger, and that's the difficult position we are in. Iraq needs United States' support. Iraq needs United States Army support to the fight against ISIS to train their soldiers. 

We are also buying equipment from the U.S. ... and the U.S. is also bringing over dozens every month of Iraqi youth to the U.S. schools and providing scholarships.

U.S. is providing support to Mosul ... [and] they are investing in civil society. 

Our friends in the south, they are only thinking about one side of the problem, which is the military side. We are thinking about the economic and the trade and the financial benefit of the partnership with the U.S. 

Soleimani's body was transferred Saturday to the southwestern Iranian province of Khuzestan that borders Iraq. On Sunday, it will be taken to the Shia holy city of Mashhad in Iran's northeast and from there to Tehran and his hometown Kerman in the southeast for burial on Tuesday, state media said. (CBC)

You're a Kurd. You're saying that the Kurds are supporting the United States being there for the time being. But you're looking at some pretty serious threats going both ways. What's greatest concern of what is going to happen in the region?

My great concerns [are] about Iraqi civilians, Iraqi people, the protesters here on the street.

They have legitimate cause ... to bring about change and reform, and all of this will be sacrificed because of the tensions between the United States and Iran.

Iraq has no ... business in this. It's just because we are located in a place that's really having the longest border with Iran, and also we have partnership with the United States, and we are being sacrificed for that.

The Iraqi people have been suffering from war and conflicts for so many decades. And we had a moment of success after ISIS, and a moment of stability, and this is the opportunity we are losing.

That's not because of our problems, [but] because of other countries trying to have their differences resolved on our soil.

But who do you blame for that?

Iran and the U.S.

And Iraq?

The Iraqi state is very weak. The institutions are very weak. We cannot really oppose Iran and U.S. if they do not respect our stance. 

Each side is pushing Iraq. Each side is trying to have Iraq on its side, while Iraqi side wants the government to stay neutral. 

We want to have our country run by ourselves — not by Iranians, not by the U.S. We want to have a respectful and peaceful relations with both sides. But both sides are not really respecting Iraqi sovereignty.


Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Kevin Robertson. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

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