Interview: Iraqi VP Adel Abdul Mahdi
Dr. Mahdi talked to Monitor correspondent Jane Arraf about upcoming national elections, Iraq's security and economic issues, and relations with Iraq's neighbors.
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How much of a tension is tension between the Kurdish regional government and the central government and particularly the personality conflict between Barzani and Malaki?Skip to next paragraph
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You think there’s a personality conflict? … We have problems there. We have real problems. No one can deny it. It comes from history, things that developed, accumulated during history, and we need patience and we need wisdom and good intentions and knowing the just and the unjust. The Kurds have some just issues – this should not be a cover to act unjustly in other issues. And the federal government, the central government has obligations, according to the constitution to solve certainly the just issues. And the two governments, the local governments and the federal governments, should have only one channel to work that and that’s the political channel. That’s why I said in your first question asking about the coalition that we have to concentrate on economics and security. If we continue working on the disputed areas, on Kirkuk, without improving the whole situation, we will only create more problems and more missed confidence and bad intentions, etc., but if we can see Iraq developing in health, education and standard of living, its agriculture, industry, less unemployed people, then those issues will be much easier to solve because the people will see and the governments would see their interests [being addressed] while when you have electricity problems, water problems, the unemployed, etc., then such historical issues will be aggravated much more than we have today.
In terms of the coming elections do you believe [religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-] Sistani will back your coalition the way he did in the previous election?
Sistani is a strategic person, he is not a tactical one. He will act as he did always.
In 2005 he threw his support behind the coalition. Will he do that again?
Well I don’t know if in 2005 he threw his support behind the coalition. He helped to form the coalition, that’s true, but he helped other people from all sides to organize themselves and all people – Sunnis, Christians, Kurds go and ask advice from Ayatollah Sistani. Ayatollah Sistani, although he is a Shiite cleric, gives national guidance, giving help to all parties – no one who asked for help from him did not get it.
There was a very wide perception, though, in asking voters in 2005 who they voted for and why, a lot of them would say, ‘Well I voted because the Ayatollah Sistani is behind this party.’ So even if he precisely didn’t come out and back it, the perception was there.
I can’t put assumptions like that. I would be unjust to him and the truth. That is not his way of conducting things. He never said ‘vote for the alliance,’ etc.. You have no fatwa on that, his office never issued instructions. People would read whether he is sympathetic to a certain situation, whether he is negative with other situations, not only with elections [but] with all issues, and I think he does it in a delicate way – no one can say, ‘Sistani asked me to vote for this person and that party’ - he can only presume things. I think he will continue taking a certain distance but encouraging to vote for the best, for the non-corrupt, he will put some principles maybe and ask people and people will try to see who are not corrupted or people who really have the qualifications to get elected.
And it will be an open list this time?