Moqtada Al-Sadr NRT Interview 19/1/2017 – English Transcript

A rough transcript of Moqtada Al-Sadr’s lengthy interview with NRT last week. Apologies for any mis-translations/typos my tired eyes have missed. Link to video of interview here:

Interviewer: I want to go into the issues of your reforms, maybe everyone, even the politicians; the bad ones are saying they want to reform the situation. Everyone is singing this song. You have said this, you want to reform Iraq’s situation, and you led a strike in the Green zone. The people say that no reform is happening, it wasn’t real reform, just repairing the situation. How do you see that?

MAS: The reforms are ongoing, 1000 miles starts with a small step. The important thing is that we plant the seeds of reform. The seed has been planted across Iraqi society. They now know there is corruption, and there is reform. The correct thing to continue is the reforms, and the thing that will be finished is corruption. This is a victory itself. Now you will find everyone asking for reforms, even the children. Even if they don’t go out for a strike or demonstration, they still want reforms. Yes, we know the reforms haven’t happened in some areas, we know they have changed some of the people, but we know all of the Iraqi politicians are corrupt. But this is a start point for change among the people. Maybe those people in the leadership and who control Iraq’s money. Perhaps we can put in place new rules and new laws to manage the situation of the Iraqi society. But still 1000 miles starts with a small step, we are still working on the reform project and we will not withdraw. We will continue this project; this project needs the people and community’s cooperation because Moqtada Al-Sadr cannot do it alone. 4.26 This cooperation from the people, we don’t want it just from Al-Sadireen, since the last strikes there was cooperation between the Islamic people and the civilian people, they agreed on the reforms and to strike together. The rest of the people should have interacted with it. The main point I want to talk about is the corruption, and who is corrupt, the corrupt man cannot be reformed. After I started the project, I did reform in my own party. I created a committee and we are famous for kicking people out of our own party. Even now, if we hear that anyone is corrupt we will kick them out with evidence. 5.24 We did many investigations, we talked with the people, some were innocent and we didn’t kick them out because there was no evidence. I want people to cooperate with us to find out who the bad people in our party are. People should come and give su evidence and information to punish the corrupt people in the party.

Interviewer: When the government kicked out the Minister of Defence and Minister of Finance was that reform? Under the reforms, many things have happened; they have put in new ministers and not everyone is happy with them – they haven’t been accepted. The shape of the reforms has not been in line with their meaning

MAS There are political parties pushing for a non-stable technocratic system, maybe they bring in a new person, he is technocratic but not independent, he still belongs to his party. I think these technocrats are controlled by their political parties. I say that changing the faces now is the first step for future steps, this is not a final solution. There are thousands of mistakes in the political mechanism, I said that changing the faces and punishing some of the corrupted people is a first step, there is no perfect project, every project will have mistakes. This project is still under pressure from the parties. The political parties wont surrender, we started this reforming project, but I don’t want to be a politician in any way. In the future there will no elections if they don’t achieve our three conditions, this project shouldn’t be a political project as every project should not be political. The priority should be the benefit of the people.

Interviewer: A few days ago you met with PM, does that mean you are happy or agree with this government. You know there is no Minister of Defence, Interior or Finance…

8.18 This is the first visit in my life to the government, though they have visited me. The second point is, my brother Abadi has attempted reforms, I still want to take his hand and help to complete these reforms. I don’t see him as corrupt. He has taken on many problems from the last government. Economic, Financial, Security – several cities were under ISIS’ control. He is trying to escape the bottle, to escape the last government’s problems. Myself and everybody with a leadership position in the community should support Mr Abadi. Abadi should complete the reforms, and if he doesn’t complete them then he will be responsible for the situation in front of the people and infront of God.

Interviewer: Always we hear Abadi is weak, is he?

MAS: He is weak because of the pressure on him, not because his personality is weak. As a person he is good, he is managing the government he is a good politician.

Interviewer: Perhaps his party isn’t supporting him?

MAS:  most of his party is with him. But there is a threat from others inside the government. The other people in his party are pressuring him are going to be weaker. Abadi will get a lot of support from his party. However at the moment, he is struggling to change some of the roots

Interviewer: We have heard that Al-Maliki is trying to return to power. He is preparing for that and getting stronger. Still Maliki is in charge of many things like Hashid Shaabi, security files/sections and the Dawah party. How can you say that Dawah is with Abadi?

MAS: We can’t look at what Al-Maliki was – he was strong but crazy! If Maliki wants to come back he can come through the election no problem – this is democracy. If he gets voted in by the Iraqi people through elections that’s OK.

Interviewer: Do you think you will join Mr Abadi will join you in an election list? He is from a different party.

MAS: I am supporting anyone who is against sectarianism with 3 other conditions that we will talk about. I’m not talking as a person, I’m talking for my followers. So i’m going to sit and talk with him

Interviewer: People say Al-Sadr is Abadi’s back up, they are saying that because Abadi is under threat. Other people say Abadi is supported by the Americans. As Moqtada Al-Sadr you have a difficult relationship with the Americans. What do you think about that?

MAS: I saw that Mr Abadi is an Iraqi man and that when he had a chance to kick the  former government out he kicked them out. Mr Abadi is in charge, he is a true Iraqi, his decisions have been good. We have proved that there is another man who can manage the government. Regarding if I am supported by US, I don’t imagine I am supported by US. Maliki was more supported by America.  Many times Abadi has not agreed with US, and he has stopped their decisions. He has refused their requests for military bases in Iraq.

Interviewer: Some people say that is you are heard talking about Mr Abadi like this then Mr Maliki will be angry with you.

MAS: He is already angry with me

Interviewer: A few days ago you proposed a new election plan, the timing was controversial, some people didn’t agree with certain sections of the project. It is different from other projects. This projects came under the name of election reforms – is that your new plan?

MAS: Sure I proposed this project, now it is for others to accept it. I have to discuss this people and the political, they can agree or disagree. I can’t force anyone to agree with it, but what I want to say is that the current election program in Iraq is built on the wrong foundations, I tried, through this project to put in place new foundations for elections in the future. There are things we can sit and discus together, we can take the wrong things and put the right things. But the same faces, control the Iraqi people through the government and that is leading to people refusing to vote which the makes the elections illegitimate.

Interviewer: Do you think people will do that?

MAS: I’m not thinking it, people are already doing it. Also the Marjaya are afraid of this issue, so there has to be huge change to get people to return to participating in elections and get back on the democratic road.

Interviewer: The vote has been going down since the last election for Al-Sadr, if the situation continues, the Sadr line will continue to drop. Is it because of that you are trying to find a new system?

MAS: All the people know that most of the population are for Al-Sadr. The second point is this reduction is a political reduction, not among the people, because the reform project is creating us a lot of enemies and they are targeting us because of it. My people and followers are being marginalized because of these reforms. They are not being invited to participate in conferences. The media are working against us. But among the people, the community, there are many followers. Many people want us. We wouldn’t say that it’s reducing. Yes we will work on to change the government, to put in new rules, a new project. We need a voice. Perhaps you know that the whole Al-Sadr family are working hard on project to benefit people in this country – not themselves, to create new systems. I’m now starting a project to build a new Iraqi government.

Interviewer: If a new committee is created for the election, would it be done according to each party’s share of the vote?

MAS: If that happened it would mean we have done nothing.

Interviewer: But isn’t that what has happened?

MAS: If that happens we will reform again, it should be independent, technocratic people and not belonging to any side or party. It shouldn’t benefit any party. Or the election should be under the control of external nations.

Interviewer: Like the UN?

MAS: The first that would come to mind is the UN, maybe that is how this election will be independent, but if we replace it with the same conditions that will mean we do nothing.

Interviewer: What do you think was the rate of fraud?

MAS: Maybe 35% in the last election.

Interviewer: Do you have evidence?

MAS: Yes.

Interviewer: So why haven’t you submitted it?

MAS: Because the situation hasn’t allowed it. Like when I submitted the new project for elections, people said this wasn’t a good time, we are fighting ISIS Mosul still not under control. Imagine if I had done this then. I will give it in good time

Interviewer: Do you think some of the MP’s aren’t real MPs? They don’t have this authorization?

MAS: 100% I’m sure of it. I won’t accept it from any party, some parties have done a lot, others just a little.

Interviewer: Previously you created a committee of independent people to discuss the situation and many said that was unnecessary, do you think the Iraqi situation needs this community?

MAS: If we don’t create such a community that means we have also done nothing, we would be stuck in the same ring. The first point I imagine of any reform, change the faces, not the faces we alreadyhave. Whoever is in charge now will not be in charge soon. Even if he isn’t corrupt and has served his people for 8/10 years that is enough. Give some others a chance. We need new faces to serve Iraq with new methods.

Interviewer: Amar Al-Hakim went to Jordan and other places and wanted to talk to the Marjaya about it but nothing has happened, what is your opinion on that?

MAS: I refused his equalizing political solutions because it would have had the same faces. For the last four years there have been are plots and killing, now because the election is close the politicians are trying to solve it this way. The equalisation should not be political equalistion, this is the first point. The second point is it should not be gained through the blood of the martyrs (2242). Thirdly, there is a clear point of how to repair or reform the society. There are three points there that we can do.  There are another two points. This equalstion came after the match had finished. There was no benefit from it. I talked with Maliki, I said “Come! let’s go to Anbar and find a solution to the problem there peacefully”. Even if they aren’t serious about solving these problems at least we can find out. There will be somethings we can do, something we can’t do, it would be better than the war that has happened. Let’s start talking about equality. We need to build this equality on serving the people , so that it benefits the people, then benefit will come to the parties.

Interviewers: this a Marjaya opinion?

MAS: I cannot give that the Marjaya opinion, because the Marjaya are stepping aside and not interfering in political procedures, so the Marjaya would not be happy with me. When you want to help solve a problem you cannot be part of the problem like Hakim, you have to be independent. Because Amar Hakim is part of the problem, how can he help find the solution to the problem?

Interviewer: Who should be the facilitator?

MAS: It should be those who are respected, who are educated. It should be the people who are looking for general, not personal benefit.

Interviewer: Two weeks ago Malik said the equalization paper was the same thing we did in 2003 and is the same we do every so often, there is nothing new about it.

MAS: So it is obvious what I am saying. Every election these come out with this paper. For ever election they are raising their hands and been together (the poltiicals). This is not a good paper, it will benefit their parties and make their parties stronger than the government, Do we want to make a future for students not to be poor, to be educated. The political need to look at benefiting the people, not themselves

Interviewer: Who should we include in this eqaulsim project? The Baath? ISIS? The people who supported or the tribes who followed ISIS? Tareq Al-Hashimi, Rafaa Aysawi?

MAS: I don’t know- we have to sit with the good people from all parts of Iraq society. We should have positive discussions with all groups of Iraqi society, even the Christians, not with outsiders, the normal people. Not just Sunni and Shia. Not the militias, not the terrorists, just the moderates. I’m holding up a light looking for the moderates because they are scared to show up. There are still moderates among the people but they are scared, but we have to give them a chance to show up and give their ideas. Even those follow ISIS, if they were forced to follow ISIS OK, we are going to talk with them. If he followed ISIS because they believed them no we can’t talk to them, because ISIS ideology doesn’t offer anything.

Interviewer: We will start talking about equalism, because it is internationally wanted, we all want it in Iraq after ISIS. The stage after ISIS will be different to the stage before. We don’t have a plan yet for that yet, so what will you tell people if they ask for a project?

MAS: The project is already designed, and I am going to launch it as soon as possible as well as the project  for after Mosul, there are some governmental, civil and political fears that the armed groups might take over. Whether they are good or bad ones. Their policies will be based on weapons. Whoever liberates Mosul will lead Mosul, who liberated Anbar will lead Anbar. That’s why some were wanting to postpone Mosul’s liberation for the new PM to liberate. I have warned Abadi about this postponing because they want to bring in a new PM to replace him.

Interviewer: Who wanted to delay the Mosul operation?

MAS: Politicians

Interviewer: Are you accusing Iraqi powers or external powers?

MAS: Both – Some people from Iraq and some people outside of Iraq wanted that. Those people didn’t want Al_Abadi to be the one to liberate Mosul, they wanted to delay the liberation for political purposes, not for the benefits of the people and I waned Abadi about that. They don’t want him to be the one to liberate Mosul.

Interviewer: So these powers want to postpone the liberation until the elections? So they will wait for new elections chose a new PM and then liberate Mosul?

MAS: Yes

Interviewer: Do you think this is possible because the left bank is already liberated?

MAS: There is much left, and may god be with the Iraqi army. We are supporting the Iraqi army. What they are doing is heroic. It is going to be written down in history, it won’t be forgotten. It should be exclusively liberated by the hands of the Iraqi army. There should not be any foreign involvement. Unless the army, or those in charge agree on the foreign involvement- that would be OK. It’s not a problem this foreign involvement if the army want he help, but the army should lead. We have to encourage them to reinforce the government as well as the army, so that the army are the first and last one to protect Iraqi territories.

Interviewer: Ok so what is this project that is going to start after ISIS?

MAS: We will hand the project to NRT and you will publish it.

Interviewer: I want to know the objectives of the project. Can you give us a gilimps? Is it all about how Mosul will be ruled? By it’s own people?

MAS: it won’t just be about Mosul, on a bigger scale. It will involve all of Iraq. For example we could use the title “Reconstructing Mosul”, but at the same time, do you think Basra, Amara and Najaf need reconstruction? If Iraq is to become more stable than it needs to include all of Iraq. There must be a strategic plan for what is going to happen after Mosul’s liberation. I want to take those who participated in Mosul liberation whether the army or Hashid Shaabi outside of the political involvement. I don’t want them politically involved after the liberation.

Interviewer: What is there destiny? They will blame you afterwards. They are expecting something good out of it to have the favor returned

 

MAS: I had a session with the Hashid Shaabi recently and I encourage them to come up with a plan for what they are going to do now and also in the future. We had a meeting of leadership. I want to tell the Iraq people there will be a new set of laws that everyone, including the good and bad militia will have to follow, the new law will prevent anyone from Hashid Shaabi from interfering in the new political system. It is going to be controlled by the government itself.

Interview: But this law already exists?

MAS: There are some updates, we want to develop it.

Interviewer: But this is your own law and you’re not satisfied with it?

MAS: It takes time to develop the law, it doesn’t happen so quickly. One of the updates is that the Hashid Shaabi won’t interfere in any external fights because Syria has bought us lots of troubles, because there have already been claims that since they have liberated Mosul they will have to liberate Aleppo as well. The Hashid Shaabi are not going to do this.

Inerviewer: These claims came from the former PM, Maliki said they would liberated Mosul, Yemen and Aleppo.

MAS: Yes he is one of those that claimed it and we are expecting more claims because the way he thinks is a militant way of thinking. Once he finishes one battle he wants to start another. This explains why the bad security situation has not been sorted, because some powers are benefitting from the instability. So if Mosul, Anbar and rest of the governorates were stable would Maliki sit and do nothing? No, he will come up with another battle. Car bombings, explosions something else, the new ISIS, a new enemy.

Interviewer: how would you evaluate the political powers in the Sunni pair? (Mosul and Anbar) I know you don’t like me using the terms, but how do you evaluate them? Are they capable of carrying out this project?

MAS: Who? Politicians?

Interviewer, yeah, those who are ruling?

MAS: I’m sure the majority of it the Sunni moderates disagree with their politicians. In the same way moderate Shia aren’t satisfied with their politicians, you can apply the same thing. We must find new Sunni political faces, as well as on the Shia side we need new faces to help Iraq survive the security issues as well as the economic issues.

Interviewer: I can understand that the new project is to make a new political mass that can represent the different sects, who will these Sunni faces be that you add to your mass?

MAS: Our main point won’t be to get some Shia and Sunni and make a body. But to make an independent technocratic group so that they can rule the country with a technocratic mind, independent of course. With a mentality that can properly rule the country so that we can take the country from this party mentality to a technocratic mentality. It’s hard, but the first seed has been planted and as long it is still being watered by the protests and the corrective project and also thorugh writing other project it will continue to develop.

Interviewer: OK, this body is a political mass, but how can you make a body for the elections that will represent all the different sects?

MAS: The election group that I want to create will win the election if the Sadreen vote for it, but it will be hard without their vote. What’s important is to find two elements, first is the moderate people in this mass, and secondly we have to find the independent technocractic mass. I wanted it to be comprised of these two elements. Not 5 Sunnis, 10 Shia and 3 Christians and 1 Mendaes. If we do it this way, it would be the exact recipe for the current government.

Interviewer: Do you think the Sadreen are considered to be moderates?

MAS: Do I think the Sadreen are moderate? I think I am moderate, but the Sadrist movement would be more conservative without me. They are conservative, but not sectarian.

Interviewer: How would you evaluate how armed the Saraya Al-Salam are? How do you evaluate their performance?

MAS: We have witnesses from different sects that have proved they are the least worst, perhaps there is nothing wrong with them at all, and maybe they are the best. They obey their orders and they are very cooperative with the Sunnis. The Sunnis themselves are happy with them. They haven’t stolen any belongings or money, they don’t hurt or rape civilians. They don’t use their power for trading purposes, or for financial purposes or to make themselves well known. It’s not just our people saying this, it is our opponents too.

Interviewer: Sometimes at conferences, foreign journalists ask you a question. Perhaps I can answer it, but I’d prefer to ask you: Saraya Al-Salam, they are the heir to Jaysh Al-Mahdi. The corrective reforms are the heir of the Sadrist movement. Within a few years this perception of Jaysh al-Mahdi being radical has transformed among the Sunni people into them being a friend? How was this transformation happened in just a few years? From an enemy into a friend. Now sometime the Sunnis even ask for Saraya Al-Salam to rescue them. How has this happened?

MAS: Jaysh Al-Mahdi and Saraya Salam are not the same. Jaysh Al-Mahdi were there for the invasion whilst Saraya Salam are here for terrorism – that is the first thing. Secondly, there was some corruption in Jaysh Al-Mahdi, that’s why I would call it a bad militia. Within JAM there were bad people and these bad people make the militia bad, and they have given us the bad reputation for Jaysh Al-Mahdi, but it’s not the whole group. The don’t obey our orders, they take order from outside of Iraq’s borders. So once they left Jaysh Al-Mahdi the reputation improved.

 

Interviewer: Have you had any request for the Sunni territories? Call for help?

 

MAS: Yes, but there hasn’t been agreement from the government so no action was taken. I understand why the government didn’t cooperate because they want to be the ones to help the Sunnis, they don’t want us to be involved. But if they need us, and everyone agrees to our involvement then I don’t believe Saraya Al-Salam would have any objection to helping.

Interviewer: Why didn’t you participate in Mosul?

MAS: One of the main reasons is the presence of the Americans and I won’t cooperate with them.

Interviewer: But the Hashid Shaabi says, and I know your relationship isn’t clear, but Hashid Shaabi also don’t cooperate with the Americans.

MAS: This is their policy, I don’t know why they don’t deal with the Americans. I’m not their spokesperson. If they wanted us to participate in Mosul then there should be some conditions. First: I want agreement from the PM himself and from the people living in Mosul.  I also don’t want the Americans to interfere with our operations. If we liberate an area in Mosul we would want to hand it straight to the army.

Interviewer: Did Abadi ask you to participate in Mosul’s liberation?

MAS: indirectly, but not now. A while ago. But actually I agree, I believe that Mosul should be liberated only by the Iraqi army, and some people don’t like me saying that.

Interviewer: There is much feedback that suggests the battle for Mosul has been clean and everything is going to plan. That the left bank was liberated professionally and people weren’t forced to leave they stayed in their homes. How would you comment on that?

MAS: That’s because the Iraqi army is in control. That’s why I encourage and support the army, they represent all the different sects.

Interviewer: but it’s the same people who were in Mosul and Fallujah 4 years ago.

MAS: But then some bad militias had infiltrated the army. Now the army is exclusively under the PM’s control. He won’t let any external powers interfere unless they go through him and he agrees. That’s why things are going well. Thanks to this there was greater humanitarian cooperation between the army and the people. Obviously there is less corruption now.

Interviewer: Sir, you emphasized that the Hashid shaabi should focus on operating inside our border and shouldn’t leave the country. But this issue has existed since 2011 when things started getting bad in Syria and we realized there were groups of Iraq youth leaving to go and fight in Syria, and they have formed much larger groups. These groups have got even bigger and become more visible. Let’s be realistic, some battles are being run by Iran and some other gulf countries.

MAS: and the Americans…

Interviewer: and these battles are happening in Yemen, Syria, Bahrain and many other places. How can you stop them from leaving Iraq? How can your prevent them from participating in all these regional conflicts?

MAS: First of all you understand my opinion on the wars outside of Iraq. Each country should deal with their own problems. We are not going to interfere with their problems whether in Syria, Yemen, oe elsewhere…. even Egypt, we aren’t going to interfere, even in the Arab spring countries. Perhaps their excuse was to fight terrorists overseas so they wouldn’t come to Iraq. But I told them from the very beginning: if you fight them in Syria that will be the main reason they come to Iraq. They didn’t believe me and everything I said came true. In order to control it, it should be done under the government’s supervision and by the Iraqi army. It shouldn’t be supervised by other militias and parties. If everything is controlled their guns, their funding, if it comes from the government then this problem would shrink. Especially after our last session of talks [with the Hashid Shaabi], there were many governmental trials and those who were bad within the Hashid Shaabi have been punished. These were governmental trials, run by specialist judges. These specialist judges punish the Hashid Shaabi internees. I’m following up on them and I will add: it has been said that some of them have been executed. One of them was executed because he was involved in a massacre in a certain area. These things somehow make me feel optimistic, I know they are being punished

Interviewer: but these are never published.

MAS: These things will never be published. They will never publish it because it will hurt their reputation. I said this out loud because I am brave enough to say it aloud. I did so because it gives us some hope. The militia members, they have reduced their aggressive declarations. These things require patience.

Interviewer: How did manage to have these discussions? Did they come to you? Or did you summon them? At the same time it is known that the Hashid Shaabi is an institution that is made of different groups, some of them aren’t known, some of them don’t even exist, someone in the Hashid Shaabi has told me this. There are many different groups, and there are always complaints that they aren’t good enough, or that some have agendas. A leader told me that some of the groups are non-existent, they exist only in name.

MAS: What matters is that there is hope to fix what the Hashid Shaabi has already done. One hope is to improve them and make them more obedient. 99% of the Hashid Shaabi are Sadreen, when I summon them and when they hear me speaking to them in a logical way I am able to soften them. They really started to make themselves better people because if everything stays as bad as it is now and nothing is fixed, and some of the fighters don’t improve themselves, then there won’t be any future for the Hashid Shaabi. But if things everything goes to plan, and this small % is improved because the majority of the Hashid Shaabi are OK, then in the future they may make a new governmental institution and that will be for their own good as well as to Iraq’s advantage because god forbid if the Iraqi army needed some help in the future then the Hashid Shaabi will be there for them.

Interviewer: So the battle isn’t over yet then?

MAS: the battle has only just begun. The people, especially Middle Easterners are committed to this sectarian war, that’s why so many people have gone to defend Yemen and their beliefs but not Bashar Al-Assad and his beliefs. This a sectarian double standard. This sectarian ideology that comes from politicians and fed to the people is dangerous, it must be reduced step by step. That’s why I still advocate for sectarian unity despite the fact that if I keep doing so I won’t be able to gain many votes. This doesn’t mean I’m focusing on a positive future for Iraq and elsewhere.

Interviewer: Are you still in touch with the Hashid Shaabi after the last meeting?

MAS: yes, yesterday we had a meeting with Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis.

Interview: Moving back to the issue of Syria, after all the death how do you see things now?

MAS: I think two factors have worsened the situation in Syria. The first factor is the external interference. And the second is that the radicals have taken over the Syrian Opposition. But if the opposition had stayed peaceful then it would have been as successful as it was in Tunisia and Libya as well as Egypt. If these two factors were omitted then the Syrian people would have been victorious. I support the Syrian people, I am always on the people’s side whether in Bahrain or Yemen or anywhere else. The people are always right. Period.

Interviewer: Some Shia political groups they have supported the Ba’ath party in Syria although they have previously fought Baathism elsewhere…

MAS: it’s a political double standard, it’s the same as those who have supported both Morsi and Sisi. It’s a double standard not based on anything moral, it’s based on political advantages. These people always support others based on their political advantages. My main mindset is to support the people themselves. We don’t interfere in other people’s business.

Interviewer: The external relations of Iraq have always been confusing…

MAS: but is had improved under Abadi. The external relations with France and other Europeans countries have improved as well as relations with other Asian countries.

Interviewer: As well as the Gulf countries?

MAS: Yes, but they still have narrow regional policies because of the influence of sectarianism.

Interviewer: Have you ever tried engage or fix things in these countries?

MAS:yeah, I have tried. But I had some concerns about my people and the media, for example if I tried to improve things between Saudi and Iraq or Qatar and Iraq …

Interviewer: Are you afraid you might lose support?

MAS: No, I fear that the media will use it to attack me.

Interviewer: Do you mean the Iraqi media?

MAS: No, in general – all the media. If I wanted to do it I would have done it, but I’m still not convinced. Saudi still intervenes in Yemen’s business, Saudi are busy dealing with Yemeni issues so how can I fix things between Saudi and Iraq – it’s hard. How can I present an initiative? I have tried, and I will try again to open Iraq up for neighboring countries.

Interviewer: do you have any connections with the Arab countries?

MAS: Currently no, I don’t have any.

Interviewer: So no visits from ambassadors?

MAS: no, no no after what happened recently in Turkey the connections between us have been cut. These connections are usually based on shared policies/interests, for example Turkey supports Bahrain, other times it supports Syria. These are political issues that I don’t want to be involved in. The way I see things is always humanitarian or religious and with a reasoned approach.

Interviewer: Do you have any plans to travel to certain countries other then Lebanon and Iran?

MAS: Yes, I have some plans. They exist, but they need some refining.

Interviewer: Do you have any invitations?

MAS Yes, but I have refused them. I got them from the emirates and Yemen, sorry … Jordan.

Interviewer: but are there any other invitations?

MAS: yes, but they are under consideration.

Interviewer: you have always been firm with the West and America. Is there any flexibility there? Do you have any connections with the European countries?

MAS: Yes, I have connection with Europe but not Britain – the invaders. I have met the French ambassador three times. My problem is not they are western but they are invaders, I don’t want to talk to invaders.

Interviewer: But Britain isn’t in Iraq now.

MAS: but they have been, and British forces have been involved in some of the bloodshed.

Interviewer: what do you think of Trump?

MAS: Trump isn’t going to make much difference in American policy, and in what has already been written. Trumps position in the government is just another piece on the chessboard, he isn’t going to make any chance. He is going to do what is asked of him. If he was brave enough to do otherwise then he would be killing himself.

Interviewer: do you expect there will be any change during Trump’s time? Any regional change or change on a bigger scale?

MAS: As long as the American policies stay the same there will be no change, but if he follows different policies then there will be visible change.

Interviewer: Could you give me a general opinion about the next step for Iraq? And what are the conditions that are necessary to move Iraq forwards to the next stage?

MAS: I want to put in place the new election law with three conditions, allow me to mention them as I am here, I want to substitute the electoral committee with a real, independent committee. Number two, I want to change the election law to protect the rights of those who participate in elections. The rights of those who participate in the election, everyone should be protected not just the bigger groups. Number three, I want to change the political faces one by one. All of them. Period.

Interviewer: …but not all of them have changed.

MAS it will take time to change them all.

Interviewer: What’s next with the protests?

MAS: they are continuing despite the difficulties, the protestors have been attacked several times and Al-Abadi says he had no hand the harassment of protestors. There was some irresponsible behavior from the security forces.

Interviewer: are you referring to the most recent one?

MAS: Yes, the last one and the one before it. We made sure we are always brothers with the security forces, I want to maintain cooperation with the security forces. We don’t want to harras or attack them. I’ve been informed that the security forces want these reforms too, it’s not just the people. I tell the protestors not to use bad language with Iraqi people, because some of the people are afraid to join in with the protests. If they realize that the Sade movement and the civil movement are supporting the people then more Iraq people will join the protests. If they feel that the movements will defend them they will join in. All Iraqi people want these reforms. Sometimes they express it through protests, sometimes through coups, they can express it in many ways.

Interviewer: When is Al-Sadr going to set his tent?

MAS: Again?

Interviewer: is there any tent?

MAS: yes of course there is. There is a different type of tent.

Interviewer: oh, a different type of tent. Iraq will always be a tent for all of us.

Image credit: Al-Arabiya

 

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