By Mick Krever, CNN
The Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, Saleh al-Mutlak, a Sunni, says he is being side-lined by the Shiite-majority government.
“If you ask me did I take a real power-sharing during my presence in the government, I say definitely no,” al-Mutlak told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour from Baghdad on Wednesday. “We were almost isolated from the decisions, especially regarding the security issue.”
As large swaths of Iraq fall into the hands of Sunni extremists, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s record of allegedly stoking sectarian tension is coming under the spotlight.
Al-Mutlak participated in a meeting Tuesday with al-Maliki and other political leaders aimed at diffusing Sunni/Shiite tensions.
“The security issue, including the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior, Intelligence Office, and the other offices and departments were run by Mister Maliki alone, or by his party.”
“We are far away from participating in the decision regarding those issues.”
Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, said Wednesday that his country would spare no effort to protect holy Shiite shrines from “killers and terrorists,” according to Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
“We tell them, ‘Thank you very much – Iraq is capable of defending these shrines,’” al-Mutlak said. “And I am sure that the Sunnis will fight in order to protect the shrines the same as the Shiite will fight.”
“If you talk about Samara, the shrine there was protected by the Sunnis for centuries. So we don’t need any foreign military to come to Iraq and protect these shrines.”
Given al-Mutlak’s outspoken criticism of his country’s prime minister, it should come as no surprise that he believes Iraq is divided.
“If you ask me if there is a real unity in Iraq, no.”
“Yes, now we are in a danger, and we have to unite ourselves towards the real enemy, Dais” – the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
“But at the same time, we have to think of a political solution, not only a military solution. A military solution alone cannot solve the problem.”
Iraq on Wednesday formally asked the United States, the erstwhile occupier, to carry out airstrikes on ISIS. Amanpour spoke with the deputy prime minister moments before that appeal was announced.
“I think America has a responsibility now,” al-Mutlak said. “We have to be clear: The occupation of Iraq was irresponsible. And the withdrawal from Iraq was not a responsible way.”
“If America wants to come to Iraq, it has to do a radical change to correct the mistakes they have done in Iraq, and work on a political process which will stabilize Iraq, and let all the Iraqis feel that they are Iraqis, there are fair standards of citizens, not being told that they are being isolated and their rights is not being given to them.”