Talking with Taqi al-Mawla about relations between Turkey and Iraq

Muhammad Taqi al-Mawla is a member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the »»

Muhammad Taqi al-Mawla is a member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the head of the Iraqi Hajj and Umrah Commission, He is an Iraqi Turkmen and speaks Turkish fluently. He has a recognized place in the diplomacy of Iraq. Although he has a legendary personality, he is quite modest as well as smart, humorous and respectful.

He is so careful about not upsetting the host country that he takes the time to note that he enjoyed the meal served to him in at the Sheraton Hotel in Ankara. Mawla and his delegation were in Ankara on June 13-15. While there is a cold wind blowing between Ankara and Bagdad in spite of the summer heat, a warm and nice wind is blowing over relations between the peoples of the two countries, including diplomats. Even in the Middle East a politician knows to keep politics at arms length when necessary. In this way, even a gale may be the precursor of a breeze.

In Ankara Mawla met with the Religious Affairs Directorate in Ankara. He wanted to benefit from Turkey’s experiences regarding “hajj” and “umrah” organizations. The directorate founded the Iraqi Hajj and Umrah Commission in 2012, and sent 31,466 people for hajj. This quota is spread among provinces in accordance to their population.

Mawla is restless because of the rise of violence in Iraq again. He considers this situation as ‘actions of circles that want to cause “fitna” (chaos) among Iraqi people. He emphasizes that Iraq’s intelligence power is weak and that having qualified personnel is important. Mawla says he is also bothered about the emergence of opposing groups in the diplomacy of Iraq. He thinks the best way towards a solution is discussing the problems in Parliament. He thinks the collapse of the government would be of no use for Iraq, all sides should take responsibility and make concessions, and that the hand of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s has been strengthened. He isn’t anticipating an early election; he expects election to happen on the set date, which is around one and a half years later. However, he mentions local elections could be held in early 2013.

Mawla is angry with Kurds. He believes that in Iraq Kurds are involved in issues that are incompatible with the constitution. “Federalism has started to be discussed in Iraq again. But a federal formation, like a federal formation of Kurds, would pave the way for the separation of Iraq. If each province or each region bears governmental constitutions such as its own army, economy, intelligence service, then it isn’t federalism but a separation. We are for administrative federalism. Kurds took control over many places in addition to Iraqi Kurdistan. They are settled everywhere and in all positions in Iraq. However, they don’t allow any Arabs or Turkmens in their administration. They still go on receiving a 17 percent share from the government revenue. They receive the income of two border check-points, one in Turkey and one in Iran. They make oil contracts. Moreover, they want the government to pay for the Peshmerga budget, which is around $1.3 billion and Maliki accepted it, but Maliki argued against it. Kurds got the best of the latest political crisis. They set Sunnis and Shiites against one another while they remained united. If Iraq’s central government collapsed, Kurds would win again. Three main problems between Baghdad and Erbil are: the Peshmerga budget, the issue of oil contracts, and the lands that are demanded by Kurds in addition to the places within northern Iraq’s Kurdish borders. Kerkuk is a very crucial problem. When I negotiated with Massoud Barzani a few years ago, I made him an offer. I suggested he establish a system in which the administration would be shared between Turkmens, Kurds and Arabs and each would have 33 percent of the administration. This administration system would also have a presidency commission. Barzani insisted that the 140th Article be implemented. I told him such a solution wasn’t possible. Unless the sides in Kerkuk reach an agreement, Kurds will not own Kerkuk. Kurds also wanted to enter Tal Afar. We didn’t let them. Now they want to joint Tal Afar and Duhok and they want to include Tal Afar in the Kurdish region. We don’t accept that.” says Mawla. Mawla has stated in all environments that Tal Afar, which is a district attached to Mosul, should become a province. He pointed that Turkmen families that settled around Basra and Karbala in the aftermath of incidents in Tal Afar should be allowed to return Tal Afar.

Mawla does not want the country’s relations with Turkey to be spoiled. He says he would like to see new border gates opened up between Turkey and Iraq.