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Interview by al-Arabiya al-Hadath TV channel with Sheik Ali Hatam Soleiman, the Amir of al-Dulaim Tribes, one of the Sheiks of Anbar Province
June 14, 2014
Sheik Ali Hatam Soleiman, Amir of al-Dulaim Tribes: Everyone knows that when the tribes of Anbar Province, and in particular Ramadi, set out there was no ISIL. They were just the tribes who rose up to attain their rightful rights. I am stipulating that the tribes will not stop until the demise of the Maliki idol or the Maliki dictatorship.
We want our rights and we are not looking for revenge. Meanwhile, ISIL is just a number of people and it is not a social composition in this or that area. ISIL may exist in some form but it is not so that it can conquer cities. All commanders of the military, divisions and brigades have deserted their areas and fled. Therefore, I reiterate that our revolution will remain an unsoiled one. We have objectives. Maliki cannot redirect us to fight the ISIL to prove that we are Iraqis. The responsibility to fight ISIL lies with Maliki and the defeated security organs and we shall not allow Maliki to prosecute Sunni and tribal commands under the pretext of terrorism.
Q: What is the percentage of ISIL forces amongst you?
Sheik Ali Hatam: There are no ISIL forces amongst us for me to go ahead and give you a percentage. We are the tribes. And from day one we stated that the war will not be over and we shall not allow Maliki to remain in our territories. Let me state blatantly that there is a connection between ISIL and the government organs. In Ramadi there are many facts that support this. In a city that was completely under siege, they came in special vehicles and some of them were wearing military or other uniforms. Therefore, we all know which side ISIL is associated with. ISIL is an Iranian creation and thus the government wants to use it as a pretext to depict as if it is fighting against terrorists. But the real terrorism in Iraq is that of Maliki himself. We have expressed our loath for ISIL in front of God and the world community and we can terminate any gains it may have made. But our principal objective is to destroy the rebellion of Maliki and the tyranny of Maliki and then we can fight off ISIL as we have fought them before.
Q: Who is in control of Mosul today?
Sheik Ali Hatam: …the command of revolutionary tribes has issued official statements in this regard. The ISIL and the sectarian flags that it has raised are for the purpose to tarnish the movement. Maliki says that it is ISIL that is in control while it is not so. Over two million Iraqis are in Mosul. Is it logical for ISIL to have control over Mosul? ISIL appears in some regions and they make video clips of that and conduct parades. This is not important for us. We have focused our efforts to complete our revolution in the position that God willing we are looking to get there. It is quite simple to resolve the problem of ISIL.
Q: Exactly in what region is ISIL present?
Sheik Ali Hatam: They are present in some plain areas of provinces. But the revolutionaries, including the revolutionary tribes, military councils, primary resistance groups, and former military officers, they all move around. To say that these four provinces have been conquered by the tribes and then to talk about ISIL; one should ask where is this ISIL and what is its military capacity on the ground? Are we saying that Mosul, as the second largest city of Iraq, was conquered by ISIL in just one day?
Q: From your word I understand that the revolutionaries have control over the cities that have fallen.
Sheik Ali Hatam: The force that its forces are continuously increasing are the revolutionary tribes. This war will not be over until they get what is their right… Maliki wants to crush the provinces that have risen against his rebellion and hence he wants to call us terrorists and thereby place us, whether we like it or not, against the international community and the neighboring countries. And we have the right to defend our rights. We were in the streets for one year and we were demanding our rights and then we had the military solution that Maliki initiated and things got where they are now.
Q: You stated that you shall complete this revolution militarily to attain your rights and to surely overthrow Maliki. Does this mean that you will go towards Baghdad in the coming days?
Sheik Ali Hatam: Firstly, we call on Shiite religious leaders to speak calmly and wisely. We don’t have a sectarian war and we shall not allow ourselves to conduct one. We have freed thousands of soldiers that we took and we did not take them prisoner. We treated them as our brothers and freed them. ISIL does not free anyone. Secondly, the areas that we conquered we want to cleanse them of some corrupt security organs. I put it plainly that there are Iranian SWAT forces. The military institutions are all formed of paramilitary forces that they have put into these institutions. Let me put it plainly; our practical objective is to overthrow Maliki. We are not looking to occupy Baghdad. Regrettably, in its propaganda, the government says that ISIL will come and take over Baghdad. This is not true. Our first and last objective is to overthrow Maliki.
Q: You cannot overthrow Maliki and now you are saying that you don’t want to do it militarily; how then are you going to overthrow him?
Sheik Ali Hatam: No, no! We have not tried to bring him down politically. We have no relation with the political process. There are some political Sunni traitors who have joined Maliki. This does not mean that we cannot bring him down. But what the politicians were incapable of doing, the tribes will do. We shall overthrow him militarily. We have told him that Maliki cannot persevere in our territory…
Q: How will you bring him down militarily?
Sheik Ali Hatam: …right now on the ground, Maliki has no capacity to militarily confront us. The next point is that our objective is not to occupy Baghdad. Our objective is a central point in Baghdad. And one who plans to defend Maliki has to confront the revolutionaries and the Iraqi people. Maliki has now turned into a tyrant. He has reneged on his promises to Shiite and Sunni and Kurdish politicians. He has left no one to reach a compromise with. Therefore, we the owners of righteousness shall attain our rights ourselves…
Q: Do you have enough weapons for this purpose? We know that Maliki has started to use helicopters and he used helicopters to bomb Tikrit.
Sheik Ali Hatam: Maliki has nothing beside some worn out iron. All that he had was destroyed in Anbar; the Abrams tanks and the helicopters that he brought. The U.S. should understand an important point that these ammunitions and weapons that it gave to Maliki such as hellfire, etc. Maliki has not used them to fight terrorism. I swear that he has just used them against us, against houses, mosques, schools, bridges...
Q: You speak of iron, yet this iron doesn’t allow the Syrian revolution to prevail. Are you not afraid of a repetition of the Syrian revolution?
Sheikh Ali Hatam: There is a difference in this regard. Unfortunately the Syrian revolution was exposed to a large conspiracy, even on behalf of some neighboring countries. Yet our situation is different. As the tribes, we are speaking about who has the ground in hand. The truth is that we fortunately have weapons, and we have been able to gather weapons, and from mid last year began preparing ourselves for a military operation. We realized that Maliki’s goal is to attack the protest camps… we have the military ability to reach any area and liberate it, yet on the other hand you must know that our war is not sectarian and we will not allow the Iraqi society to be divided between the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. Our aim is only Maliki. If the political factions expel Maliki and our rights are returned, we have nothing else against them and the situation will become normal. Yet if the political factions are unable to expel Maliki, or enter in a deal with him, in this case I think that the situation will not become normal.
Q: There was news today that Iranian forces have entered Iraq. Does this help your duty?
Sheikh Ali Hatam: … It is a long time since Iran has been meddling in Iraq; we are even worried about Iran’s plans. Targeting the two shrines in Samara is an Iranian plan that Maliki wants to carry out. His goal was to explode the two Imam shrines when the revolutionaries enter Samara to cause problems. We are not afraid of Iran now, and we don’t give it any attention. I advise Iran that if it’s seeking its interest in Iraq, it must act upon the reality of the people. We will not allow foreign will and dictation to be implemented in Iraq. I must say that the decision is made by those who have ground in hand.
Q: Who has the ground in hand?
Sheikh Ali Hatam: God willing, we will see in the upcoming days. It will not take one or two months. There are plans from the revolutionary tribes and other groups and our fundamental goal is to acquire our rights.
Q: Who has appointed the governor of Neinawa and Salahaddin? … ISIL hasn’t appointed them
Sheikh Ali Hatam: Does ISIL know what a political operation is? Does ISIL know what democracy is? ISIL has other agendas, which we have nothing to do with. That is why we see that the media constantly say ISIL ISIL . Speak about the Iranian Jihadi groups, about Shiite groups, you have left all of them aside and only say ISIL ISIL . Either ISIL or other than ISIL , they can only be thrown out by the tribal forces. Yet the main problem is not ISIL , the problem is when the militias come and operate with army uniforms…
… Maliki is now taking up Bashar al-Assad’s policy, targeting defenseless cities with barrel-bombs and artillery. They do not target military positions… Most of the attacks carried out against tribal commanders are by drones and their missiles are American. Yet when these commanders are transferred to other areas and extremist groups take their place, they are not attacked… We think that in some areas the determination of the war will take some time, yet in the rest of the cities, God willing, soon they will be determined and cleansed. Maliki’s goal is to strike a blow to the infrastructures of these provinces.
Q: Is the Iranian Guards Corps present in Iraq?
Sheikh Ali Hatam: Yes, they are present. About a month or a month and a half ago, there were clashes with them in the Garma area, and we took casualties from them. They were only in Ramadi and Garma and not in other places. I think that its film was posted on the internet. There were some people who met the Iranian ambassador in Baghdad and then took him to the Anbar Operation Command, and this was a conspiracy on behalf of Sunni politicians.