Al Nujayfi’s Message to Washington

Top Sunni Leader Talks about Recent Rise of Violence and Future Plans for the Government

Usama al Nujayfi, Speaker of Iraq’s Council of Representatives

On January 23, 2014, during a cold and frosty morning in Washington D.C., the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings Institution hosted an informational event to help the American public understand the current agonies of Iraq, with a focus on the Sunni community.

The Center hosted Usama al Nujayfi, Speaker of Iraq’s Council of Representatives, to give his regards on his provision about Iraq’s future. He also commented on the current crisis in Al Anbar governorate and the return of Al-Qaeda and spoke of how the United States can be an effective player in helping prevent a civil war, which has the potential to lead to a global crisis.

Just a little over two years after the US completely withdrew troops in 2011, Iraq is now facing a new level of violence comparable to the one the country faced back in 2005 and 2006. Over 8,800 Iraqis were killed in 2013, making it the deadliest year since 2008. In particular, Al Anbar governorate continues to face a vicious return of Al Qaeda forces. Al Fallujah and Al Ramadi, key Sunni towns, have already been taken over by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other Al-Qaeda linked terrorist groups.

In light of these developments, Iraq appears to be on the brink of a civil war, with the country becoming increasingly polarized. The Sunni community in Iraq is torn between the Shiite dominated central government in Baghdad and the new threatening rise of Al-Qaeda’s brutal activities. While the United States has encouraged restraint on both sides, providing arms support to the Shiite majority Iraqi government has angered many Sunnis, who see it as the US  backing the Shiite community.

Al Nujayfi suggested that Iraq “needs [to give] greater authorities to the Sunni provinces and make Sunni tribal fighters an integral part of Iraq’s military forces.” He emphasized that in order to achieve a peaceful Iraq, the Iraqi government must engage its people, from all ethnic and religious backgrounds, in the policy making process.

“I believe that the reltion between the United States and Iraq is about a strategic contract. And, stability in Iraq is stability not only for the country and the interests of the United States, but for the whole world.” said al Nujayfi through an interpreter.

However, he made it clear that the world must not intervene in Iraq’s policy making and must respect its integrity, culture, and history. He acknowledged the need for strong ties between Iraq the United States, saying:

“We need weapons, we need a political stand, we need an economic support. And the United Sates needs Iraq to be a stable country, to be secure, to be able to produce energy, to be democratic. All these are American and Iraqi interests alike.”

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