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Ayad Allawi, Vice President of Iraq

Stephen Sackur speaks to one of the great survivors of Iraqi politics, vice president Ayad Allawi. Does he think Iraq has a viable future?


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Welcome to HARDtalk, I am Stephen Sackur.

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This summer, Iraqis can perhaps see a glimmer of light amid the darkness

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that's enveloped their country for so long.

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The country's second city, Mosul, is no longer in the hands

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of jihadist fanatics, with the so-called Islamic State

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But will any semblance of stability and unity follow?

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My guest today is veteran Vice President Ayad Allawi.

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Let's begin with the fallout from Iraq's national army victory over

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so-called Islamic State in Mosul. Your Prime Minister, Mr Abadi,

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hailed it as a great victory for Iraq. There was a sense of

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triumphalism in his voice. Are you feeling triumphant today? Not

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really. Winning a battle or two was not like winning the war. We want to

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win the war against extremism and against terrorism. In Mosul of

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course this was a good in achievement but indeed we have not

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to Lucite of the people of most Oar and what he international community

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did -- Mosul. And I want them that this is not the end of the story. I

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want Abadi, I want the President, we need to win the war, and winning the

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war should be political. By abolishing extremism as a whole from

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society, and this can only be done by having a political process and by

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having a quality amongst the people of Iraq. So, so, just to stick with

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the military situation for a second, I one of the leaders for the Iraqi

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armed forces in Mosul the other day and he said they would retake Tal

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Afar, another town under IS control within days and the military ever

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since they can eradicate the caliphate on Iraqi soil but you seem

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to be saying it's not as simple as that. I don't think we are going to

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see the end of ISIS at all. It will be with us for a long time not only

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in Iraq but it will spread, it is spreading already. It has reached to

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Thailand and to the Philippines eastwards and definitely to Europe

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westwards. But in Iraq you are suggesting, what, they won't hold

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territory so much as conduct an underground insurgency? Holding

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territories is finished for them. But they will do insurgency, perform

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insurgencies and embark on insurgencies and resorting to the

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terrorist activities of explosions and killing associations. That is

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why we have to win the war rather than battles. One aspect of Iraq's

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approach to the Mosul conflict and the wider struggle against IS is the

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allegation among many quarters, not least from the Kurdish leader, that

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with the focus on the military struggle the Iraqi government has

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consistently failed to prepare for the post battle political and

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humanitarian settlement. Absolutely correct. Well, you're part of that

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government. I have said it. I was the first one to say this. Neither

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the humanitarian aspect was respected and treated well, nor the

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fact that looking beyond the military activities, looking into

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the political horizon of what should happen, this has not happened in two

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areas, and I told Abdai, by the way. Let's talk basic human rights. I am

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sure Mr vice president you have seen the shocking videos... Shocking. Of

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what appear to be Iraqi forces executing men, we don't know who

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they are, in Mosul after the end of the conflict. We've seen one graphic

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video of an individual being thrown off a cliff and shot. How can the

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Iraqi government allow this to happen, given the history of Iraq

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over the last 15 years? Because this plays into more extremism. Because

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this has gone out of the hands of the government. This has gone into

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the militia ares and to the lawless people, and indeed to a government

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that is unable to control the situation in Mosul. This is one I

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refer to the collateral damage that has been happening. Let alone what I

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have witnessed and seen myself, people living, displaced people,

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living really beneath what animals live in Iraq. The UN has said the

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humanitarian crisis in and around Loza today is so pressing... It is a

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ticking bomb, it will explode in our face in future, I assure you. --

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Mosul. There are thousands without parents, without families coming out

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of tunnels and rooms in Mosul and no one it seems in your government has

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a clue what to do with them. There is bitterness now amongst the

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people. The people are quite bitter, especially the people who are living

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in tents, who are refusing to go back to Mosul, people who have had

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their parents to streak in the conflict, and people who are left in

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the shelters. There is bitterness there and it will only increase with

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time, and it will be an exploding bomb. This is what nobody looked at.

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The humanitarian side. I keep reminding myself you are the vice

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president of the country. You may tell me that is meaningless, that

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you are a figurehead. Or alternatively what on earth are you

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doing about it? Because your government needs to be held to

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account. Of course, I agree. And I have raised this issue in the

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meetings with the Prime Minister and with the President, of course. And I

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have been raising this issue in the media, and in the meetings, but

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nothing is happening. They say the military conflict should take

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precedence in the conflict. But the humanitarian issue is really very

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bad. And, indeed, the political horizon of what may happen in future

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is very bad. We have been talking for a few minutes and on every

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aspect of what we discuss in Mosul and the security situation around

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Mosul, you seem to be saying that the government you represent as vice

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president is incapable of imposing its will and its authority. And is

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actually stoking the flames of the conflict which, although we have

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just seen Mosul "Liberated" in your view it is actually going to get

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worse. Well, they don't want to see the reality, the government, they

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don't want to see the humanitarian side, although they speak about it.

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And they don't want to see the political side. But I am getting a

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feeling that you are pretty powerless in this situation. On the

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bigger picture, that of the militias and indeed the popular mobilisation

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forces as well, we know that five of the largest of the popular

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mobilisation forces, including the Badder brigade for example, they

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have support, money and direct assistance from Tehran. Now, what

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should be done about that? -- Badr. Well, that has always been a problem

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for Iraq. And I want since a long time ago that Iran is moving

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gradually, systematically to controlling the situation in Iraq.

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You know, let me exclaimed one thing which is very important. The vice

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president, the President, the president do not have any executive

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powers. I am getting that feeling during this interview... It is more

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or less protocol. Yes. And I joined them because of the reconciliation

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process, which was undermined. To be blunt about it, you are there as a

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figleaf. Yes, yes, yes. And they useful figleaf. As long as you sit

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as vice president you are giving some sort of credibility to a

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government which you appear to be saying, is in essence right now

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being run by the Iranians. Not run completely by the Iranians but Iran

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is making the macro and micro decisions. The macro decisions

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started in 2010 when we won the elections and the United States

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sided with the Iranians then. What colour you think the US and Iran

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ensured that you, even though your coalition actually won the most

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seats, you didn't take power, and you're saying it was the combination

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of the United States and Iran... ? Air I made it clear that it would

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run against Allawi, and the Americans were with this and this

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was conveyed to us of course by Biden, the vice president of the

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United States, that we are not ready to accept that, that Iran will

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intervene in Iraq and we are going to pull out from Iraq, so we will

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have to toe the rope with Iran. I mean, Prime Minister al Maliki

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seemed close with Tehran. It always seemed Prime Minister al Abadi was

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somewhat less beholden to Iran. He is, yes, but he is overpowered. By?

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Iranian forces. Sylla money, who is sometimes seen on Iraqi territory,

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he spends a great deal of time surgery Dick Lee planning Iran's

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role. Tactically. We are talking about the command of the

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revolutionary forces. He spends more time in Iraq and in Iran. The more

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you tell me about what is happening in your country today as you see it,

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the more I am thinking that any talk of Mosul's liberation being a

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watershed moment, something Iraqis can hold onto as a sign that things

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are going to and get better, it is wrong. I don't see this happening

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personally. I called for political resolutions. That will lead to

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equality in Iraq. I call that they should stop by -- bifercation, which

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is happening these days. They should really take care of the displaced.

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They should stop the... I spoke to the leaders of the liberation, by

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the way, and I told them that the only person eligible is those who

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joined the army and the police. Iraq should not have two parallel armies,

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both for the mobilisation and in the ordinary army and police. And I told

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this to Abadi and I said this to the media. But we don't have executive

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powers. Even the president doesn't have executive powers. This is

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contrary to the Constitution, by the way. The Constitution says that the

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President, the presidency, should oversee the implementation of the

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Constitution. If you are so concerned about these threats to

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unity in Iraq, and the preponderance of militias and mobilisation units

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in the end represent sectarian forces inside your country, why oh

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why have you in recent weeks decided to throw in your lot politically

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with Muqtada al-Sadr, one of the firebrand members of the political

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situation? No, no, I never signed any political deal. But we are

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trying to explore who is closest to us in terms of the basic issues in

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Iraq. And so far he is the closest as far as the quality, as far as

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anti- sectarian, as far as attacking Iran. But forgive me, Muqtada

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al-Sadr is trusted by no one in the Sunni community and now you appear

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with your party and your coalition intent on using him to try to win

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power in the next Iraqi election. It is opportunism... No, no, no. I

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haven't signed any agreement with him, believe me. I am saying is on

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TV, open TV. I haven't signed any agreement. We are talking to all

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parties in Iraq, Sunni, Shia, Baathist, believe me, we want to

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forge any kind of coalition ultimately. We don't feel now is the

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time for coalitions and definitely I don't feel that I am ready to force

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agreements and coalition with any sectarian force at all. I am

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secular. I am against sectarianism. I am against this and I am not going

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to move away from this position at all.

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Let's's talk about the Kurds. The Kurdish regional area. In just a

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month or so, September 25, we are going to see a referendum organised

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by the ruler of the Kurdish region. Yes or no to Kurdish independence.

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It is predicted that the Kurdish people are going to vote yes. What

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impact will that have on Iraq's chances of staying as a unitary

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state? It would be dismantled completely. That is why I spoke to

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some of those in Kurdistan who I am going to see once I get back to

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Iraq. I think the referendum is pretty much sure. The dismemberment

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of Iraq would makes the Kurds the losers in this case. Do you believe

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that this referendum could hasten a future conflict between the Baghdad

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government... Yes, it will, I am sure. Even the regional governments

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and the Kurds. You mean war? Well, conflict... Taking it step-by-step.

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There will be complex. I don't think any of the regions will acknowledge

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this. Neither Iran or Turkey... It has been conveyed to me that Iran is

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putting pressure, this was discussed last week, Iran is putting a lot of

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pressure on the Kurds, because they don't accept what is happening. The

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Iranian is, let alone the Kurds... Your message to the Kurds is, be

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careful what you wish for? Yes, and rationalise even the question. This

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is very important. One factor in all of these publications...

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Self-determination is something in the nature of Iraq. Independence

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from Iraq is something else. Really, the wording of the questions should

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be very clear. One factor we have... This is what the Iraqi government

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should focus on when they talk to Mosul. The referendum has to take

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place. They cannot run away from this. But there is another way of

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rationalising the issue of the referendum in the questioning. The

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statement that should come out on this issue of the referendum, if

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they continue this is to separate Iraq and Kurdistan, this is going to

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be very bad for everybody in the region, not only Iraq. This is the

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promises that have been laid down, I am not blaming anybody but powers

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including the United States have a hand in this, when they occupied

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Iraq... They dismantled the whole country. I was going to ask you

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about the United States. One factor we have not discussed is the role of

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the United States. President Trump, for the last six months in power in

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Washington... Do you believe the Americans are actually understanding

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just how dangerous the situation in Iraq is? I don't think they are

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understanding, I don't think they want to understand. I think even be

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a conflict on Isis, they were only thinking on the functionality side

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of things. They wouldn't even look at how to prepare for post- Isis,

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what to do in Mosul and elsewhere. America have a very distinct

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imagination for the greater Middle East area. Donald Trump has made it

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plain that as far as he is concerned, his primary focus and

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responsibility is to destroy so-called Islamic State and protect

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America from terrorism in Iraq, in Syria, and that is, beyond all else,

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his objective. Fine, we don't dispute this. On the other hand, he

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should take into account care of what is legal and political, as well

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as... Taking care of Iraq and the future of Iraq, because after all,

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they hold legal responsibility when they dismantle the country. Iraq

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wanted US forces out, Obama withdrew all forces in 2011. Do you think

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American forces me to come back? No, no, I am not suggesting this. I am

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suggesting that the United States should have clear policies and they

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need to advise the Iraqi government because they have a moral obligation

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to do so -- need. They have a legal obligation to do so. They are

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defending the United States in the world from Islamic State, but Iraq

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is the theatre for this conflict. They need to be more careful and

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work more clearly with the moral as well as the other obligations.

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Talking about the moral obligations, have you met Donald Trump? Not yet.

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You said not long ago, there is a vacuum in the overall leadership in

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the world. Really pointing a finger at the Americans. Gas. You said the

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Americans need to get back to their role as the international power.

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Yes. I agree with this statement -- Yes. Not using the military. But to

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exercise their political role as well as the military role. There is

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a vacuum in the leadership. In world leadership. There is nothing. In the

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end, you can't blame anybody else for the state of Iraq today. You and

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your generation... I just want to develop the sport. We have spoken

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several times and it seems your generation of Iraq, the post- Saddam

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generation of Iraqi leaders, have failed to deliver stability, in

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unity and the most basic security to the people of your country. I agree,

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and this is not because of the fault of politicians only. It is the

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dismantlement of the state, the institutions of the state of Iraq

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that had to do with occupation. We are paying the price now. Not only

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was Saddam overthrown, but the state of Iraq was overthrown. The army,

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the security, the intelligence. The judiciary. The process of

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political... Politicising the dismantling. There was a vacuum in

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Iraq. We first spoke many years ago, and I wonder if we speak again in

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ten years, you actually believe Iraq as we know it today will exist. We

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have talked about your belief that Islamic State is not eradicated and

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that the struggle will continue, and the Terror and the violence. We have

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talked about the Kurds and your belief that there could be a

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conflict looming with the Kurdish in the north of your country. Yes. Iraq

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doesn't seem to have a viable future? For now, there is that

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sense. But it is something that is changing in Iraq. The movement of

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the people, talking to the clerics of the Shia and Sunni, they are

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calling for a civic state, for dismantling sectarianism and moving

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towards an equal citizenship. That is talk, and the reality on the

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ground is that the sectarian militia, popular mobilisation

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forces, these sad... The clerics are aware, this was due to be

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mobilisation of people, millions went to the streets. -- these are.

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This is change. This is very clear change. The government are starting

:23:57.:24:00.

to impose these popular organisations. Other issues are not

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being taken into account. But the mood of the populace has changed in

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Iraq. This is what you should encourage. Ayad Allawi, we have to

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end there, but thank you very much. Thank you.

:24:19.:24:34.

Stephen Sackur speaks to one of the great survivors of Iraqi politics, vice president Ayad Allawi. The country's second city, Mosul, is no longer in the hands of jihadist fanatics, with the so-called Islamic State caliphate shrinking fast. But will any semblance of stability and unity follow? And does Allawi think Iraq has a viable future?