NIQASH: Let us go back several weeks. There have been letters published that were between yourself and security forces in Baghdad; these seem to indicate that Baghdad refused to allow the Iraqi Kurdish military, next door to Ninawa, to help as the IS group attacked the city of Mosul. Could you talk us through this?
Al-Nujaifi: It is true. In the beginning of this conflict, Baghdad refused the help of the Iraqi Kurdish military. The Iraqi Kurdish even mobilized special units on the outskirts of the city, ready to help. But Baghdad wouldn’t agree to let them enter the city until two hours before the city actually fell to the IS fighters. By then, it was obvious that nobody would be able to do anything.
It is also true that Iraqi Kurdish forces requested direct contact between al-Maliki and [the President of the Iraqi Kurdish region Massoud] Barzani.
NIQASH: There have also been media reports that were critical of your behaviour during this time; they said you left Mosul four hours before the city fell. In the city of Samarra, the governor of Tikrit stayed and didn’t leave until after the city fell to the Sunni Muslim extremists.
Al-Nujaifi: Actually I was the last official to leave Mosul. One side of the city had been taken over already and when the other side looked to be endangered, I left at dawn. I went to several different areas in the hopes that we could make our new headquarters there, including Hamadaniya, east of Mosul, and Tal Kaif, north of Mosul.
And there is a difference between what happened in Mosul and what happened in Samarra. In Ninawa, all the military commanders fled the province and left us alone here, along with the city’s civilians. In the province of Salahaddin, the military withdrew to Samarra at first – so the officials there were protected by the military.
NIQASH: At one stage you said that Iraq’s Sunnis wouldn’t fight against the IS group, if they had to do it under a Shiite Muslim banner. So what are your thoughts on ordinary Sunni Muslims’ support for the Sunni Muslim extremist group, IS? Is it wrong to support them? And if so, then who should they support?