Interview with Hussein Shahrestani

By Ali Hashem for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Many in Baghdad fear that Iraq is falling apart, given the complex situation that saw the oil-rich country divided into three parts: an autonomous Kurdish region, a Sunni de facto state, while the Shiites, who took power of Iraq after the US invasion in 2003, are still in disbelief that the country they always dreamed of ruling is on the verge of division.

Hussein Shahrestani, Iraq’s deputy prime minister for energy affairs, met with Al-Monitor in Baghdad’s Green Zone and talked about the political crisis, the future of Iraq and the security of oil production and exports.

The text of the interview follows:

Al-Monitor: There are accusations that the Shiite political elite is responsible for what the country is going through. Is this true?

Shahrestani: Sure, the Sunnis aren’t happy with how things are going, while the other side has its own complaints, too. Therefore, we have to find solutions. When the demonstrations started last year, I was sent there (Anbar province) to discuss with the opposition their demands.

We examined their demands and tried to find solutions; some needed legislation, which was impossible because parliament was politically paralyzed. One of the main problems that prevents finding permanent solutions is the lack of a unified Sunni leadership.

In the 2010 election, the turnout in the Sunni-dominated areas was very high; they have a deputy prime minister, vice president and [parliament] speaker.

Al-Monitor: Today, the situation is complicated. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s bloc won (a plurality in) the election. He insists he’s the right person to head the new government, while other blocs, including Shiite blocs, have a different point of view, as they don’t want Maliki. Is there any exit strategy from this dilemma?

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