Interview with Hussein Shahrestani

Shahrestani: Each bloc has the right to name its candidate for the prime minister’s post. Mr. Maliki’s bloc nominated him, while other blocs have a different point of view on this. There’s a consensus among the political factions that it’s the National Alliance bloc that should name the new prime minister, while the National Alliance until now hasn’t been able to agree on one candidate.

My point of view is that we need to meet and try to reach a compromise and bridge differences because there’s a bigger battle ahead. What’s happening is that Iraq isn’t an Iraqi issue; Iraq is combating terrorism on behalf of all Muslims, because the terrorists are imposing a real threat to Islam. They are presenting our religion as a bloody path. Our prophet is the prophet of mercy, not a slaughterer.

Al-Monitor: Some reports suggested you might be a strong candidate to replace Maliki. Are you?

Shahrestani: I read these reports, but they are all rumors. The National Alliance until now has failed to come up with a unified name. There are differences, but we need to look ahead in the interest of the nation and find a way to get out of this tunnel.

Al-Monitor: Former [parliament] speaker Osama al-Nujaifi said he won’t seek a new term in office. He said this is because some members of the National Alliance told him that Maliki will withdraw if Nujaifi withdraws. But Maliki didn’t withdraw, so wasn’t this a way out of the political crisis?

Shahrestani: First, I want to express my respect for Mr. Nujaifi’s step. Yes, part of this problem was him insisting on running for a new term. Mr. Maliki’s bloc, the State of Law Coalition, and some other blocs within the National Alliance were opposed to that. Therefore, I believe he took a brave decision. We all need to look at the national interest, and I’m quite sure the Iraqis are aware of the dangers surrounding us and they’ll agree very soon on a road map (to get) out of this crisis.

Al-Monitor:  It seems that this crisis revived Kurdish dreams of independence. Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraqi Kurdistan, said on several occasions that it’s time to seek independence. He said this, too, when US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Iraq, and he also mentioned that Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution on the disputed areas has been implemented in Kirkuk province, stressing that “no return shall be for this decision.” What’s your take on this?

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