Muthanna al-Dhari Talks to Asharq Al-Awsat

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Muthanna Harith Al-Dhari, son of Sheikh Harith Al-Dhari, the president of the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) in Iraq, has revealed that “the decision to withdraw my Iraqi citizenship came after numerous arrest warrants were issued against me and my father, and the seizure of our finances ever since 2005.” He added, “I have not had an active Iraqi passport for years and because of this I am not able to travel from Amman, where we have settled, except to Qatar”.

Muthanna Dhari, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone yesterday from Doha, said, “I cannot travel due to a resolution issued by the UN 1267 committee in 2010. This committee is tasked with monitoring those believed to be collaborating with terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda and others, and based on information from the Iraqi government, I was suspected of targeting US forces. The resolution deems me an international criminal, preventing me from traveling and also depriving me from financial trading, without any evidence.”

With regards to the statement issued by protestors in the city of Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, which criticized the Iraqi government and claimed that its Iraqi citizenship should be withdrawn, Dhari said: “This statement came against the backdrop of my father’s announcement during a recent interview with a Turkish television station, in which he revealed the Iraqi government’s decision to rescind my Iraqi citizenship. That is why they issued this statement.”

Dhari pointed out, “The last time I was in my country was 2008, when I traveled to Damascus to organize an AMS conference there. Afterwards I was not able to return after having been informed that the security agencies and military forces were looking for me.” He said, “Now we live in Amman and we do not partake in any political activity or release media statements. The Iraqi government has pressured the Jordanian authorities to hand us over but the honorable Jordanian officials have told them that the following three individuals are considered a red line: Sheikh Harith Dhari, myself, and Raghad Hussein, daughter of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.”

Asked whether there is any truth behind his relations with armed militias or terrorist organizations, Dhari replied, “There are Iraqi jihadist factions that have resisted and continue to resist the American occupation, and they believe in the approach of the AMS, but they have no organizational links to our association. These factions have not and will not target any Iraqi citizen; their efforts are focused on resisting occupying forces.” He stressed, “Neither the association nor me personally have any relations with Al-Qaeda, and neither the Iraqi government nor the US forces could prove the existence of such a relationship. We, in all our statements from the very beginning, have deplored Al-Qaeda’s practices in Iraq, considering them terrorists, not a resistance movement.”

With regards to what these “jihadist factions” are doing now after the departure of US troops from Iraq, Dhari said, “the US occupying force has not left completely, a division still remains in control of Iraqi airspace. The Iraqi government is also the creation of the occupying forces, and it plays into the hands of the US administration.” He added, “A group of US troops returned to Iraq last September and we have accurate information about the presence of these forces at Al-Hurriya airbase in Kirkuk and Imam Ali airbase in Nasiriyah, in addition to another station near Baghdad airport. We also cannot ignore the presence of a large US army force at the US embassy in central Baghdad, under the pretext of defending the embassy. These forces are equipped with heavy weaponry and helicopters.”

Regarding any links between the AMS and the demonstrations currently taking place in the western and northern provinces of Iraq, Dhari said, “These popular demonstrations and protests through which the Iraqis are demanding their legitimate rights must be supported. We have openly supported the demonstrations and offered our advice and guidance.” He denied that the Iraqi government had achieved even a fraction of the demonstrators’ demands, and even if token gestures had been made, this is because the Iraqi government wants to end the demonstrations without offering any real concessions or meeting legitimate demands. He revealed that these demonstrations will develop in ways that will become clear in the coming days, such as through the formation of new political movements representing the demonstrators and their regions. Dhari explained that the demonstrators do not recognize the existing blocs that claim to represent them without offering them anything. He declared that all possibilities were open at the moment, including demonstrators taking up arms to defend themselves from attacks by government forces.

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