Thursday, 2 February 2017

Barzani’s chief of staff: Kurdish economy will recover after liberation of Mosul

Barzani’s chief of staff: Kurdish economy will recover after liberation of Mosul


The liberation of Mosul will offer an enormous boost to the Kurdistan Region’s economy, said Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of President Masoud Barzani. Even after liberation of half of the city, the effect is already noticeable. He expects relations that were built with the Mosulawi business professionals who moved their bases to the Kurdistan Region during the city’s occupation by ISIS will play an important role.

Hussein is worried about the political future of Mosul, as the parties involved failed in their efforts to reach an agreement about it even before the military action to remove ISIS started in October last year. An agreement with Baghdad is needed to guarantee minority groups in Mosul a safe return and political influence, he told Rudaw, and the Kurds would prefer to start the talks with Baghdad as soon as possible.

Rudaw: What will be the result of the liberation of Mosul for Kurdistan?

Fuad Hussein: I think the occupation of Mosul and surroundings by ISIS has had an enormously negative influence on our economy. There always has been an economic interaction between Mosul and Kurdistan, especially Erbil and Duhok. Now a part of Mosul has been liberated, we see the economy moving. Because of the war, many areas are destroyed. The infrastructure has been destroyed, so all means of life need to be brought in from elsewhere. The main gate for Mosul is Zakho, and already we see that the import and the traffic from Ibrahim Khalil has increased [note: Ibrahim Khalil is the main border crossing between the Kurdistan Region and Turkey].

The process of rebuilding is dependent on the Kurdish market and capital, but also on companies in Kurdistan, both Kurdish and those that fled from Mosul. I think a partnership will develop between them. The liberation of Mosul will give enormous growth to many sectors in Kurdistan.

But the roads between Erbil and Mosul, and especially the destroyed bridge near Khazir, are delaying all transport. Isn’t this a priority to solve?

Later, when Mosul is liberated completely, the work is about bridges, houses, roads, hospitals, universities – all that was destroyed will have to be rebuilt again. For Mosul, a budget will come from Baghdad, which will help. It will help the Kurdish economy too.

But can’t goods be transported from Baghdad too?

Yes, but the roads from Erbil and Dohuk to Mosul are many, and shorter. Next to that, most of the products come from abroad. That’s easier through, or from, Turkey. From Baghdad that would be through Basra, and that is much more expensive. So I don’t think Baghdad will be competition. Kurdistan knows the language, the geography, the interaction was there already plus the relations that were developed in the past two years between Kurds and Mosulawis who were here as refugees.

What is the effect for the Kurdish economy of the salaries people from Mosul receive from Baghdad?

IDPs who are here, spend their salaries here. That is good. The total liberation will lead to more investment. Many of the rich Kurds

  Everybody has his own plan: the Shiite popular mobilization, as well as the Sunni  
stopped investing because of the war and kept their money for another day. The foreign investors quit. We hope that many of them will return after the liberation of Mosul. Like the tourists. Now because of the war, there are many checkpoints. When ISIS is gone from Mosul as a military power, you can deal differently with the checkpoints. That means tourists will come to Kurdistan from the rest of Iraq and from Iran.

How about the political solutions for Mosul, if we look at the fact that the Iraqi army is putting out Shiite flags in a Sunni city?

We have an agreement both with the Americans and the Iraqis about the military plans. Until recently, everybody was committed to it: the Peshmerga, the Iraqi army and the Popular Mobilization Units. Yet recently, there has been some shelling by the Hashd al-Shaabi on Peshmerga bases, but after intensive contact with Baghdad I think it has been solved. Because everybody knows the danger of playing with fire. The relation between the Peshmerga troops and the Iraqi army is very good, so is the coordination. We will meet to talk about the mechanism needed to prevent these incidents.

What do you mean by playing with fire?

That they shell or bomb the Peshmerga, it returns the fire and fighting is started while we still have ISIS, the common enemy. All weapons should point in that direction. This incident has happened, and we controlled it. But as to certain displays of the Popular Mobilisation, who think they will control the area, that is wrong. We must do everything according to the military agreement, then it will run smoothly.

But don’t the Kurds need to react to incidents like putting a Shiite flag on the main archeological site in Mosul, Nabi Younes?

Two days before we started the war on October 17, we allowed the Iraqi army to come to Makhmour. But I received information and pictures that the Popular Mobilisation Units were on their way from Kirkuk to Makhmour. The pictures I got were of religious symbols. It was the time of Ashura. I phoned the prime minister: “What is this? We have an agreement the army will come.” He said it was the army, and I sent him the pictures. He said: “Fuad, you know what happens in Iraq, what is today?” I said: “Yes Mister Prime Minister. And I know what is happening in Mosul, so please send an army. They can put flags in their tents, but their tanks carry these flags

  You need to consider the new situation and offer a guarantee for the Yezidis, Shiite, the Shabak that what happened to them will never again.  
connected to their faith, and that is not good.” What can we do? We have said that it is dangerous. The army needs Iraqi flags, other ones will lead to reactions.

But in general, I think the army did well. In its behavior towards the civilians, liberating areas as planned. There were many victims at the side of the army in Mosul, but the human rights abuses were few. The army was committed. But we have these problems, as there is also the popular mobilization. Everybody has his own plan: the Shiite popular mobilization, as well as the Sunni.

Even though it was considered important, there still is no political plan for Mosul after the liberation. How do you look at that?

When Mosul is liberated completely, Baghdad and Erbil must sit and talk. We wanted to have a plan even before the military action, and my president has said so in all meetings with the Iraqi or American delegations. But it did not happen. The Iraqi government did not want to, and the Americans were occupied with their elections; they mostly wanted the military action done before. So now we have no idea how to deal with the future. There is no plan, the alternative is to develop one together but first the rest of Mosul must be liberated. We don’t mind starting now, but Baghdad is too busy with the coming local and national elections. We need to start a dialogue, as we are the two main powers in the area.

What would be the role of the Kurds in Mosul? Some sources say they want to have the power in part of the city?

That is what the media say, but the reality is that Mosul after the elections is different from before, because a genocide has happened during the occupation, against Yezidis, and deportation of all the Kurds, discrimination and deportation of the Christians, the Shabak, the Shiite Turkmen. How can these people return to their lands while the perpetrators, and their families or their supporters, are still there? How can you build the trust? You need to consider the new situation and offer a guarantee for the Yezidis, Shiite, the Shabak that what happened to them will never again. They need to have power. A police force in their area, they need to lead their people. How to translate that to the reality, that is what we must negotiate. They need to have influence on their future, for how could they otherwise return? We are ready to sit and talk about this with the Iraqis.

But are the Iraqis ready to talk to the Kurds about this too?

This is about who… we want the prime minister, but he is of course occupied with the war. We need to have a situation in which people feel safe to go back. Not now, but in the future. How, I do not know. We have ideas that we want to discuss with Baghdad.

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