“The former governor of Nineveh…and the brother of Iraqi Vice President Usama al-Nujaifi…he was sacked in May, when a majority of Iraqi MPs voted to fire him for corruption and complicity in the fall of Mosul to the Islamic State.”—The Enemy You Know and the Ally You Don’t
By Idris Okuducu
Atheel al-Nujaifi, a leading member of Iraq’s Sunni Hashd al-Watani (“People’s Mobilization”) group, has announced that his organization had opened an office in Washington D.C. to serve as the voice of Iraq’s Sunni-Muslim community.
“We want to communicate directly with all countries of the world with a view to reversing longstanding prejudices against Sunni Muslims,” al-Nujafi, who served as governor of Iraq’s northern city of Mosul (now held by the Daesh militant group) from 2009 to 2015, told Anadolu Agency.
“Our people [Iraq’s Sunni Muslims] have recently gone through a difficult period,” he said. “We want our voices to be heard by the world.”
“We want the U.S. and EU to hear about the difficult conditions we have been facing,” he added.
“The central government in Iraq is Shia-led, so our [i.e., Iraqi Sunnis’] contacts with other countries aren’t strong,” al-Nujafi said. “This is what led us to open a representative office in the U.S. capital.”
He went on to assert that the Shia-led Baghdad government was opposed to his organization’s new Washington bureau.
“Iraqi Shias don’t want Sunnis to have close ties with other countries,” he said.
Al-Nujafi went on to point out that Hadi al-Amiri, a commander of the Badr Brigade (an affiliate of the Hashd al-Shaabi organization, an umbrella of Iraqi Shia armed groups), had recently said his forces would take part in planned operations to retake Mosul from Daesh.
However, al-Nujaifi said, “the international coalition [against Daesh], along with many Sunnis, have expressed their opposition to Shia militias taking part in any future campaign to retake Mosul”, which, he added, “should not be turned into a sectarian [i.e., Sunni vs. Shia] conflict”.
Al-Nujaifi went on to allege that certain Shia powers hoped to change Iraq’s traditional demography following the elimination of Daesh.
“That’s why these Shia powers are so eager to join the conflicts in Iraq. They want to extend their control on the ground,” he said.
Noting that he remained in close contact with “prominent people” in Daesh-held Mosul, al-Nujaifi added, “People there are suffering; they need food and medicine. And they say they will support a future operation [to retake the city].”
In mid-2014, Daesh overran Mosul before declaring a self-styled “caliphate” in parts of Iraq and Syria.
Located in Iraq’s northern Nineveh province, Mosul is the country’s second largest city.