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UNITED NATIONS, New York – EXCLUSIVE: The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq called on Western countries to continue to pursue the remnants of ISIS until the organization is completely eliminated because it poses a threat to humanity.
“We have to take it seriously because when they started, they were also small. But once they become part of the problem, not just because they have guns in their hands, but they have to to do with an ideology like ISIS it has to do with their culture, with their ideas,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein told Fox News Digital in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
“So we have to fight ISIS … not only fight ISIS on the battlefield or by military means,” Hussain added. “We need different kinds of education, so the fight against ISIS as an ideology does not exist yet. And we need to do more.
“We need different platforms to talk about this ideology because, at the end of the day, it’s a threat to humanity.”
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The US and its allies declared a military victory over ISIS and the end of the caliphate in 2019 after the destruction of the last stronghold in the Syrian village of Baghuz. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), working with the US military, led the effort on the ground.
But remnants of ISIS continued to operate in rural areas of Iraq and Syria. The operatives have focused their recruiting efforts on the al-Hol refugee camp, the largest such camp in Syria, which the head of US Central Command, Gen. Michael “Eric” Kurylo, has warned is a “nursery” for future ISIS operatives.
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Hussein shared Kurila’s concern, saying the camp threatens many countries in the region. Worse, he argued, if the camp is not reined in, it will allow operatives to once again operate freely in Syria.
“What will happen?” Hussain asked. “This means that they will be active again inside Syria and that they will also cross the border and they will come because Syria is not that far from the border with Iraq. So they will cross the border and come to Iraq.”
But Hussain said his country could continue to look up to the US while applauding it relations between the two countries despite “some problems, some problems in some periods”.
“I think the relationship has changed since being there with… [the] The US military is now on a healthier relationship, Hussain said. “And the Americans can support Iraq in various ways, especially in building the Iraqi economy, so America can play an important role inside Iraq.”
Hussain said tensions in his country flared during the Trump administration following Trump’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and that the Biden administration’s efforts to restore the nuclear deal were “a positive development.”
But America is not the only country with which Iraq has worked to build partnerships. Iraq’s geopolitical position requires it to have good relations with its neighbors and foreign interests, which means the country must make deals with China and Iran. China has recently increased its investment in Iraq through a construction-in-exchange-for-oil deal.
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“Iraq needs the Iraqi economy and Iraqi infrastructure, [we] need, reconstruction [and] restructuring and China — or Chinese companies — could play a role in that,” Hussain said. “But it’s not like it was said that we’re heavily dependent on this deal. To be honest, we haven’t started implementing the deal for a long time.
“You see, we have good relations with our neighbor, Iran, as well as with Kuwait, with Jordan, with Turkey, with the countries of the Persian Gulf,” Hussein insisted. “And our relationship. It depends on many, many, many areas. It has to do with history. It has to do with geography. It has to do with culture.”
“Iran is our neighbor and we have relations with Iran as a friendly country, and that doesn’t mean we don’t have some problems here and there,” he explained. “But we are trying to solve these problems through dialogue with them.”
Part of Hussein’s concern lies in the political difficulties still gripping the country, with elections due in October 2021 necessitating a coalition government. Iraq the government has not yet been formed and was elected Prime Minister at that time.
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The situation worsened even more in August, when the cleric Maqtada al-Sadr announced his resignation from politics after a long deadlock in the government. His statement sparked a protest that led to the storming of the government palace by his supporters.
Hussein said al-Sadr is a “respected leader” who has “good support in Iraqi society.”
“He has his own policy regarding the position. So it has to do with him. But he deserves a lot of respect from the outside,” Hussain said.
“We are all committed to the democratic process,” Hussain insisted. “Actually, we had an election about a year ago, and it’s a shame that the political parties couldn’t reach an agreement on the formation of a new government because of the conflict between them.”
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“However, I can say that the recent negotiations or dialogues between political parties give us the opportunity to have a new government,” he added. “I don’t know when, but I see that the negotiation process between the political parties is going well, and there is an option to hold a session of parliament in the near future.”