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Sunni Politics in Iraq

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Americans have been hoping that as Sunnis become more involved in Iraqi politics, they will cut back support for the insurgency. To find out if that's happening, we've called a Sunni political leader. He's Dr. Saleh Mutlak of a group called the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue. Welcome to the program, sir.

Dr. SALEH MUTLAK (Iraqi Front for National Dialogue): ...(Unintelligible).

INSKEEP: Why do you think that the month of January, the first full month after these elections, has been so violent?

Dr. MUTLAK: Because of disappointment, disappointment of the results.

INSKEEP: Be...

Dr. MUTLAK: Because they trust their politicians, and they went to the election, and when they went there, they found out that everything was arranged to make from them a minority.

INSKEEP: In the elections that were held in early 2005, many Sunnis boycotted. Sunni Arabs ended up with almost no representation. That changed in the December elections, where Sunnis turned out in very large numbers. Some Sunni groups did allege that there was fraud dampening their results, but it still seems that Sunnis will have a substantial chunk of the new parliament. Why does that not give people hope that they will at least be at the bargaining table?

Dr. MUTLAK: Well, if you look to the results, they cannot share any decision in the parliament.

INSKEEP: You're saying that Shiites and Kurds, the two other major groups, still have enough power that they can roll over the Sunnis, as you would see it.

Dr. MUTLAK: Yes, that's the case.

INSKEEP: US officials have been saying publicly that they would very much like to get Sunnis more deeply involved. In your experience, have the Americans been working to get your side a voice, even though your side will not have a majority?

Dr. MUTLAK: Well, I think, yes. They tried hard, actually, to bring the Sunnis in the political process, and now they are trying hard to convince the Sunnis. But the way they handled the situation is really very bad, and now they know that there is a big effort. But they still say, well, there was transparency and they went forward, but it's not up to the point which means something significant.

INSKEEP: As I understand it, the United Nations and other outside observers have said the election was essentially free and fair. Why have Sunni Arabs not accepted that? Why has your group not accepted that?

Dr. MUTLAK: Well, the problem, when you talk about the decision of the United Nations, the United Nations are prisoners in the Green Zone, so they have no observation really. They have no access to see whether the election was done in the right way or not.

INSKEEP: Have American officials been meeting with you directly?

Dr. MUTLAK: Yes. I meet most of them. And, in fact, my last meeting with them, I was very optimistic when I met them. Unfortunately, the results which comes out of this meeting are not as we expected.

INSKEEP: And have you also been able to meet, in recent days and weeks, with people who represent the insurgency in Iraq?

Dr. MUTLAK: No, actually, we don't try to do this, because we don't have anything in our hands to talk to them. I made a proposal to the Shiite coalition and even to the Americans that let's have a plan in which we agree upon, and where we agree upon, we will try to find them and talk to them and tell them that, listen, the American wants to leave the country, but you have to stop your fighting so that they will leave. But when we hear that, we have to go there and, you know, we are certain that we have a plan.

INSKEEP: You're saying that you would like to negotiate with the insurgents or reason with them, anyway, but you feel that you have nothing to offer at the moment. Is that what you're saying?

Dr. MUTLAK: That's right.

INSKEEP: Well, Dr. Saleh Mutlak, thanks very much.

Dr. MUTLAK: Thanks a lot. Thank you, my friend.

INSKEEP: We've been talking to Dr. Saleh Mutlak. He's a member of a political group called the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue.

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.