Al-Shammari speaks at Rafidain Forum

Iraqi interior minister discusses security, drugs and coordination with Kurdistan Region

BAGHDAD — In a statement made at the Rafidain Forum on Tuesday, Iraqi Interior Minister Abdul Amir Al-Shammari addressed inquiries regarding the presence of Mossad in the Kurdistan Region and outlined the current security challenges and coordination efforts along Iraq’s borders.

Al-Shammari expressed his lack of direct knowledge about the presence of Mossad in Kurdistan, stating, “I have not reviewed the investigation file in Kurdistan and do not know if there is Mossad or not.” His remarks underscored a gap in his access to the latest intelligence findings in the region.

The Interior Minister detailed that federal oversight of the border, specifically in the areas of Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Duhok, fall under the central government’s command. However, he noted that Turkish intervention in the Duhok border area has led to conflicts with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), further indicating the complexities of border security management.

Al-Shammari highlighted efforts to strengthen coordination with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and initiate dialogue with Ankara to address border security challenges. “We coordinate highly with the Kurdistan Region, and we have started coordinating with the Turkish side as well, but the matter requires time due to the ruggedness of the area,” he explained. The Kurdistan Region’s northern border with Turkey is marked by rugged and mountainous terrain.

Addressing the challenges along the border with Iran, particularly in Sulaymaniyah, Al-Shammari cited a lack of resources as a hindrance to establishing a robust security presence. He mentioned that during 2023, efforts were made to reinforce the first border brigade with engineering equipment and vehicles to bolster their operational capabilities.

The minister also touched on the ongoing cooperation and coordination with the KRG to monitor international drug traffickers operating within the region, emphasizing that security within the Kurdish territories remains the KRG’s responsibility. He noted improvements in border security measures, including the installation of cameras and fences and the deportation of violators, which have significantly reduced smuggling activities, particularly involving Pakistanis.

Al-Shammari also highlighted measures to address drug abuse and human rights issues. With a conference on drugs scheduled for March 14 in Vienna, the minister outlined several key initiatives including the supposed reversal of a government policy that has prosecuted drug users but will now require mandatory rehabilitation.

“We have established compulsory clinics and converted some camps into health centers for rehabilitating drug users,” the minister stated. Individuals will now be directed to rehabilitation centers operated by the Ministry of Health and the Interior Ministry, with a focus on preventing relapse into substance use, Al-Shammari stated.

On human rights, the minister reported that judges are placing more emphasis on hard, technical evidence rather than confessions in an effort to eliminate cases of torture and coercion in investigations. While acknowledging that instances of torture may still occur, he affirmed the government’s efforts to improve protection of human rights. The Interior Ministry maintains an open-door policy, he said, with the minister personally meeting with 150 citizens weekly to address their concerns and enforce accountability for rights violations. “Our door is always open, and we are ready to act on any reported abuses,” he said.

Regarding surveillance, the minister explained that the implementation of camera projects is managed by provincial authorities, with a mix of video recording and smart cameras that can identify images and vehicle numbers, depending on the significance of the location.

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