Former Mosul mayor says corruption led to ISIS takeover

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Mosul Mayor Atheel al-Nujaifi said the Iraqi government was warned in the past of intelligence officers facilitating the arrival of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in the city.

Iraqi leaders have moved their explosive disputes out of the cities and provinces and into the parliament. Exactly as they failed to agree on a settlement outside the parliament, they failed to elect its president after both the Sunni and Kurdish blocs withdrew from the first session.

While new deputies were taking the constitutional oath and exchanging accusations of supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and allowing it to take over Ninevah, the mayor of Mosul, Atheel al-Nujaifi, told the story of its fall years ago. This was the result of the officers’ corruption, the government and the Americans’ disregard of the big smuggling operations conducted by ISIS, which was also imposing royalties on merchants and companies. A runaway merchant told Al-Hayat of how the group has been a state inside the state for 10 years.

Nujaifi said that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki refused to listen to the information offered to him about senior officers from the intelligence services being involved in facilitating the work of ISIS in Mosul, as well as smuggling oil through the area of Ain al-Jahash. “Officers in the internal intelligence services and the 2nd Division of the Iraqi army were specialized in blackmailing contractors, developers and owners of parking lots and gas stations,” Nujaifi said. “The province sent official letters to the Special Operations Command, the Ministry of Defense and the General Command of the Armed Forces pointing out these transgressions. Yet, our constant problem was that citizens feared giving their testimonies in any investigation, and this was not in our best interest because the prime minister forbids us to arrest any officers without his consent.”

A source in Nujaifi’s office let Al-Hayat in on some extra details, saying, “Officers from the intelligence service were facilitating the passage of trucks smuggling oil from outside the province, as well as finding a place to sell it, facilitating the entry of merchants and smuggling mafias in areas on the border. They knew that these merchants were leaders in the second tier of ISIS. These people were getting information about the distribution of security and military divisions throughout the province, as well as their numbers and equipment, in exchange for significant bribes.”

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Such information is not surprising. The people of Mosul have been talking for years about a state inside the state built by ISIS, in all its different names, whether with the presence of the US Army or the local governments and with the presence of the Iraqi army.

An important merchant from Mosul, who refused to reveal his name, told Al-Hayat, “The group was making a fortune from fixed monthly taxes from all the merchants, business owners and contractors, in addition to 20% of the earnings of any governmental contractor.” He added, “Even the contractors who were working with the US forces were paying taxes to members of the group, or those who call themselves collectors. They wandered around publicly, collecting money under the eyes of the US Army, in the past, and under the auspices of the Iraqi army today.”

Nujaifi told Al-Hayat over the phone yesterday, “Corruption is an essential part of the story of the fall of Mosul. The information I mentioned is only part of a big system we have always warned about in different ways, yet the government never listened. I was one of the first to point out secret terrorist networks penetrating the army and police.”

On the other hand, the past of the newly named Islamic State, after its leader announced himself the caliph of Islam, does not indicate the possibility of the permanence of the calm phase with the Sunni armed factions that have been controlling a number of cities for over three weeks. The tax collection was not only limited to Mosul, but taxes were also collected from Anbar, Salahuddin, Diyala and Kirkuk before the clans there turned against the group and formed the Awakenings, most of which were from the Sunni armed factions that fought against US forces.

Sources from these factions all agree: “There is no pledge of allegiance to [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi,” yet they also agree that “there is no war with him,” and they are apparently trying to peacefully solve the crisis created by the announcement of the caliphate.

The Association of Muslim Scholars, led by Sheikh Harith al-Dhari and affiliated with armed groups, refused the invitation to the caliphate in a statement yesterday. They said it was nonbinding and that it weakened “the revolution and the revolutionaries,” which reflected the concerns raised by the announcement of the caliphate in the Sunni circles that would not be able to declare war on ISIS and the governmental authorities at the same time.

Al-Hayat tried to find out the opinion of armed factions spokesmen concerning ISIS moving equipment and heavy arms seized in Mosul to Syria, but could not get a specific position. An insider from the city said, “Mosul has always been laying golden eggs for ISIS. The taxes the group collected were finding their way to Syria, especially since they took control of some of the villages there.”

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Found in: syria, mosul, islamic state, iraq, financing
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