When the Iraqis confronted the world with their issues in the international conference recently held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, two issues stood at the forefront: Iraq’s inherited debts worth billions of dollars and the establishment of embassies in Baghdad. Much as I am an avid believer in the necessity of writing-off Iraq’s debts, in addition to supporting the need for diplomatic representation that seeks to restore Baghdad’s legitimacy – the matter is much bigger than that.
Regaining trust and security are the most critical issues; they are the keys to the regime’s longevity and for stability to prevail in the region. Apart from that, the rest are mere formalities or issues that can be postponed and do not warrant the controversy or efforts exerted in trips, negotiations and requests.
The Iraqi government’s crisis is not a financial one – despite the fact that the government’s wallet is practically empty. Opening a hundred embassies will not strengthen the Iraqi outlook, and it will not put an end to the terrorist attacks or make the regime last any longer.
Whilst I disagree with the Iraqi government’s order of priorities, I fully agree with its words in which it said, ‘save the ship before it sinks because everyone is threatened to drown with it in the same tempestuous sea.’
Unfortunately, all the countries in the region cannot envisage what the situation would be like if Iraq were to collapse, the central government falling and chaos spreading throughout – then everyone will feel regret over al Maliki’s government as they did over Iyad Allawi’s government before him.
On this occasion, perhaps it would be appropriate to learn how we miss opportunities because we fail to imagine the worst. Following the formation of the Iraqi Interim Governing Council after the invasion, which represented every Iraqi sect and group, it was met by skepticism and rejection. This was followed by the formation of the interim government in which Dr. Iyad Allawi was appointed Prime Minister; an exceedingly moderate political figure who represents the middle ground and who introduced a number of Iraqi symbols. When his government was confronted by revolts in Najaf and Fallujah, he faced the armed forces and struck the areas of revolt without differentiating between the Sunnis and Shia, entering into the holy areas and the mosques in Fallujah.
Because of the onslaught of campaigns attacking him from both sides, the countries in the region chose to sever relations with him opting to not get embroiled in Iraqi affairs, abandoning the government. Furthermore, they propagated the idea of boycotting the elections – a grave mistake they soon came to realize. It was only natural for Allawi to lose in the elections since he represented moderation.
When Dr. al Jaafari, followed by al Maliki, were appointed as prime ministers in succession, the boycott on the Iraqi government was still ongoing, which only contributed to amplify the violence and push the country closer to chaos.
And here we are fast approaching September, which General Petraeus [David H. Petraeus, commander of the Multinational Force Iraq – MFN-I] says is the deadline for Iraq; either it sinks or is rescued. In the case of Iraq collapsing, the whole region will drown in chaos; the neighboring countries including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan will pay a big price in security, money and people.
We feel remorse for not intervening to support the government council and for failing to place a shared mechanism. Then we regretted not supporting Allawis’s moderation. Still, we felt more remorse for not backing the electoral and constitutional process – and only God alone knows what the situation will be like if the Iraqi regime were to collapse – despite the reservations and hopes that many of us hold.
Everyone is in need of stability in Iraq and supporting its central regime will not come about through dropping its debts or sending ambassadors over. These are mere formalities whereas the critical matter is to support security so that the country may stabilize. This alone holds a rare opportunity to stop the slide towards the dark abyss.