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Asharq Al-Awsat Interview: Iyad Allawi | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat- The head of the Al-Iraqiya List and former Iraqi Prime Minister, Dr Iyad Allawi, has reiterated his rejection of Iranian intervention in domestic Iraqi affairs and regional countries.

In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat from Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region, the former Iraqi Prime Minster insisted that achieving one of the three options proposed in his latest address to the Iraqi people will bring stability to Iraq “through achieving true national partnership.” He described the American Administration’s role in Iraq as “a failure” and praised statements made by Prince Turki al-Faisal pertaining to the Iranian intervention in the affairs of the region.

Following is the text of the interview:

[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you see the direction of the political situation in Iraq?

[Allawi] The situation is heading toward very difficult paths for many reasons, at the forefront of which is the nature of the political process which was built on wrong foundations in terms of marginalization, exclusion, and political sectarianism which led to the inability to build state institutions that are capable of serving the citizens, most importantly the security and the lack of implementation of the concepts of the national partnership that were agreed on. This leads to difficult tension which the country is witnessing today. The tension has escalated into dangerous practices, including the two issues of our brothers Tariq al-Hashimi, the vice president of the republic, and Saleh al-Mutlaq, the deputy prime minister.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Regarding the Al-Hashimi issue, do you not trust the Iraqi judiciary?

[Allawi] There are no laws in the country. The judiciary is politicized and is influenced by politics. There are procedures that are outside the boundaries of law and go against the Constitution, they are constitutional violations and therefore there is no concept of prevalence of law and there is no concept of fully respecting the sovereignty and principles of the Constitution.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] When did these violations begin?

[Allawi] They have never stopped, for example, there is the internal order of the cabinet. Until now nothing has been announced and we do not know anything about it. Second, the appointments at the rank of “major general” and above in the army along with the advisers, these names must be discussed in accordance with the Constitution by the Council of Representatives to approve or otherwise the names for appointments. This did not happen, and this is a violation of the Constitution. As for the detainees, according to the Constitution, a detainee must not be held for more than 24 hours and this can be renewed once by a judge. A detainee must not be held in a secret prison and he should have a lawyer, and this does not exist.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] The Iraqi citizen is asking: you knew about all these violations and procedures before, so why did you take part in the political process?

[Allawi] No. We joined the political process because of the lack of options. We participated in order to reform it and we have fought all deviations, starting with fighting political sectarianism, adopting the national reconciliation project, along with the need for the political process to be comprehensive that only excludes terrorists and murderers. This is our path to reform the political process which could lead, if it were to happen, to reform and building a state of institutions.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Why did you not choose to be in the opposition?

[Allawi] You mean opposition of the political process?

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Yes.

[Allawi] You mean to leave the political process and oppose it from the outside? How can that be? How can that happen? The political process is not limited to anyone. There is the concept of the government being opposed in parliament, there is an opposition to the political process and we do not believe in the use of violence whatsoever. We only use constitutional methods and modern practices and this is why sometimes we choose to participate in the government and sometimes in the opposition to procedures that do not serve the stability or the Constitution, whether in the Council of Representatives or in the Council of Ministers.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Your rivals accuse you of having one foot in the government and one foot in the opposition?

[Allawi] In Iraq we have no democracy and no stability. The government is part of the political process and we participate and support the right directions and also work on rectifying the wrong directions and oppose them. This is the government in which we have participated as part of the agreement and on known foundations based on true partnership in accordance with nine axes. However, this partnership has not been achieved because of the failure of the partnership process and in fact the failure of the Erbil conference. This is why His Excellency President Jalal Talabani called for a meeting and for a national conference to be held. Had there been an effective Council of Representatives, an effective government, and a true partnership then there would have been no reason to hold this national conference. When the political forces failed to form a government, we held the Erbil conference which was an initiative by brother Masud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Region. Today, when the political process has failed his excellency the president called for holding another conference we may call “Erbil 2” since the government was formed in “Erbil 1;” in my opinion “Erbil 2” will look into the reasons why the points pertaining to national partnership were not implemented.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] In past statements, you said that if a national conference were to be held in Baghdad then you will not participate. Do you still adhere to this?

[Allawi] We said that there needs to be a proper atmosphere that will guarantee that the conference would succeed. This can be achieved by a number of paths: first, unravelling the current crisis, alleviating the tension and the problem of attacking the Iraqi crowds, leaders, and supporters. Second: if the top tier leaders of the political groupings do not attend, foremost of course are President Talabani, Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Region, along with Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq [SCIRI], and Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Sadrist Trend, then the conference will have no importance. These leaders have played a vital role in bringing about the foundations of the political process. Brother Barzani was the one who launched the initiative thanks to which the current government was formed in accordance with the standards of clear national unity. If those are absent we will not reach real results; we have experience in this, since we had agreed in tough previous meetings on the implementation of national partnership and we discussed nine axes but nothing was accomplished.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] In your opinion, what was achieved in the Erbil initiative other than the formation of the government?

[Allawi] Nothing but the formation of the government…nothing else was accomplished.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] In your latest address that was carried by all media outlets, you proposed three options to reform the situation, including two options that call for the resignation of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. In your opinion, how do you believe the situation would be if the options you put forward were not achieved? Do you believe there will be a way to return to working with Al-Maliki?

[Allawi] Yes, we put forward three options pertaining to complete national partnership and for the national alliance to be completely responsible for the nomination of the prime minister and the formation of the government in order to hold early elections. Now there is support for the option of national partnership and an agreed democracy even though there are some people who support other options. Today I found out that brother Adnan al-Mufti, the former speaker of the Kurdistan Region parliament, supports the option of the true national partnership.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is there any room for you to work with Al-Maliki?

[Allawi] This depends on him. If Al-Maliki decides that he is part of the whole then there is a possibility to cooperate with him. However, if he decides not to be part of the whole then it would be hard to work and cooperate with him. Today it is difficult for one person to rule Iraq, neither as a party, a sect, or a national group. This is known. If there is no agreement and people do not regard themselves as part of a bigger story called Iraq, then nobody will work with the other person. This is why I proposed these three options. The decision now is that of Al-Maliki, his party, and the State of the Law Coalition as to whether or not they are part of the whole or that they want to individually govern Iraq….this is what will direct the path.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] In your opinion, what does the National Alliance think?

[Allawi] We have brothers inside the Alliance with whom we have worked and allied with for decades against dictatorship. They support the national partnership option. As for a portion of the brothers in the Alliance with whom we have links, they believe that no individual can govern alone.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Will your meetings with Kurdistan Region President Masud Barzani result in an alliance between the Al-Iraqiya List and the Kurdish Alliance, especially that your visits to Erbil are numerous?

[Allawi] We have been in alliance with the Kurdish brothers for over 30 years. We fought together against the former regime and we are in alliance with President Talabani and brother Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Region, in order to bring about effective democracy. Our aim is not to form an axis against another, we have already been allies to our Kurdish brothers and the brothers in the Islamic Council and so on in an effort to emerge from this current crisis in Iraq, which now has new chapters, especially pertaining to the exclusionist and marginalization policies which resulted in the governorates adopting the option of forming regions in an attempt to get rid of the marginalization policies. In fact, this is something new that has entered the political equation and the heart of the establishment of the Iraqi state. Despite the fact that the Constitution supports the establishment of regions under certain circumstances, the governorates’ inclination now toward this option comes as a result of the behaviour of the government.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] You warned, early on, and in interviews with Asharq Al-Awsat of fears of unilateral governance in Iraq. How do you view the situation today?

[Allawi] Of course, the issues are heading toward unilateralism and this will result in dictatorship.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is there fear that Iraq will be dragged into a civil war?

[Allawi] I hope that matters will not reach this point. However, political sectarianism is prevalent. I had warned on numerous occasions against reaching this outcome. Political sectarianism means murdering the political process, the Iraqi state, and the structure of this Iraqi state. It will end Iraq. The only thing that will lead to stability in Iraq is for Iraq to belong to all Iraqis and for all Iraqis to be equal. I will give you a simple example of what I am saying, which is what was done by an officer from Al-Huwayjah, a supporter of the Al-Iraqiya grouping — he harboured a terrorist wearing an explosive belt, the belt went off and he was martyred in order to protect the others. There is great meaning in this heroic act, showing that the Iraqi citizen does not think with a sectarian mentality. Unfortunately, however, a part of the political elite think in a sectarian way. The Iraqi people do not hold such thoughts and proof of this is this symbolic incident which has great meaning. Prior to this incident, was the incident of the martyrdom of Othman al-Ubaydi. Political sectarianism will lead to a fracture in the basic infrastructure of Iraq, God forbid. This is why I put forward the three options through which at least one will lead us to balance in the political process and will achieve balance in the joint action to build the Iraqi state so Iraq once again returns not only to the Iraqi people but will also play an important role in the stability of the region as a whole instead of the region being open to violation, foreign intervention in its domestic affairs, in killing and fragmentation, which is what is happening and what we are seeing. Had Iraq been a strong, sound, and healthy country, it would contribute to the stability of the entire region. It would have been a factor in preventing foreign intervention in domestic affairs.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is Iraq isolated from the Arab [world] and internationally?

[Allawi] Yes of course. Iraq is isolated, and it is a major isolation except for the American side, which does whatever it wants in the country. It comes and goes “as it desires” and there is nobody else there.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you view the American role in Iraq?

[Allawi] The American role is confused and not clear. They are busy with their own problems. America is not searching for a political exit. It is concerned about the American scene itself and it does not care about stability in Iraq or the region. Elections are coming up and this is an election year. They are concerned about the election competition and they are using Iraq as one of the cards in the elections. What we are concerned about is the security and stability of our country and our people. We have an Iraqi saying that goes: “he who strikes with the stick is unlike the one who counts and calculates the blows.” Our people are being slaughtered every day but he who is sitting in Washington, Chicago, or New Jersey is simply watching, “he is simply counting the number of blows against our people.” He is not concerned about what is happening here. We have a real problem that pertains to the suffering of our people and the martyrdom of Iraqi people on a daily basis. We hope that we maintain good relations with America as a country that is probably the most important country in the world. However, I believe it is our duty to warn America of the dangers of what is happening in Iraq and the role of Iraq in the stability and security of the region in order to find a balance that will bring Iraq back to the international arena in a proper way.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you believe that the United States has failed in Iraq and this has led the country to this situation?

[Allawi] There is no doubt America failed in Iraq…it failed not only in Iraq, but in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Sudan. In addition to failing in the peace process between the Palestinians and Israelis…they are all at a standstill and they have all failed. This failure has clearly led to further confusion in the American policy. My hope is that the Arab leaders will talk frankly and clearly to the American Administration so it reconsiders its policies and deals with the region as a partner and not in terms of intervention in its domestic affairs and imposing policies on the people of the region. They should be true and important partners not only at the regional level but at the global level in order to deal with this enormous economic deterioration that is happening around the world.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] There are some Iraqi politicians who are critical of the Arabs because of what they call the absence of the Arab role in Iraq. What is your opinion on this?

[Allawi] I do not think that there is an absence in terms of the Arab role in Iraq. I do not think that the Arabs want or have the intention to forget Iraq. I cannot imagine this. However, the Arabs did not interfere in the Iraqi affairs from the start in response to the American position, which reassured the Arabs that the situation in Iraq is good and that no foreign intervention would happen. And now this is the result, a country living under such circumstances. Because of the weakness (of Iraq) it has become subject to regional intervention. Proof of this are statements made by Qasim Sulaymani, an official in the Al-Quds Brigade in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, on the one hand, and the confusion that is taking place between Iraq and Turkey on the other. Sulaymani openly says that “Iraq is under our control” and the saddening thing is that we have not heard any statements from the highest levels in the (Iraqi) government condemning these statements! This is an important indication that Iraq has become subject to intervention from neighboring countries in a blatant way.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you view the Turkish role vis-a-vis Iraq?

[Allawi] We can measure the Turkish role in Iraq from three dimensions: First, Turkey’s insistence on developing Iraq and helping the Iraqis in the development process; second, Turkey until very recently was very open to Iraq and the relations with it were good; and third, there was a problem pertaining to the (Turkish opposition) Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK], which continues to exist. However, the dialogues between the Turkish and Kurdish leaders in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region are sufficient to resolve this problem. Turkey has tried to build good relations with Iraq, Iran, Syria and other countries. It has tried to create a state of balance in the region on the one hand and with the United States on the other. It has tried to build a situation that will contribute to the stability of Iraq. I remember that over a year ago and before the formation of the Iraqi Government, Turkey tried to find channels of understanding with each of Iran and Syria so that a government would be formed that represents the Iraqi political spectrum in accordance with a clear national partnership without it being biased to any party. It was not biased toward the Kurds, the Al-Iraqiya List, the State of Law or the National Alliance. It was searching for common denominators to push the region toward Iraq. However, following the clear and complete Iranian insistence on standing in the face of Al-Iraqiya and the formation of the Iraqi Government, this concept of relations in respect of the regional accord started to fracture to the point of exchanging insults and statements by Iran, which controls Iraq and southern Lebanon. This is regrettable and hurts.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] There were statements made by Iranian Ambassador to Iraq Hasan Danai Far about confusion over meeting you in Baghdad. We want to hear from you the truth behind this story.

[Allawi] There is no confusion or misunderstanding. At the request of our Al-Iraqiya grouping, it was agreed that I speak to the Iranian ambassador to Iraq and invite him for a luncheon at the Al-Iraqiya headquarters in Baghdad along with all the leaders in our grouping in order to give him a message to deliver to the Iranian leadership about the Iranian intervention in the domestic Iraqi affairs and that Iran must be equal to everyone. I do not know the telephone number of the Iranian ambassador so one of the leaders from Al-Iraqiya called him and said that Dr Allawi will be talking to you. The next day, I asked the office head to call him, and I spoke to him and told him that we would like to talk to you along with the leaders and symbols of Al-Iraqiya, and he said: “God willing. I am ready. This is something excellent.” However, I was shocked recently by the strange statement he made in this regard. I want to make it clear that we are not against Iran, in that we do not support the intervention in Iranian affairs. It is the complete opposite. We respect history and geography. We respect the neighborly relations and the future relations with our neighbors. We believe that proper relations must be built on two foundations: not interfering in the domestic affairs and respecting Iraqi sovereignty on the one hand, and preserving joint interests on the other. This is why I proposed to many leaders in the region that we, along with the leaders of the Al-Iraqiya do not object to meeting with Iranian officials in your countries.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] But not to hold a meeting in Iran?

[Allawi] No, no, no. Not in Iran, not at all. This matter is not in my mind at all, I mean visiting Iran. However, in all honesty we, the Al-Iraqiya leaders and myself, wanted to meet with the Iranian officials in any Arab country or in Ankara in order to clearly talk and if we reach logical results that benefit the interests of Iraq, the Iraqi people, and the Iranians, then I will visit Iran. However, I will not go to Iran without us achieving results and agreeing to a program. I will not go there in order to strengthen the status quo of the Iranian intervention not only in the domestic Iraqi affairs but in other countries in the region. First and last, we have allegiance to the Arabs’ situation and the safety of the Arab and regional countries. I believe that the problems in the region are linked together. This is why I am keen to resolve all the problems with Iran. However, this must take place within clear practical circumstances and procedures at the forefront of which is to achieve practical meetings in important countries. Some people may ask why Iran would talk to me since I am not a head of a state or government but a member in the Council of Representatives and head of a political (Iraqi) grouping. I do not know why Iran would invite me to visit Tehran or why it wants to talk to me. However, I know for certain why we in Al-Iraqiya want to talk to the Iranian officials. We want to clear up some important issues pertaining to the Iranian intervention in the domestic Iraqi affairs and to put an end to this intervention along with the problems between Iran and Arab countries. This is why we are keen on talking to Iranian officials. However, I will not accept any kind of secret and individual meeting with Iranian officials or agree to any meeting in Iran prior to reaching important results. This is why I believe that visiting Iran for the sake of visiting has no meaning even though I always receive invitations from Iran to visit, I have constantly rejected them and have said I am part of the whole, I am part of the Al-Iraqiya leadership and I will not visit Tehran for the sake of media propaganda and to take pictures. This does not concern me and is not my job.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you see the statements made by Prince Turki al-Faisal regarding Iranian intervention in Iraqi and Arab affairs?

[Allawi] Prince Turki al-Faisal is a capable and experienced politician. He is part of the Saudi leadership. He is educated and has a great role in bringing stability to the region. He does not talk for the sake of making accusations. He is talking about facts and Prince Al-Faisal pointed them out. This is what we are all suffering from. We are suffering from the problems of Iranian intervention in the affairs of the region (Prince Turki al-Faisal had previously held the position of head of the Saudi intelligence and was the Saudi ambassador to Washington. Al-Faisal had condemned the Iranian intervention in the domestic affairs in Iraq, Lebanon, and regional countries and said it was threatening the security of the region as a whole during a speech he delivered at the British RAF (Molesworth Base) in Cambridgeshire, which is used by NATO as a center for collecting intelligence information about the Middle East region and the Mediterranean.)

[Asharq Al-Awsat] If a national conference is not held then what will happen? What is the next step?

[Allawi] This is similar to the story of the Erbil conference. If holding a conference failed or if it is held and the results failed then the National Alliance must bear the responsibility and take action. Either the National Alliance would lead Iraq alone or it will search for alternatives in order to achieve true national partnership and achieve a balance in the political process. However, it is certain that if the conference failed to achieve its goals then the brothers in the National Alliance, including the struggling brothers whom we know and have long-standing relations with, must take measures that would guarantee the safety of Iraq.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you see the unity of the Al-Iraqiya grouping today?

[Allawi] The grouping is unified…yes, there are some personal attempts in certain positions and I am not hiding the fact that personally I was involved in making some decisions pertaining to stopping the Al-Iraqiya representatives from attending the Council of Representatives before the story of brothers Tariq al-Hashimi and Saleh al-Mutlaq further developed. In another meeting, there was talk about the possibility of escalation because of the presence of the ministers and I said that the brothers in the Al-Iraqiya leadership should discuss the matter in a meeting because I was not party to making the decision. There are some efforts [by some members] but the unity of the Al-Iraqiya is guaranteed…yes, sometimes things do happen but this happens in any entity or other alliance. However, the main frame of the grouping is strong and will remain.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Today you are heading to your headquarters in Baghdad. Do you worry about your personal security there?

[Allawi] Of course.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are there fears for your life?

[Allawi] Certainly, but what are we supposed to do?! We have to continue to serve our people and our country.