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Former Iraqi PM Iyad Allawi Talks to Asharq al-Awsat - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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(Asharq Al-Awsat) How do you view the current situation in Iraq, particularly regarding the government and the people?

(Allawi) It is still too early to judge the government’s performance and method of work, but the sectarian quota system is certainly still there. This system does not really echo the spirit of national unity. We had hoped that the political forces engaged in political work would avoid the quota system, but it seems to me that this practice has started to be consecrated strongly on more than one level. The latest example was the distribution of the Council of Representatives’ committees. I do not think this reflects a healthy atmosphere, which can lead to stability in Iraq.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) Did your list participate in the government in order to say that all the political entities are participating in the government?

(Allawi) Our participation has its reasons. Our project is not far from the pulse and belief of the people on the Iraqi street. It is the belief in a united Iraq for all the Iraqis. We participated in the executive branch of government to promote this belief and national trend, avoid the quota system, cancel the militias, and dissolve the coercive services which were formed by the previous coalition government. If we do not succeed in influencing events in the government or Council of Representatives, which seems to be the case, we will certainly not continue in the executive authority because our presence will be meaningless. The second point is that our participation in the government came in response to the desire of many Iraqis. There are many Iraqis who are concerned about Iraq and its future and they will be worried if we do not participate in the government. It is still early to judge developments, but I repeat that if we find that our participation does not achieve what we believe in, we will not be able to continue. We will not be false witnesses to the situation in Iraq.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) What other methods will you adopt?

(Allawi) It is too early to talk about this, but there are many national action options. These include struggling with the Iraqi people on the street to draw attention to mistakes, and using our regional and international relations to explain the serious developments and ethnic and sectarian tensions taking place in Iraq and the grave consequences of these developments. There are all sorts of national action methods. In the same way as we struggled in the past, we will certainly not stop struggling now until our people have settled down. We spent more than 30 years in a bloody and bitter struggle to change the regime, but the results are what we see now. We see the Iraqis killing one another and ministerial portfolios distributed in a sectarian manner and according to ethnic quotas in an unacceptable manner at a time when the country is retreating and its economy is deteriorating and at a time when the situation in the country is very tragic.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) Are you going to turn into an opposition force?

(Allawi) We may turn into an opposition force, but we will certainly give the experience enough time. If we find out that there is insistence on harming, marginalizing, and coercing our strugglers and honorable Iraqis, and if we find out that the quota system will continue, we will then resist in other methods, including opposition action and mobilization of the masses against these practices.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) There is a feeling that some are trying to distance Iraq from its Arab and Islamic nation.

(Allawi) One of the reasons for our participation in the government is that we feel that part of our national project calls for balanced relations with the Arab, Islamic, and other countries. We note that some forces in Iraq are trying to keep Iraq away from its Arab and Islamic nation.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) In whose interest will it be to isolate Iraq from the Arab and Islamic countries?

(Allawi) This is certainly not in the interest of Iraq or the Arab and Islamic countries. Let me give you a simple example. One day a criminal blew himself up in a market in the city of Al-Hillah and killed many innocent Iraqis. That happened during the last days of my government, that is, after the first elections. We were then in the stage of handing the government over to the next government. Later it transpired that the one who committed suicide was Jordanian. Therefore, a huge clamor was raised against Jordan as if the Jordanian Government and people took part in that bombing although we and all know that that was a terrorist act and neither the Jordanian Government nor the people had anything to do with it. Actually, Jordan is top among the countries combating terrorism. It helped and continues to help the Iraqi people. However, when the Jordanian Government made efforts mainly to know the location of criminal Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, who killed hundreds of innocent Iraqis and who was later killed, the Iraqi Government said nothing and mentioned Jordan only in passing without giving any details. This proves that the situation is tragic and that there are efforts to distance Iraq from its Arab and Islamic fold.

Efforts continue to be made to keep Iraq away from some Islamic states. I have evidence proving this as noted in the targeting of Arab embassies, the latest of which was the UAE Embassy. That happened in spite of the UAE’s good efforts in Iraq and its support for Iraq and the Iraqis during their struggle against Saddam and after the fall of Saddam’s regime. We all remember the initiative of Sheikh Zayid, God rest his soul in peace, when he asked Saddam to step down to spare Iraq the woes of war and when he asked the Arabs to adopt the initiative. Nevertheless, the UAE Embassy was the target of a series of attacks. The same happened to the Jordanian and Egyptian Embassies. We all remember the Egyptian ambassador who was martyred. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at that time responded to this splendidly by upgrading Egyptian diplomatic representation in Iraq to the ambassadorial level and sending an ambassador. Egypt plays a distinguished role in Iraq. Let us at least remember Egypt’s hosting of the Sharm al-Sheikh conference, not to mention what Egypt offered for the cause of the Iraqi people and Iraqi opposition during the days of struggle against Saddam’s regime. Our movement, the Iraqi National Accord, had a head office in Egypt. Also the two main Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (led by Masud Barzani) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (led by Jalal Talabani) had offices there. We also held important conferences there. In spite of all this, systematic action was taken against the embassies of these countries to undermine relations with them. Relations were undermined even with Syria. During the government of Al-Jafari, no official went to Syria. If we have accusations against Syria, we have to go there and discuss things with them. I went to Syria when I was prime minister. I also went there when I left the government. I spoke to the Syrian officials very clearly about the problems we have in Iraq.

There is a premeditated policy to isolate Iraq although our brothers in the government — be they from the Islamic, Kurdish, or other forces — were hosted by these countries. Take Saudi Arabia, for example. Riyadh hosted the first meeting we held with the Al-Dawah Party during the 1991 uprising. All political parties and figures, including Al-Jafari, lived in Saudi Arabia. It is illogical to stand against these countries or try to stay away from them or find excuses to undermine relations with them. The same is happening to our relations with Pakistan and Turkey. This does not serve Iraq or the region. We will remain peoples of one region who have a common destiny. We have to meet and speak frankly although I do not claim that these countries are perfect or have no problems with Iraq. We must reach important results with them conducive to stability in Iraq and the region. I have recently visited a number of Arab countries and asked them to invite the Iraqi Government in an effort to give it a new opportunity in the hope that the brothers in the government will learn the lesson and have a new chance to communicate with their Arab brothers and the other Islamic countries. This is what we hope will take place. We consider this to be one of the serious issues facing Iraq.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) Do you think that what is taking place in Iraq today is implementation of democracy?

(Allawi) It is certainly not if it is in the form taking place now. Killing and terrorizing us during the latest elections and the previous ones prove what I say. There was an unjust campaign against us, that is, against the Iraqi List. We lost 13 martyrs during the elections. The insolence of some reached the limit of targeting those who won in the elections from our list by the Debathification process and the oppressive and arbitrary laws some came up with. The coalition states in Iraq have regrettably adopted these laws. All these are actions conflicting with the democratic practice, not to mention the use of religious leaders and others to strike at us with the clear aim of dividing Iraq on the basis of the quota system and the ethnic distribution of posts. We are against this project and will continue to oppose it.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) Do you think the coalition states have achieved the democracy, prosperity, and peace they promised the Iraqi people?

(Allawi) We find the answer to this question in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. I am talking about Iraq here. What happened and what continues to happen in Iraq is a big tragedy. It is also a tragedy for the region. The results are still unclear and we are still at the beginning of the road. Therefore, I call for a clear and frank dialogue, especially with the United States and Europe, from the premise of friendship and joint interests on what will happen in Iraq. The Iraqi Government and political forces should play this role. I think the situation in Iraq speaks for itself. It is far from stability, calm, or the supremacy and independence of the law. It is also far from development or the Iraqi people’s enjoyment of their wealth.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) Some say the solution to the Iraqi issue lies in dividing Iraq into three states or federations. How do you view this?

(Allawi) To answer this question we need to ask the following question: Will federalism protect these entities from problems? Will this division be peaceful and far from violence? Will this division be confined to the Iraqi borders or spread to the countries of the region? What will happen to the countries of the region then? Iraq has its weight. If Iraq’s balance is upset and if the country is partitioned, what will happen to the region? The existence of Iraq as a whole entity is important. The loss of this entity will negatively reflect on the region. We are talking about a theoretical issue whose repercussions on Iraq and the region are not easy to predict. Therefore, I think the Iraqis, their brothers, and all the ones who love Iraq should confront this issue.

This issue is the battle of not only Iraq but also the whole region. Personally, I do not think the Iraqis believe in partitioning Iraq. There might be a handful of stray people who believe in partitioning Iraq, but the Iraqi society in general is against it. The strength of Iraq lies in its diverse colors and we have to turn these colors from a destructive power into a constructive one. Partitioning Iraq is a plan that will fall in favor of the national Iraqi project. Partitioning Iraq is a failing theory that will be defeated.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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