(Q) What is your assessment of the current situation in Iraq?
(A) The Iraqi situation is worrisome and among the main dangers that Iraq is going through at present are the cracks in national unity, the absence of the state”s institutions, and the economic stagnation and even recession. There is no vision of how to proceed forward. Consequently, the hostile forces, whether inside or abroad, are trying to stop the cycle of development. We find today an absence of even the institutions we had built during our government”s short period in office and by this; I mean the judicial, security, police, intelligence, and army institutions. There is a very dangerous vacuum in these fields.
(Q) Let us talk about the most imperative issues, that of public services. How do you rate the services offered to the Iraqis today?
(A) I remember in this matter that we were able when we were in government to achieve for example a high degree of providing electricity to the citizens for three hours and a one-hour cut off. The cut off now is more than 12 hours and the current is received for only one hour. The other services are deteriorating. Let us take for example the health services, which are extremely important. Just imagine that 1,000 Iraqi doctors have disappeared since the elections (at the end of January) to this day, either they were assassinated or kidnapped while the others left the country in fear for their lives. This has an impact on the provision of health services and the protection of the citizen and the homeland. The services are almost nonexistent, especially the security ones. We all saw the tragedy on Al-A”imma bridge. Everything is regressing, both resources and performance. This is further rupturing the social fabric. What makes the situations more dangerous is the start of this talk of Sunnis and Shiites at the official and popular levels. The issue of sectarian quotas was prominent during the discussion of the constitution. This does not serve the interest of Iraq or Iraqis and does not serve the country. Another danger is the expanding presence of the armed militias and their control. This is a double danger to national unity in Iraq. This situation is likely to deteriorate further. It will be lethal for Iraq and a danger to the entire region even if it does not get worse.
(Q) What is the solution?
(A) A serious and quick action and a total awareness of what is happening are needed so that we can place Iraq on the road to recovery in the upcoming elections. There are several solutions. The elections are important in themselves. I say in my talks with Iraqi, Arab, and Western leaders that the constitution is not the Iraqis” worry at present but it is security, daily bread, medicine, and work that are their concerns. We have armies of unemployed people. Those who were sacked and the ones whose departments were closed after the former regime”s downfall joined those who became jobless because of the wars, the problems, and the blockade under the former regime. Iraq needs to have through elections a fundamental review about establishing a national unity government; a government that expresses the Iraqis, secures their unity, and is capable of taking the decisions that serve the people”s interest. This is the only solution and should happen by having the national forces that believe in national unity, Iraq”s unity, and the Iraqi citizen”s dignity rise to the challenge and by having Arab and Islamic backing for these forces.
(Q) Do you believe that the United States has any role in complicating things in Iraq?
(A) The Americans made many mistakes, including the disbanding of the army, the debathification, and the dissolution of the state”s institutions. This disabled the Iraqi state and brought about a state of chaos, part of which we are living today. We were able to deal with some matters in a very short time after the transfer of power while other matters remained pending. Iraq started to head toward the abyss since the elections.
(Q) Is the responsibility of saving Iraq that of the Iraqis alone?
(A) Saving Iraq is today a national, Arab, Islamic, and international mission and all the forces should rally together toward protecting and consolidating the national unity through a clear, specific, and constructive program and by building and entrenching the state”s institutions. I personally proudly recall that Arab countries stood with us in an attempt to train Iraqi manpower to build the country, including Jordan, the Emirates, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco. We started security coordination and action during my visit to Saudi Arabia to serve both Iraq and Saudi Arabia and the atmospheres were very positive. It is now the task of the Iraqis and their national forces as well as that of the Arab, Muslim, and all other countries. This is what is needed. Without it, Iraq will head toward disaster, which if it does happen, its consequences will include the region and the entire world because Iraq is one of the region”s most important countries. This is why I remind on every occasion that Iraq”s safety means the safety of the region and even that of the world. I therefore say that we need Arab and Islamic backing. It has become in these countries” interest to see stability in Iraq achieved and to back it so as to rise from this fall. This is an important and fundamental demand and if the Arab and Muslim countries do not wake up to this fact, then the tragedy will be great.
(Q) You met Arab leaders during your present tour, as well as British Prime Minister Tony Blair. What was the outcome of these meetings?
(A) Their outcome is important. There is full understanding of the role that the Arab, Muslim, and world countries should play. My meeting with the British prime minister was clear and transparent and there were almost total identical views. There is a clear and realistic diagnosis and this is something good. There is a desire for joint action to help Iraq. I have to point here to something important concerning the stand on the recent catastrophe on Al-A”imma bridge. There was an Arab rush to provide assistance. The Emirates launched an airlift to send aid and Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, and other Arab countries also contributed. There is really an understanding and a readiness for action on the part of several countries and my hope is that this will be translated into a reality on the ground.
(Q) In whose interest is the attempt to remove Iraq from its Arab and Islamic fold?
(A) I do not know in whose interest is Iraq”s isolation from its Arab and Islamic surroundings. This will cause great harm to Iraq and the region. We should not forget that Iraq has two main dimensions, the Arabic and Islamic ones. Iraq played an important role at the Arab level since its establishment and right through the League of Nations and in its stands on the Arab-Israeli conflict that has now turned from conflict to peace attempts. I remember that Iraq was part of the Baghdad Pact, which we opposed. This was evidence of Iraq”s importance. I expect the parties trying to push Iraq away from its Arab and Islamic surroundings are ones that are trying to cause damage to Iraq first and to the region second because Iraq”s stability and safety are part of the region”s stability and safety. Excluding Iraq does not serve the Arabs at all or the Muslim countries.
(Q) There is talk about Iranian interference in Iraq. to what extent?
(A) Yes, there are real Iranian interferences. Let me tell this story to show the extent of this interference. Iranian officials visited Iraq during the last elections as members of a high-level official delegation. They frankly told the leaders of Iraqi parties that Iran had issues with Iyad Allawi and that it did not wish to see him remain prime minister. Iran also interfered and put all its weight in the elections in favor of certain parties. I supported and continue to support the policy of mutual respect between Iraq and its neighbors, a policy based on a network of interests between Iraq and neighboring countries, including Iran, and not interfering in affairs. I received the Iranian ambassador when I was prime minister and told him that their interference would not serve anyone and that we in Iraq respect our neighbors and do not interfere in the neighbor”s affairs. This is why we stopped the activities of "Mojahedin-e Khalq" and considered them political refugees. We hoped that Iran would deal with Iraq in the same way. I believe that the Iranian interferences will prove in the end to be futile and will be restricted and unhelpful to stability. They certainly do not serve Iraq”s situation. When an Iranian official tells Iraqi political leaders that Iran has issues with Iyad Allawi and will not let him become prime minister again, then this is blatant interference. The important point here is not the prime minister”s post but the interference itself. No Iraqi politician will allow himself to interfere in Iranian affairs and say that Iraq has issues with any Iranian politician. We did not interfere in the recent Iranian elections and did not say we had issues with this or that.
(Q) How do you see the regional, Arab, and local media”s role in the Iraqi issue?
(A) There are unfortunately stands hostile to Iraq from some media channels. More than 12 satellite channels are broadcasting from a neighboring country or from inside Iraq that have foreign backing and releasing their poisons among the Iraqis and consequently among the Arabs. There are parties that have their own media and the financier is unfortunately a foreigner. This does not serve the Iraqi issue or the Iraqis. We need media support to explain to the Arabs, Muslims, and the world the dangers threatening Iraq and therefore threatening the Arab and Islamic worlds. I am not talking about all the media organs. There are some whose stands are honest and clear and we appreciate them for this attitude. There are media organs that are deliberately helping the destruction of Iraq.
(Q) What is the truth about the reports we heard of attempts to assassinate you?
(A) There were three attempts to assassinate me recently. The last happened less than a month ago and members of the group responsible for it were arrested. They are being questioned and are from a neighboring country. I hope that this country”s official organs did not have a hand in it. Friendly intelligence informed us of it and the multinational forces arrested this group”s members. I do not want to comment now until the results of the investigations appear. I hope that the neighboring state”s organs from which this group came did not have a finger in this or other attempt.
(Q) What are your preparing for the upcoming elections?
(A) We are preparing whatever can be prepared for the upcoming elections and hoping to come out with a democratic, liberal, and national Iraqi entity that believes in Iraq, Iraq”s dignity, and Iraq”s unity. We will contest them jointly with other forces.
(Q) Is the conference that you will be holding at the end of this month in Baghdad to form an elections front?
(A) It is not to form an elections front as much as one designed to attract the liberal national Iraqi forces to act jointly. The national forces are not necessarily the democratic ones alone but there are Islamic forces that come under this definition and they will take part in the conference. I am expecting this conference to succeed and this to be a good initiative. This conference”s success will certainly create some kind of cohesiveness that will lead to the formation of a joint elections list from the national forces in Iraq.