(Asharq Al-Awsat) what are the findings of your recent tour?
(Allawi) I believe that there must be a balance in the region in the interest of the region and its peoples, as well as Iraq and its stability. As an important part of this stability, there must be a presence for the Arab states to settle the tensions in Iraq. In other words, both the Arab world and the Islamic world are important for the stability of Iraq. This was the aim from my visit. I met with brother leaders from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, and I will continue my tour to include Morocco, Algeria, and other Arab states. Earlier, I was in Turkey for the same purpose.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) You are sensitive to the importance of Arab-Islamic relations among the politicians. Do you pin any hope on these relations?
(Allawi) Certainly, I was the one who took the initiative to call for Sharm al-Sheikh meetings as a framework for resolving the problems of Iraq and the region. I considered Sharm al-Sheikh conference, which was hosted by Egypt and attended, in addition to the Arab League and the United nations, by the eight major powers, the Security Council member states, the Organization of Islamic Conference, and the GCC, a framework for resolving the problems of the region, if we had a mechanism to stop the tensions. Unfortunately the process ended with the conference.
Therefore, I believe that calling on the Arab and Islamic states to play their role in the region by helping Iraqis fill the vacuum that occurred after the war, create a clear means for dialogue, and hold talks to remove the tensions, is important and basic. Proceeding from this belief, I am visiting the Arab and Islamic states to present this proposal.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) You have proposed and worked for the formation of the National Security Council. How important is it to the critical situation in Iraq?
(Allawi) The idea to form the National Security Council came up in my meeting with brothers Jalal Talabani (leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) and Masud Barzani (leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party) in Kurdistan, as I was the only Iraqi politician to be invited to attend a meeting of the Kurdish Parliament marking the unification of the two administrations in Kurdistan. And, in a closed meeting, I presented my concept for a national unity government founded on three pillars, the sides of the national unity government. This government would have a program consisting of the major subjects of security, economy, and provision of services.
Next is participation of the government in the decision making. This means participation in the government will not be represented by the number of seats or ministries for this or that entity, but the participation of all the sides in the government in the decision making.
Brothers Talabani and Barzani supported the proposal. We then discussed it with the Arab leaders and the ambassadors of the major states. They unanimously supported this trend. We decided that one mechanism for participation in the decision making is the formation of a national security council. We also presented other important ideas, such as that the Ministries of Defense, Interior, Intelligence, and National Security will not be assumed by ministers who believe in communal quotas or armed militias outside the government. So we said that when we speak about a national unity government we must first find the keys to resolve the intractable problems in Iraq. The formation of a national unity government is a means and not an end. It is an important means to build Iraq on modern civilized bases. Iraq must be for all Iraqis. Iraq with all its forces and resources must be an important part for the stability of the Arab and Islamic regions. This government must dissolve the militias, restore the rule of law, and stay away from communal quotas. It must also build the state’s control and military capabilities and work for stimulating the economy and ensuring services.
There are two important aspects to the National Security Council: First, it will be a means for making decisions, especially strategic decisions; and second, it will be truly in charge of the security apparatus in Iraq, including the army, intelligence, and Interior Ministry. This is the important question, which, if resolved, it would enable us to resolve the other problems in Iraq.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) What, in your opinion, is the solution to the Iraqi government crisis today?
(Allawi) The problems lies with the (Shiite) Unified Iraqi Coalition. They now have two options. The first is to conclude an agreement with one of the parliamentary blocs and form a coalition government, depending on the results of the elections, which, as admitted by the International Committee, were not correct or sound due to the major violations that took place. If a government was formed in this manner, this would mean the partition of the country, because they (Shiites) are now in an alliance with the brother Kurds. We have witnessed that the alliance between the Kurds and Islamists has led to a deterioration of the political, security, and living conditions in Iraq. I don’t believe that this is the best solution for Iraq under the present circumstances. I believe that the solution is a national agreement on overcoming the crisis in Iraq until we reach the shore of safety and peace.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Do you believe that the coalition is the cause of the crisis?
(Allawi) Certainly, and it is obvious that the coalition itself does not pursue democracy. Immediately after the elections, the brothers in the coalition held an election to choose a candidate for the post of prime minister. Ibrahim al-Jaafari won the election. If they in the coalition insist on adhering to democratic methods, Al-Jaafari must remain their candidate for the post of prime minister, irrespective of our objections and those of the other blocs to his nomination. It is our right to object. But the coalition is now creating a big uproar against the continued nomination of Al-Jaafari and his continued presence as prime minister.
They (the coalition) want to stick to the results of the elections that took place at the end of last year despite the admission by international quarters that they were unfair and there were violations. This is because the results were in their interest. This is one thing. The other thing is that they do not want to adhere to the results of the elections, which they held within the coalition and nominated Al-Jaafari on their basis. This is a kind of duplicitous thinking on their part. They either believe in the results of the general elections and elections, which took place within the coalition and Al-Jaafari continues as their candidate, or they do not believe in the results of the general elections and their own elections and proceed toward the formation of a national unity government to find a common factor for resolving their internal problems. Were it not for the problems within the coalition, the government would have been formed a long time ago. But they are the biggest bloc and they have not reached any results so far.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Would you agree to the continuation of Al-Jaafari as he candidate for the premiership?
(Allawi) We have not adopted any person actually and we do not object to anyone. But, we have adopted a program, and whoever believes in this program is most welcome. But Al-Jaafari has proven that he does not believe in the program during his period as prime minister. He dismissed and curtailed. Therefore, we in Al-Iraqiyah List said that we must search for the one who believes in a program that leads to the formation of a real national unity government. If this happened, it would resolve many of the problems. Otherwise, the situation would worsen. The question is not Al-Jaafari as a person. But, he (Al-Jaafari) is the product of an experiment called the coalition. He does not work in isolation of the coalition. We do not know what they want in the coalition. Sometimes they say we have a red line against such and such a person and a green line on such and such a person. Then they retreat and change their idea. Then they come back a few days later after changing all their stands. They must settle their affairs and choose the one they consider suitable, and they have chosen Al-Jaafari.
We are waiting for the result. They either admit their choice and we will find the alternative. And we say that the alternative in Al-Iraqiyah List is neither a coalition (Shiite) government nor an accord (al-taaluf, Suuni) government. We say that the government must include even those who lost in the elections. In my opinion, we must include in a future government some of the armed Iraqi sides, but certainly not the terrorists. We must build the Iraq of new concepts.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) What is your opinion of Al-Jaafari’s statement about including Al-Mahdi Army militias in the Iraqi Army?
(Allawi) I don’t know what Al-Jaafari wants. But I know that there is Law No. 91, which I issued and began to implement when I was prime minister. It clarifies things concerning the issue of the armed militias in Iraq. We said then that the militias must not be included in the army. There are solutions to their issue and it will be possible to deal with their members as isolated cases. We said that some of the militia members could be included in the armed forces and others in the public sector, and yet others in the private sector. As to turning the army and police into groups representing political entities, blocs, and militias, this will mean that they will turn into conflicting sides within the state’s security entities. Therefore, the call to include the militias in the army or police is incorrect and will not achieve the purpose. We must consider Law No. 91, which was signed by all the Iraqi political entities.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Muqtada al-Sadr is being presented today as a political leader. Yet, he is wanted legally for killing the religious scholar Abdul majid al-Khoei and Haydar al-Ruqay’i and Mahir al-Yasiri in Al-Najaf in 2003. How can that be possible in a state, which is determined to uphold the rule of law and justice?
(Allawi) I do not doubt that he (Muqtada al-Sadr) exists in the political arena and has wider presence in the Coalition List and that he was received positively by the religious authority and the forces comprising the coalition. Thus, he became part of the political process. I believe that this legal case must be settled. It must not remain pending . It must be settled as soon as possible in accordance with the existing norms, whether legally or tribally.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) There is a strange relationship between the religious authorities, Shiite and Sunni, and state officials. How do you explain this relationship?
(Allawi) The religious authorities, whether the higher religious authority in Al-Najaf or the Association of Muslim Scholars, do not interfere in state affairs. There is no law other than the State Administration Law and the Iraqi constitution that says that the religious authorities have the right to interfere in state affairs. But the contrary is happening. State officials check with the religious authorities to seek their permission or opinion on this or that issue. The one to be blamed is he who tries to deviate from the legal frameworks that define the behaviors and the rights of Iraqi state officials. These officials place commitments and duties on the religious authorities. State officials must stop embarrassing the religious authorities, whether Shiite, Sunni, or Christian with simple issues, while these authorities must remain in their high, noble, and honorable places.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) In your opinion, is there any hope of announcing the formation of the government?
(Allawi) As you know we are now in the fourth month since the elections and it is possible for this period to drag on. Despite the lapse of four months we have not yet named the prime minister, the president of the republic, or the speaker of the parliament. This is not to mention the subsequent problems of naming the ministers and distributing the seats and key ministries with all the squabbling involved. Therefore, we Al-Iraqiyah List have been and still are for proposing programs and criteria and not names. Whoever believes that will apply the criteria to the persons according to the programs. This would simplify matters. Otherwise, we will continue moving in a vicious circle.
Unfortunately, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw are currently visiting Baghdad to settle outstanding problems. I regret that because I feel that the Iraqi sides themselves should settle these problems among them and reach what will serve the country and keep it away from personal conflicts. This one wants this post and that one wants the other post. We in Al-Iraqiyah List do not follow this approach and the proof is that I have been outside Iraq for 10 days now and the members of our list, who are negotiating in Baghdad, have not raised the issue of the ministries or the names because what interests us is the program. If we cannot agree on a program, there is no need to participate in the government in the first place. What concern us is to see Iraq stable, peaceful, and strong representing all Iraqis.
Calls are coming from the United States and Iraq and others from other states, saying: Let them negotiate. I considered the presence of Iran in Sharm al-Sheikh conference as correct in a correct international climate for a dialogue to achieve balance and security in the entire region and not just Iraq.
Now the talk is about bilateral meetings, which will not be useful if we are looking for a lasting solution for the region. If the United States and Iran are looking for solutions to their problems, let them enter into bilateral talks. But if they want solutions for the region, they must include the representatives of the governments and peoples of the region, including Iraq, which must include a political bloc in the dialogue since we lack a proper government. There is a government in Iraq and also political forces that have real presence on the ground, even if they are not represented in the parliament. We must not jump over them. Therefore, the question of the US-Iranian dialogue is important, but within the dimensions I mentioned. I told US official about that. I also discussed it with the leaders of the region.