Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat- Dr. Iyad Allawi, head of the Iraqi National List and former Iraqi Prime Minister, has not granted any press interview since his last interview with Asharq al-Awsat early this month during his short visit to London.
In the last interview, Allawi had set the conditions of his list, which strongly opposed the principle of the sectarian and denominational power sharing quota, diagnosed the problems facing the formation of the government, and expected the formation of the government to take a long time. He also explained the conditions for the participation in the government, for he said: “One of the mechanisms of participation in the decision-making has to do with the formation of a national security council. We also submitted important ideas like the idea that the ministries of defense, interior, intelligence, and national security should not be run by people who believe in the sectarian power sharing quota system or in the presence of outlawed militias. Therefore, we said that when we speak about a national unity government, we must find the keys that solve the intricate problems in Iraq and the formation of a national unity government is a means and not the end. The most important objective is to build Iraq on modern civilized bases that will be for all the Iraqis and that with its power and resources should be an important part of the security of the Arab and Islamic regions. This government must work to disband the militias, restore the rule of law, discard the sectarian power sharing quota system, build Iraq’s resources and the military establishment, and reactivate the economy and provide services.”
In the first interview since that time, Allawi reiterated in an interview with Asharq al-Awsat in Baghdad
On the eve of the formation of the Iraqi government, Dr. Allawi spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat about current developments in Iraq.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) From the very first moment, you have set as condition for your participation in the new government that the government should be a national unity government. What stand will you adopt now that the features of this government, which you describe as a sectarian power-sharing government, have become clear? What stand will you adopt?
(Allawi) We continue to exert all efforts to reach agreement on a minimum that will be acceptable to protect Iraq from evil and enable it to regain its vitality. We continue to hold a dialogue with the prime minister-designate and the other blocs and we offered major concessions to restore balance to the government configuration that is being discussed now so that it might reflect a determination to form a national unity government. If this does not take place, then we will discuss the situation against the backdrop of what will take place.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) If you do not participate in the government, will you form an opposition bloc in parliament?
(Allawi) I do not know what is meant by opposition now. But it goes without saying that we will contribute to the political changes to improve and enhance them. It also goes without saying that we will seek to exclude the sectarian course from these changes and build the institutions of a modern state than can protect the homeland and the citizens. We will work to have Iraq once again regain its role in the development of the region.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) You are well informed about the details of the formation of the government. What delayed its formation?
(Allawi) The reasons are obvious. There are two schools. The first school wants to enhance the course of those who believe in the sectarian and factional quota system. The second school, which, unfortunately, comprises less people in terms of those who won seats in the Council of Representatives, we included, seeks to establish a national system of government that respects all the segments of the Iraqi people and that will make Iraq the homeland of all the Iraqis. This is part of the problem. The second and most important aspect of the problem is that the largest bloc that won in the elections, meaning the Unified Iraqi Coalition List (UIC), has not settled matters within its own ranks as yet, as one can see from the statements by members of Al-Fadilah Party, which is a member of the UIC, not to mention the armed disputes that are taking place between the factions of the UIC, which beclouds the entire situation in Iraq.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Do you fear that the other Iraqi cities will witness what is currently taking place in Basra?
(Allawi) We warned against this from the beginning and said that sectarianism and factionalism will only breed more tension and violence. We said that the alternative is to have a national project and build state institutions that can perform their tasks far from sectarian and factional considerations. We warned that if this does not take place, tension will exacerbate and violence will erupt like what is currently taking place in Basra and in other Iraqi areas, including Baghdad. To prove this point, we refer to President Jalal Talabani’s recent statements that more than 1,000 are killed every month in Baghdad alone. I cite him for he is the president of the republic and speaks in a responsible and transparent manner to announce the number of people who are being killed in Baghdad. This shows that the same thing that is taking place in Basra is also taking place in Baghdad and other cities.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) There are other files dealing with financial and administrative corruption and with what you have just said about the security file. How will these files be tackled, particularly that the government composition does not appear to have changed? A few days ago, I read in the western press—unfortunately the Iraqi press did not mention what I am going to speak about—that public funds are being squandered through the oil ministry, as revealed by the general inspectorate of the Oil Ministry. I read part of the report but did not complete reading it. It shows what is taking place, and this is disgraceful. The present government should at least take urgent, stringent, and forceful measures to punish those who have failed their duties and refer them to trial. But unfortunately, this has not taken place. Do you believe those implicated in the corruption in this file will be punished?
(Allawi) This depends on the new government. Let us wait for its formation and see what it will do. There is no doubt that the new government that will be led by the brothers in the UIC will be an extension of the former government and the operation is no more than just an operation of changing faces. This is why I do not know if it will take measures or not. The present government has not taken any measures so far. I believe the forthcoming government will fail short of its duties in many matters. I believe it will take measures only after a certain time passes during which more funds, which are the property of the Iraqi people, will be squandered.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) How much did the US Administration interfere in the formation of the government?
(Allawi) The United States, the United Kingdom, and the Multinational Forces are in Iraq and carry out contacts on all affairs. Actually, I believe that part of these contacts serve Iraq’s interests, particularly with respect to the issue of armed militias and the ministries dealing with security, such as the insistence on not having ministers who represent militias be responsible for the ministries that deal with security affairs for this might harm the country and undermine security. The international community also exerts mediation efforts among the various parties to stabilize the situation in Iraq. As for the size of the interference of these countries, I actually do not know if there is any interference for we are not a party in the formation of the government and are not involved in the formation process. We will join the government if it accepts our conditions. I believe that Prime Minister-designate Nuri Al-Maliki can reply to this question more clearly for they are the ones concerned with this and they are the ones who are holding contacts with the US and British sides. If these contacts continue, then they are the ones who are holding them.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) You kept saying “our conditions” What are your conditions for participating in the government?
(Allawi) Our conditions have been explicit from the beginning. They can be summed up in the fact that there is a need for a national program that enjoys the support of all, there should be a genuine participation in the decision-making process, particularly decisions that need to be implemented on the ground. This is why we proposed the establishment of a council that will be called the political council for national security where decisions might be made and through which we can share in the executive activities of the government, meaning the quality and number of the ministries. These are our conditions and we still support this program. But the decision to participate in the government has been voided of its contents and we seek to amend and correct it.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Reports mention that you have been chosen as secretary general of the National Security Council. Are there any changes?
(Allawi) It is still too early to discuss this and to speak about such a position for there are wishes, ideas, and proposals. What is important is to form this council after which positions will be specified. I believe that the first task is to form the government after which the issue of the council can be discussed. Some propose that I assume the post of secretary general of the council but this is still premature talk for there is nothing tangible so far and there is no final decision on the issue. We just wish to discuss this issue and we hope to restore balance to the political decision-making process through participation in the political decision-making process.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) The Kurds, given that they follow a national and non-sectarian course, could have been your closest allies and with whom you can form a political or parliamentary bloc?
(Allawi) We have an old alliance with the brother Kurds that extends over many years and we want to call things by their names. We are indebted to the brother Kurds because they opened their land in Iraqi Kurdistan to us and to all the forces of the Iraqi people to fight Saddam from there and this is what took place. The Kurds experienced many problems from the former regime as a result of this. This is in addition to the fact that the Kurdish parties espouse a liberal, democratic, and national ideology. This naturally brings them closer to us in terms of political ideology. Therefore, we are eager to maintain contacts, dialogue, and relations with the brother Kurds. For example, we supported the nomination of Brother Jalal Talabani to the presidency in view of the fact that we know him to be an Iraqi struggler and not just a Kurdish person. Through his protracted struggle march and stands along the other Iraqi forces, he helped enhance the national march. The same applies to Brother Masud Barzani who protected many Iraqi strugglers who also contributed to the Kurdish revolution. The former regime quelled and attacked the revolution and we must now re-enhance cohesion and relations to maintain the Kurdish issue an important and vital part of the Iraqi cause and to enable the brother Kurds to protect and build Iraq and enhance national unity and Iraq’s democratic and national course.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) Iraqi intellectuals, democrats, and nationalists who oppose any sectarian policy look at the Iraqi list as their tent for it represents the moderate centrist current. How will this list preserve its supporters in light of these circumstances?
(Allawi) We will preserve them through the proposals we make and by continuing to emphasize that we espouse the people’s demands and highlight their plight in terms of lack of security and services such as electricity, water, and fuel, and the poor performance of the economy. We can achieve this through our ongoing contact with all forces of the Iraqi society. We will preserve our supporters through our presence at the Council of Representatives and our contribution to the political process. As a political bloc, we pride ourselves that we have obtained votes throughout the country in spite of the killings, rigged elections, terrorism, arrests and torching of our offices and the use of the government agencies to carry out atrocious crimes against the members of our list. In spite of all this, the Iraqis voted for our list in all the governorates and these voices belong to the Arabs, Kurds, Turkoman, Sunnis, and Shiites and from other nationalities and religions. This is an indication that the Iraqi National List represents the genuine state of affairs of the Iraqis. We will seek to enhance and develop this course of action.
(Asharq Al-Awsat) You said that the Iraqis in all the governorates voted for the Iraqi National List. What reassurances will you give those who voted for you and the Iraqi people who wager on Iyad Allawi?
(Allawi) I and my colleagues in the Al-Wifaq Movement and the Iraqi List will continue to defend the causes of the Iraqi people and we will continue to struggle with all available and legitimate means to have the Iraqi people enjoy stability and their resources and to make this country the home for all the Iraqis, regardless of their religious and ethnic affiliation. We will be the voice of the Iraqis at the Council of Representatives, and we will support them, wherever they may be and in all locations, whether in the streets, hospitals, and universities. We will fight for them and for their dignity. This is what we can do for them, God willing and we tell them that Iraq now passes through a transient state of affairs that will inevitably end. The Iraqi people, with their willpower, will triumph at the end and stability will prevail, God willing.