Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Q & A with Dr. Iyad Allawi, Secretary General of Iraq’s National Accord Movement | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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(Asharq Al-Awsat) you have not spoken to the media in quite sometime. Is this a sign of despair from the conditions in which Iraq is going through?

(Allawi) There is no despair despite the tragic conditions in which Iraq is living and the deterioration in the situations. There is a mixture of factors. The situations remain confusing and unclear and therefore a statement and media appearance do not serve the stability situation now. Either I talk and criticize or sometimes feel compelled to wait to see what would happen and in which direction things are moving. The second reason is my many preoccupations and our attempts to back the government so as to see how matters will stabilize. In addition to this, the overall situation in the region remains inflamed. We constantly present our written observations through parliament, the president of the republic, or the prime minister. There is not a state of despair.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) From your viewpoint as the leader of a political movement and former prime minister, in which direction are events in Iraq moving?

(Allawi) There are a number of dangerous things. We tried and continue to try to back the government to overcome the mistakes. But a continuation of the mistakes will most certainly bring the country to more dangerous situations than at present. There is for example the bad security situation, the presence of the militias, the sectarian and factional quotas system, the principle of reconciliation and national unity, and the identity of Iraq. Now we do not know if it is an Arab country, an Islamic one. Is it Iraq? Nothing. Without exaggeration, these are among the major issues that bring the situations to levels where no one can foretell the future of the country if they continue.

I did warn earlier and said the important thing was not to reach the point of no return and that if we reached that point it would mean a great disaster would befall Iraq. Regrettably, the deterioration is continuing and the situations are escalating and getting more aggravated. Regrettably, the attempts to stop this hemorrhage by adopting clear ideas on national reconciliation, building the state’s institutions, and improving the security performance have not reached any result so far. Events still indicate that Iraq is like a ship sailing without guidance in a stormy sea and this will certainly bring more tension to Iraq and the region.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) What is the real story behind the coup that some reports said you are leading against the Iraqi Government?

(Allawi) This rumor started strongly and turned into a chain reaction rapidly up till now. The strange thing is that it reached some leading politicians in the decision-making centers in many countries in the world, among them the United States, and they believed these rumors, even though we have been outside the government for two years, do not have an armed militia, and do not even believe in armed militias. After our sufferings and the sacrifices of Al-Iraqiyah list members who faced terrorist practices that included murder, the burning of offices, and deliberate distortion, we got after everything of the above only 25 seats in the Iraqi House of Representatives (parliament). We do not believe in coups or their methods. I was engaged in this method of coups when I was a teenager and a Baath Party member. Now, neither the mechanism, the mechanics, the reasons, the conditions, nor the field situation allow a coup to take place. There is no army in the first place to stage a coup in Iraq but Americans and multinational forces. This rumor is a total failure. I have been outside Iraq for some time to visit my family that I had not seen these past four years and also to undergo some tests and treatment. Will I lead a coup from London across all countries up to Baghdad? The important thing in this story is that it is part of a long series to destroy and foil the Iraqi national course and also strike the Arab tendency and international presence as well as to discredit our credibility. It is obvious that this was thought, planned, and produced by an intelligence service backed by the resources of a state and this is quite clear to me. Your esteemed newspaper published the report of the unfair arrest of one of our members in Al-Najaf by the security organs in that city and without any official decision. He was tortured to force him to lie and admit that he was part of this alleged coup that I am personally leading. This person is still in jail though I do not know him personally even though he is in our movement. I do not know personally all our organization’s members. This action aims to abort the national identity and plans for broader operations of raids, arrests, kidnapping, and murder.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) You received several invitations to visit Tehran, the last one a short time ago. What is the reason for your rejecting this invitation?

(Allawi) Yes, there is an invitation to visit Iran. But I need to know the nature of this invitation, who will I meet, what is its aims, and what will I discuss. I am now outside the government. If the visit is just a political show, then I do not need it. My stand toward Iran is clear, namely, protecting the spirit of positive neighborliness. I always called and continue to call for Iraq to have balanced relations with Iran and even with Syria. I adopted the Sharm al-Sheikh conference and the tripartite committee of Iraq, Syria, and the United States and wanted to adopt the same committee with Iran.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) The press in Britain published the conclusions of the committee chaired by former US Secretary of State James Baker on the situations in Iraq. The committee concluded that the solution lies in splitting Iraq into three regions, Kurdish, Sunni, and Shiite. Do you really believe that the solution of the Iraqi crisis lies in splitting the country?

(Allawi) I was really surprised by these reports. This is added to a number of things in the American political stand that surprise me. How can a person, no matter how capable he is, reach this result by holding quick interviews with persons in less than two weeks and form a complete political view about the complicated and thorny situation of Iraq that is living in the middle of a great hemorrhage of blood. It is strange that someone like Baker reaches conclusions about the policy of a country that has been in the making inside the United States for years and reduces it in this way? I believe that this is evidence of Baker’s failure and the failure of the political part he represents in that he finds a single solution for the Iraqi crisis without finding other solutions according to the reports in the British press. We certainly support the federalism of the Kurdistan region and the situation in that region because this was an issue that came about after many decades and years of the Kurdish brothers’ struggle. But splitting Iraq is out of the question and alien. We knew it after the wars that Iraq fought and it was exercised within limits by the former regime for political reasons. Now it is being consolidated by the actions of the extremists, terrorists, and foreign channels. But this does not mean that splitting and fragmenting Iraq is the only solution and therefore there are two reasons for my surprise. The first is for someone like James Baker to reach this conclusion and sum up the Iraqi issue in less than two weeks. The second is that this is evidence of failure. For (Baker) to present a single alternative, that of splitting Iraq, is unacceptable and we as Iraqis reject it. We support the Kurdish brothers and thank them for their steadfastness as they suffered when they were persecuted by Saddam Hussein’s regime. They sponsored the Iraqi opposition and our action was carried out from the territories of Iraq’s Kurdistan. But to split Iraq into Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish regions is something not correct and does not lead to Iraq’s stability but, on the contrary, the split will lead to more tensions, ignite more fires, and cause more bloodshed and the fires will spread to the entire region.

The odd thing is that Baker’s statements were countered by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s statements which were different. She talked in Baghdad about her government’s concern for Iraq’s unity and not partitioning it. I wonder which one of them represents the American political line. The elections that will be held in the United States next month might resolve the matter. We therefore consider Baker’s plan unacceptable and inappropriate.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) The question being asked in the Iraqi street today revolves around the US policy in Iraq. Did it come to liberate Iraq from a dictatorial regime or to bring the country to civil war?

(Allawi) I talked to the Americans and Europeans and told them that democratic elections do not mean elections only. Elections are a small part of the political process, which is the building of the state and its institutions, carrying out national reconciliation, the judiciary’s independence, the supremacy of the law, the building of the civil society establishments and the elections then follow. But it appears that the US administration understands democracy to mean holding elections. The strange thing is that the US administration recognized the Iraqi elections despite the rigging, murder, threats, and blackmail that happened in them but it (the US administration) does not recognize the government of Palestine that was elected in a legitimate way because it is from Hamas. What democracy is this? I believe that there is some ambiguity in the American stand and it is very appropriate for the United States to explain its policy in the Iraq issue and act really to help the Iraqis build the country. But in the present situation, we can say that Iraq, as I said a short while ago, has become like a ship sailing without a compass in a stormy sea.

The US administration has to explain how it is dealing with the Iraqi issue and the region as a whole. The Iraqi issue is inflamed and sensitive and the United States has to answer all the questions about it. It must answer first itself about what it wants from Iraq and what it wants from the region? What does it want from its friends in Iraq and the region? Does it want a united, peaceful, democratic, and strong Iraq or a fragmented one? Is it concerned with the Iraqi issue or keeping a distance from it? The United States must answer these questions so as to reach a balanced political decision that is then adopted, whether in the Iraqi issue or the ones in the region like the Palestine or Lebanon issues. US policy in the entire Arab region is not clear. A senior Arab leader advised the US administration to back the formation of a national unity government in Palestine since this was more important than the elections, especially as the situations in Palestine became unstable after Yasir Arafat’s death and some Fatah leaders were in Israeli jails, and to let Hamas work with Fatah and the other Palestinian factions to form a national unity government. This was before the elections. But the US administration, as the brother leader told me, did not listen to his opinion and then things happened. The elections were held and Hamas won a majority of seats in parliament and formed the government. But the United States and Israel did not recognize or deal with this government. The situations in Palestine are today difficult and complicated and have a negative impact on the region. We hope and wish that the United States, which we consider a friendly country that is important for Iraq, will formulate its vision quickly, protect Iraq’s independence, unity, future, safety, its and the region’s security, and let US policy identify the sources of tension in the region and the way of dealing with these problems so as to protect the interests of Iraq and the region since our region is rich and its stability is part of the stability in the world.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) What is the impact of the establishment of a Shiite federation adjacent to the Arab Gulf countries?

(Allawi) We say that the Iraqi people have the right to decide the government they want through the legitimate institutions. We believe in this. As to federalism, we believe that discussing it in the center and the south comes after the right climate has been created for discussing it, the situations have stabilized, and the healthy conditions for discussing it have become available. This means after the security situations stabilize and after democracy turns from a small process into a daily and complete process.

The other matter is that the establishment of the center and south federation under current conditions will subject Iraq and neighboring countries, even all the countries in the region, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, to a great danger. We therefore say that discussion of this (federation) issue should be postponed now until we have the right conditions for discussing it.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) You talked about national reconciliation for solving the Iraqi problem. How can there be reconciliation when there are armed militias that kidnap and kill and the Debathification commission that dismissed and continues to dismiss thousands from their jobs and exclude them from society?

(Allawi) This is a disaster. The armed militias’ presence means Iraq’s instability and is against the peace and stability. The first step toward stability and having national reconciliation passes through the dissolution of the militias. We presented a memorandum to Prime Minister Brother Nuri al-Maliki in which we asserted that we supported his initiative on national reconciliation and presented our view of how to implement it, that is, by disbanding the militias, abolishing the sectarian quotas, and building the state’s institutions without the quotas principle. We consider these the foundations for building a real Iraq that is worthy of all the Iraqis and capable of protecting the region and dealing with its issues positively, an Iraq that belongs to its Arab and Islamic depth. Without a roadmap for implementing the reconciliation clauses and turning them into a practical principle as we proposed, there will not be reconciliation and Iraq will head toward more fragmentation because of the policies of quotas, Debathification, the dissolution of the Iraqi institutions, and appointments on factional bases. There is nothing that has not been penetrated. Our accurate information confirms that the militias have penetrated the state’s establishments and their loyalty is not to the president of the republic, the prime minister, or Iraq but to their parties and the sides to which they belong. These militias now have a presence in Baghdad Airport, the police, and the army.

Now, even if we do disband the militias in the street, how can we disband the ones in the state’s establishments? It recently happened that some persons wearing official police uniforms, we do not know if they were from the police or just wearing police uniforms, attacked a military person, an adviser at the presidency and the brother of the vice president. They entered his house and killed him in broad daylight. I therefore say that the task of the brother prime minister is difficult. I told him we are with you, back you, and will support you if you actually go ahead with the reconciliation, distance yourself from the sectarian quotas, and restore to Iraq its Arab face. That is what I told Al-Maliki and also declare it here through your respected newspaper. We have no problem with this because it is the policy we want. We want the Iraqi to feel safe and not have a police car come to his house and kill him with his family. We finish with an armed militia in the street and another crops up in the state. Disbanding the militias needs a strong decision, implementation, determination, and firmness; disbanding all the militias, including those nesting today inside the state’s establishments. I opposed the Debathification law. One of the results of this law, its practices, and the daily violence now is the Baath Party’s restoration of some of its organizations. The continued Debathification caused more tensions in Iraq and prompted some Baathist to join the terrorist groups because the Debathification law sentenced them to death and isolation. Some Baathist are working with the armed militias. We demanded the referral of the Baathist who committed crimes against the Iraqis to the judiciary. It is unreasonable for us to isolate doctors, university teachers, and technocrats from life on the pretext of Debathification. This law is being used in a sectarian way against the Shiites, Sunnis, and Christians. There are communists and independents who were Debathified when they were never Baathist.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) Do you think that parliament and government are incapable of forcing some parties that are present in parliament to disband their armed militias?

(Allawi) They are apparently incapable of doing this. When we were in the Governing Council and I was elected chairman of the National Security Committee, we enacted Law 91 for the year 2004 which called for disbanding the militias, not merging them. I tried to implement it during my leadership of the government but, regrettably, the militias returned stronger. This law is now supposed to be updated and modernized and to be implemented so that Iraq will have a state of law. Now even the law has disappeared in Iraq. The problem now is that the militias have taken roots. I heard about the formation of armed popular committees that are officially licensed. This approach will be consolidated through the quotas instead of having the militias disbanded.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) You lead a nationalist, moderate, democratic tendency and the Kurds believe that their approaches are nationalist, democratic, and free. Why do you not unite to work together since your ideas and aims are identical?

(Allawi) Let me reveal to you a secret I say it for the first time. I was the prime minister in the first elections and I went to brothers Jalal Talabani (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leader) and Masud Barzani (Kurdistan Democratic Party leader). I met with them and with political leaders with whom we had worked during the opposition years. I asked them that we contest the elections as one national list. There was much response from brothers Talabani and Barzani but I found other parties insisting that the lists should represent communities and not political groups. Therefore the Kurds preferred to have a Kurdish list. We do not blame them for their choice. It would have been better for Iraq had the liberal forces united in a single list but we were unlucky. Our relations with the Kurds are good and there is coordination and action with them. We hope matters will move toward Iraq’s stability. Some political leaders have now started to move toward underlining Iraq’s identity. Even the forces that followed a sectarian approach have started to believe that this would destroy Iraq and are aware that this is an erroneous policy and adopting a liberal one. It is said that brother Ibrahim al-Jafari now adopts a national liberal approach and this is really something good.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) What is your opinion of the proposal to have in Iraq international forces made up of Arab and Islamic troops and from countries neighboring Iraq under UN command and not American one?

(Allawi) This view was raised when I was prime minister and was the result of a noble and honest initiative from the brothers in the Saudi leadership. It was a very important initiative. When I went to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and talked to King Abdullah Bin-Abdulaziz, the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques who was the crown prince then, and with dear brother Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, there were problems in the mechanism for implementation and in linking these forces’ command to that of the multinational forces, as to whether they would have a separate command under a new UN resolution. This blocked the way for implementing this proposal. It is now my belief that it is important to involve the United Nations, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and the Arab League in the Iraqi issue. We should think that they must have a presence in Iraq so as to complete building its security apparatuses and back Iraq so as to stabilize its security.

(Asharq Al-Awsat) What is your opinion of the OIC’s initiative to hold the Mecca conference for reconciliation between the Iraqis?

(Allawi) We support any initiative of this kind. But it is not the conference that is the problem since the Arab League gratefully tried to hold reconciliation conferences and its attempts were thwarted and aborted. I believe that there are two problems with the national reconciliation issue. The first is to restore the Iraqi citizen’s confidence and have real concrete action on the ground. The second is that the government has to identify and say what is reconciliation and who is to be reconciled with who? We identified in our memorandum the parties with which to have reconciliation and excluded the terrorist groups and those whose hands are covered in the Iraqis’ blood. We called for an amnesty for the others. If this is not done, then no reconciliation will be achieved. What is the use of conferences when there are militias, quotas, and the Debathification law! This is inconsistent with the principle of quotas. But if there is a naive explanation that reconciliation is between the Sunnis and Shiites or between Arabs and Kurds, then this is an issue that is far from the truth and reality and will only lead to more setbacks. I hope the OIC will succeed in its endeavor and we support all these initiatives and work to render them successful.