Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat-Ali Hadi al-Musawi, Iraqi prime minister’s media adviser, expressed his country’s earnest desire to have a strong Arab [diplomatic] presence in Iraq and criticized the views that Iraq is a monopoly of Iran. He said in an interview with the Asharq Al-Awsat that “Iraq is not a village to be monopolized by Iran.” He expected that the security situation to improve and stressed that the forthcoming elections will produce political agendas moving away from sectarianism. He further stressed that contrary to the image the Arabs have from their television channels, there is the real change in Iraq.
Following is the text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat]You said that the situation in Iraq is changing for the better and that Arab countries are not well-informed about it, what is it that the Arabs do not know?
[Musawi] The picture of Iraq as a country involved in the sectarian war is no longer correct; the Iraq that we have is a united Iraq. The political participation, for instance, has become a main pillar of the new Iraq instead of sectarianism or factionalism; second Iraq is governed on a political and sectarian basis. This trend will have deeper roots in future elections, where the people will vote for policies; not sectarian agendas. Moreover, the parties that used to have sectarian agendas have now political approaches instead, and their approach is that of a nationally united Iraq. The next elections will represent lists that are not dominated by any sectarian color.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Will the elections be held as scheduled at the end of this year [ 2009]?
[Musawi] The government and Parliament will fix the date; it is more likely to be one of two dates; either November 2009 or the end of January 2010.
[Asharq Al-Awsat]It is noticeable that the structure of the Iraqi Government is still unsettled and keeps changing. Why is that?
[Musawi] It is normal to have differences; we are moving from the era of “the late leader and the former president” to an era of “former president and former party leader”. All in all we call these things changes, not [physical] liquidation.
[Asharq Al-Awsat]You talk about improvement in the security situation, yet we are still suffering from strict US security measures in the Green Zone?
[Musawi] On the30th of the current month [June 2009] the Green Zone will become the responsibility of the Iraqi security forces. We may say that according to the Security Agreement, there will be no US presence in the Green Zone. The Security Agreement governs the withdrawal of the US forces from the Iraqi cities and eventually from Iraq by 2011.
[Asharq Al-Awsat]What is your interpretation of the statement by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that he prefers a presidential system of government to a parliamentary one?
[Musawi] The prime minister was talking about this issue to us and in reply to a question from the media he said that he prefers a presidential system of government to that of a parliamentary one. He was only giving prominence to the importance of the presidential system that can put an end to everything sectarian in the Parliament. Our constitution was written under particular and difficult circumstances and was influenced to a large extent by the former sectarian regime. Now there are attempts to reform, and hence there was the remark by the prime minister. He was not referring to the abolition of the Parliament because everything that takes place in the country has to be enacted through constitutional reform regardless of whether the system of government was presidential or parliamentary. There is no more powerful authority than that of the Parliament.
[Asharq Al-Awsat]What is your explanation of the Kurdish region’s export of oil?
[Musawi] There is a great deal of misunderstanding about this issue. The export of oil was through the united central government and was not for the benefit of the Kurdish region. The export was carried out through the pipe network owned and controlled by the central government and the revenue will go to the central government. This is entirely different from agreements between companies and the government of the Kurdish region to search for oil.
[Asharq Al-Awsat]The Iraqi officials talk a lot about the importance of opening up to the Arab world, yet Iraq goes somewhere else? When will Iraq translate words into actions in this respect?
[Musawi] Iraqis, in fact, opening up to the Arab world and this is what Al-Maliki has been calling for. His first visit after he took office was to Saudi Arabia, then to Egypt and, other Arab countries. It was clear from his approach that he wanted the visits to be mutual; but the Arab response did not live up to the Iraqi expectations. The rest of the world has embassies in Baghdad, but the Arabs are still hesitant. However, we are not denying that there has been progress, but the progress is still limited because some Arab countries still prefer to listen to the views of some Iraqi personalities and party leaders, instead of listening to the government’s views. This method is a killer to the Iraqis and the relations between Iraq and the Arab countries. The Iraqi state has a foreign ministry and diplomatic channels, and communications should be conducted through these channels, not subsidiary ones.
[Asharq Al-Awsat]What about the relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia?
[Musawi] First of all, Iraq is keen on having distinguished relations with Saudi Arabia. I have already pointed out that the first visit by Al-Maliki was to Saudi Arabia. It seems that there are some differences that can be settled. Prime Minister Al-Maliki recently pointed out that he has done everything he could to improve relations. We have taken the initiative and we are waiting for Saudi Arabia to make some move in this respect. Iraq is keen to have distinguished relations with all Arab countries, but it is equally keen not to enter into Arab axis of moderates and intransigence. We want to have good relations with all Arab countries.
[Asharq Al-Awsat]Nevertheless, what is being said of Iran’s monopoly in Iraq has been an obstacle to the normalization of relations between Iraq and the Arab world?
[Musawi] Iraqis not a village to be controlled by an Iranian monopoly, and Iran should not be blamed for having a presence in Iraq; for it is better that there be a presence and rapprochement. We do not allow anyone to have a monopoly over Iraq, and Iran’s presence is just like that of any other country.
[Asharq Al-Awsat]Nevertheless, Iran is keen to keep the Arabs away from Iraq?
[Musawi] The Arabs do not need permission from Iran, and all Iraqis wish to have distinguished relations with all Arab countries.
[Asharq Al-Awsat]What would be the impact of Mahmud Ahmadinejad winning of a second term on Iraq? Is he going to have a new policy toward Iraq?
[Musawi] Ahmadinejad winning of the Iranian elections is an Iranian internal affair that does not concern us; but Iran has to assure its neighbors of its moderation. The Iranian nuclear program is of concern to the whole region, not just Iran. The region cannot accept living in a state of tension, while Iran lives in stability. Consequently, we are for a dialogue whereby we reach some kind of agreement on all outstanding issues.