Kuwait, Asharq al-Awsat – Dr. Iyad Allawi, former Iraqi Prime Minister and leader of Al-Iraqiyah National List, arrived in Riyadh yesterday a day after the arrival of Masud Barzani, president of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, where he was received by King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz and held talks with him which dealt with the latest developments in the Iraqi situation.
Allawi called Nuri al-Maliki’s Government the offspring of the sectarian and ethnic situation in Iraq and has several terms of reference and therefore is incapable of achieving national unity. He called on the Iraqi government to abandon its sectarian stands and sectarian quotas and to be the government for all Iraqis and for Al-Maliki to be the Prime Minister of a government for all Iraqis and not for a certain community or political party in that community.
In an interview with Asharq al-Awsat conducted with him during his visit to Kuwait, where he was accompanied by a delegation from Al-Iraqiyah List, Allawi said, “This government does not represent me as a Shiite nor the Shiites in Iraq as much as it represents the politicized Shiites. We warned before and continue to warn that political sectarianism will impede and thwart the government’s work as it will impede and thwart the unity of Iraqi society.” He asserted that the “the Kurdish-Sunni-Shiite division is the most dangerous thing facing Iraq and is lethal to it.” He proposed the alternative of the “Iraqi national approach that believes in pluralism and the diversity of Iraqi society and gives the rights voluntarily to all the people’s sectors without sectarian or factional tyranny.”
Allawi disclosed that he discussed this matter with Al-Maliki several times and presented a memorandum for enabling the government to emerge from this crisis made up of 14 points that essentially say the government should be for all the Iraqis so that there would be a ray of hope that situations in Iraq would improve; otherwise Iraq would proceed along a dangerous route if the division, estrangement, and frustration remained.”
In reply to a question whether there is any ray of hope from the anticipated cabinet reshuffle that Al-Maliki had announced, Allawi answered in the negative “because the issue is not one of persons but of approach and of an integrated system. Do we want Iraq according to a sectarian system subject to sectarian quotas or a system where all the Iraqis compete through the democratic, legal, and constitutional institutions to promote views and beliefs away from violence or factionalism and where each party expresses its views in the way it wants.”
Allawi regretted the division of Iraq on the basis “that this is a Shiite and this is a Sunni, Christian, Kurd, or Turkoman. This is a dangerous matter, casts dark shadows over the Iraqi situation, and does not help the manifestation of Iraq’s true face.” He added: “What is happening in Iraq at present is sectarian political infighting and not doctrinal. This is in addition to the presence of terror and Iraqi circles that were pushed into extremism as a result of marginalization, exclusion, and pursuits besides the presence of ordinary crime by ordinary criminals. All of this has an important background, namely, the state institutions’ lack of loyalty to the homeland.” He stressed: “We must admit that what is happening in Iraq is some kind of civil war. It might not be conventional and customary like the wars which had happened. But there is definitely killing on the basis of identity, sectarian infighting, and the marginalization and displacement of the innocent. If this situation continues, it will break and destroy Iraq and inflict utmost harm on the region.”
The former Iraqi prime minister underlined the need to focus on the political side in what is called the US administration’s new strategy by creating the healthy atmospheres and proper environment in order to have real national reconciliation in Iraq, to repeal the divisive laws that divided Iraqi society and damaged its unity, and establish an Iraq for all the Iraqis regardless of community or race.
He disclosed that the US administration asked for his opinion about the international conference that was held in Baghdad last Saturday before it was convened and said: “I called for concentrating on the security situation in Iraq so as to pave the way for an expanded meeting at the foreign ministers’ level after setting up real mechanisms and clear objectives so that it would reach results binding on all countries and for the other tensions in region, like Lebanon, Palestine, and others to be raised besides the Iraqi question.”
Allawi announced his intention to visit Damascus soon and said: “I met President Bashar al-Assad when I was prime minister and after stepping down. I found the Syrian brothers ready for understanding but were worried and apprehensive about the US stand as there are many problems in US-Syrian relations, among them the Lebanese problem, the Palestinian one, and the Iraqi one too. All these problems need to be discussed and resolved so that the region can calm down and stabilize.”
The head of Al-Iraqiyah List talked about the return of alliances on the basis of affiliation to Iraq and said: “We noticed that many forces from the Shiite and Sunni parties sided here or there and now have started to feel that the Iraqi national approach is the most correct and soundest one for Iraq.” He concluded by saying: “We are hoping to restore Iraqi cohesiveness and unite Iraqi society on the bases of the criteria of integrity, competence, and loyalty to the homeland and for the Iraqis to have the freedom to worship and perform their rites in the way in which they believe without any political pressure or marginalization.”
According to Izzat al-Shabandar, Al-Iraqiyah’s official spokesman, Allawi’s visit to Saudi Arabia “is part of his tour of the Gulf and some Arab countries to brief the Arab brothers on the nature of the situations in Iraq and to solicit support for the national plan he is leading.” He added in a statement to Asharq al-Awsat by telephone yesterday: “Allawi’s tour began in the fraternal State of Kuwait. We accompanied him as a large delegation made up of the list’s members. We will visit the United Arab Emirates after Saudi Arabia and then Egypt, Lebanon and Syria and do not rule including Iran in this tour.”
Asked if Allawi’s visit to Riyadh just one night after Barzani’s arrival there was coordinated beforehand or not, Al-Shabandar said: “I believe that this visit was coordinated so as to have both Allawi and President Barzani in Riyadh. This coordination was made during Allawi’s visit to the Kurdistan region with US Ambassador in Baghdad Zalmay Khalilzad before the start of the Gulf tour so as to be within the framework of the joint efforts of Dr. Allawi and President Barzani to back the Iraqi national plan.”