London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Ayad Allawi, leader of the Iraqi List and the first Iraqi Prime Minister after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, considers the Accountability and Justice Commission “illegal, unconstitutional, illogical and does not reflect faith in the democratic process, or commitment to the rules of democracy and law. It is, therefore, a political procedure aimed at the confiscation of democracy, the undermining of civil peace and the elimination of political opponents. I have been offered bargains to remove some names and add others.” He also stresses that certain parties are behind the actions of this Commission, including the exclusion of large numbers of candidates from the forthcoming parliamentary elections. “A few people are being used as a front, but there are certainly others standing behind them, supporting and motivating them. I am merely speculating, because I have no knowledge [of their existence],” he said.
Allawi will run in the upcoming parliamentary elections with largest political bloc called Al-Iraqiyah, which is also the slogan used by his bloc in the previous election. However, his current alliances are the widest among all entities that will run in elections. His bloc includes 500 candidates from all governorates except the Kurdistan provinces. He spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat via e-mail about the Accountability and Justice Commission saying “the Debathification Commission” (now called the Accountability and Justice Commission), which was founded by the Americans, could not be further from accountability and justice.
“Unfortunately, this Commission, which is a group of no more than five persons, has managed to undermine and confiscate the democratic process for the benefit of certain parties, which raises a lot of questions about its role and those standing behind it”. He also indicated that “this commission targets everyone involved in, had a connection, or is likely to have a connection with the national project [rebuilding the nation]. It is liquidating political opponents under the pretext of Debathification.”
Allawi, who is often accused of having links to the Baathists, is known for being one of the toughest rivals of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. He has been the target of more than 14 assassination attempts. Commenting on the statements and remarks made by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his party (the Islamic Call), about the head of the Iraqi List, particularly with respect to the subject of connections with Baathists, Allawi said: “the subject of communications with Baathists is obsolete because it has almost been a decade since the fall of the former regime at the hands of Americans. Therefore the issue of Baathists cannot be really serious, but the (Baath), (terrorism) and (confidential informant) are all politicized laws being used as a political weapon to strike at opponents. On the other hand, Prime Minister Al-Maliki should act as prime minister of Iraq and encourage only national reconciliation. This is a sincere advice to him.
Elaborating on the issue of the Baath Party on the one hand, and responding to a question about whether he would be nominated as the next prime minister, Allawi explains: “On the issue of my candidacy for the post of the next prime minister, it is up to the people and their choices, and bloc’s options. When I fought against the regime of Saddam Hussein — and even before this stage, when I was a member of the Baath Party and participated in a 17 June 1968 coup, I was still a young student at the Faculty of Medicine — I never imagined that I would seek a government job or public office. Even when the Baath Party came to power in 1968 I did not think about this issue at all. I left the Baath Party and Iraq in 1971; and over the years I was offered many posts and positions, but I refused and found this issue abhorrent. It was my hope to finish my studies at the Faculty of Medicine, and see Iraq rebuilt on the foundations that we had believed in. When I left the Baath Party and fought against the former regime, I never thought about assuming a leadership position. I was just like other Iraqis working to contribute to regime change, and save the Iraqi people from the harsh practices that had weighed upon them.
The former Iraqi premier spoke about his list “Al-Iraqiyah”, which includes Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, Deputy Premier Rafi al-Isawi, and Salih Mutlak, the leader of the National Dialogue Front. Circulating reports indicate that Al-Mutlak will be banned from participation in elections by the Accountability and Justice Commission, together with his political group, in accordance with article seven of the Iraqi Constitution, which prohibits the promotion of Baathist ideology. Allawi said: “forty-three entities (individuals and blocs) have merged with the National Iraqi List. Nineteen entities have also struck an alliance with it, and this new bloc is called Al-Iraqiyah.”
In response to a question regarding the possibility of reaching an agreement with the principal Kurdish parties (the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, headed by President Jalal Talabani, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by Masud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan region of Iraq) to form a broad national bloc, particularly since Allawi is the closest to each of the two Kurdish leaders Talabani and Barzani, he said “the special nature of the Kurdish situation is clear, and it has its own concepts and circumstances. The Kurdistan Alliance is the product of this special nature, but the Kurdistan Alliance remains the closest to us in terms of non-sectarian principles, conviction that religion must not be politicized and belief in freedom and openness. Therefore, we will await the outcome of the elections. We must think about cooperation, coordination or even the formation of a front [with the main Kurdish parties] in the post-election stage.
Allawi points out that “Al-Iraqiyah List believes in a clear and specific program based on two key dimensions: The first is to modify the political process to make it balanced, comprehensive and excluding nobody but terrorists and killers, and the second is related to the building of national, professional and fair state institutions. The program also addresses the current crisis in Iraq, including the issues of social justice and welfare, on the basis of the provision of services to the community, notably water, electricity, health services, education, transportation, housing and jobs to reduce unemployment as much as possible. The other part of our program is to enhance security and improve preparedness in the military and security agencies to ensure the sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of Iraq, and build a strong army to defend the homeland and well-established constitutional institutions capable of protecting democracy. The allied partners who believe in this program must commit themselves to implementing it. For us, there is no alternative to this program. Just as we adopted this approach before, we will adhere to it now and bet on certain victory.
Declaring his Al-Iraqiyah List in a speech, Allawi announced “today, we are overwhelmed by a sense of victory, because most political coalitions have reneged on sectarian political approaches that we fought. They say they have finally adopted the national option, that we adopted many years ago, and suffered prosecution, marginalization, exclusion and murder because of it. This proves the validity of our approach. Loyalty to Iraq will triumph over sectarian politics no matter how long and hard the road may be.”
Asked whether other political coalitions, especially sectarian ones, believe in this national option, or just use it for election purposes, he said: “Sure, there are those who talk, and those who talk and do. We want to associate words with deeds. However, the change of the approach of many political powers is a sign that sentiments in the street are changing and sectarian politics are failing in all fields, including governance. This actually confirms the validity of our approach, because we have adhered to it from the start, and did not change when others did.”
Asked about predictions that some parties will exploit sects or religion for election purposes, he said: “Certainly, some powers do not have a clear program. They adhere to religion or denomination to win positions, but we do not want the homeland to become their playground.”
Allawi cannot find a way to avoid a repetition of the exit of political parties and figures from the alliance with Al-Iraqiyah during previous elections (such as the Communist Party). Other politicians switched to other blocs after being elected to parliament on the Al-Iraqiyah list. He said: “Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid this. The democratic process in Iraq is a new one and commitment to the approach reflects first and foremost personal faith, voluntary commitment and loyalty to companions. Certainly, some groups see the alliance as a phase, but the majority is committed to the strategic ties. We respect decisions of those who have chosen other paths, and joined other blocs. They have a right to do so and people have the right to choose whoever they want.
The head of the Al-Iraqiyah List expressed his belief that attacks will escalate. “We are still in the beginning. I believe that the escalation is continuous and dangerous, and it will continue. It was originally based on political competition, and reached the level of indecent assaults and hurling non-political accusations. The problem is not the situation before the elections. The biggest problem, or the bulk of the problem, will emerge after the elections.” He pointing out that the election will be held on time, “but it will not be fair. The prevailing atmosphere proves this. The outcome will probably be settled before the election begins. If the (elections) are not comprehensive, with the exclusion of terrorists and murderers only, it will be a failure. It is possible to describe it as a failure from now. I am not talking about the Sunnis and Shiites. I am talking about Iraqis. The media should not encourage what is intended for Iraq; which is to ignite the flames of sedition.”
Allawi described the Supreme Independent Election Commission as “helpless” and voiced regret over “Arab and international positions, because they do not live up to the desired level of stopping the deterioration of the situation in Iraq. This is has been the case with Arab positions since the Saddam era, with the exception of the initiative made by the late Sheikh Zayid.”
Allawi accused the United States of “introducing the Debathification and dismantling state institutions. It is now required to end the consequences of these actions, especially since Iraq is still under Chapter VII.”
He also held the government responsible for the deteriorating situation in Iraq, which has no “public services, security or solution to the economic conditions. Both politicians participating in the political process, and the political spectrum, which remains outside the process, are responsible, but the government remains primarily responsible for these failures.” He noted that “parliament did not play its role for many important reasons, especially the lack of clarity in the relationship between parliament and the executive and judicial branches, as well as the poor nature of political process itself and its dependence on the sectarianism, upon which the parliament and the government were formed.”
Allawi thinks the future of Iraq will depend on “the decision of the people and the integrity of the elections. As things stand now, it does not appear that the elections will be fair. If they were unfair (God forbid), Iraq, and perhaps the entire region, would have a big problem.”
Allawi described the role of President Jalal Talabani a patriotic one, and said: “His Excellency President Jalal has a clear patriotic role and good regional and international relations.” Referring to the issue of possibly re-electing the president for a third term, he said: “The House of Representatives and the political consensus will surely decide this matter, and the desire of the Kurdistan Alliance will be crucial as well. We have contributed to the election of His Excellency President Jalal for the previous two terms.”
Allawi expressed regret at the departure of Iraq “from the Islamic nation and its international role”. He said his meeting with the Iranian ambassador, who visited him in his office at Al-Iraqiyah, emphasized that “our position is clear. We support good relations and balanced interests with Iran, neighboring countries and the rest of the world; provided that there is respect for sovereignty and non-interference in domestic affairs and private issues. I have been informed that I am invited to visit Iran, and I have told the Iranian side that I will do that after the elections, regardless of the outcome. I am studying contexts that could be acceptable to all, in order to put all outstanding and current issues up for discussion, and put relations with the Arabs and Iran in their proper and right place.”