Former Iraqi prime minister: Ayad Allawi

1854-5-1.jpg-Iraq is now witnessing a period of calm. Can we consider it as a prelude to a permanent peace?
This calm will remain relative and temporary unless it is coupled with a political process aimed at achieving a true national reconciliation. The present government should profit from the calm to attain this objective. We never stop repeating that the security problem cannot be resolved by bringing in more American troops or building a concrete-steel wall to isolate the capital, still less by sectarian or ethnic cleansing. We need to reactivate the institutions of the state and end the sharing of spoils, and to reach an understanding about the clauses of the Iraqi constitution which are now so contentious.
We also need to tackle the problem of the Iraqi refugees who have sought asylum abroad, as well as those who are refugees in their own country.
And it’s important to make the sovereignty of the law prevail and ensure the independence of the judiciary, which now is a dead letter. The government must work for national reconciliation, from which no one must be excluded except terrorists and criminals.

– What is your view of the proposed Iraqi-American treaty?
There are quite a few questions to be raised about the contents of this treaty, about which the government has not informed the various political groups and NGOs.
And we have the right to wonder what dangers threaten the Iraqi people both at home and abroad that would justify signature of such a treaty, about which we know nothing.

– We’re in favor of a balanced regional system, capable of protecting all the peoples of the region. Such a system must respect local characteristics and not allow any interference in our internal affairs. It must also make possible good-neighborly relations with the surrounding countries on the basis of mutual respect and common interests.
We’d also like the UN Security Council to extend the presence of the multinational forces for another year so that we can look at the proposed treaty in more depth.

– There is a breach within the cabinet. How can that be overcome?
The political process has been built on an unbalanced basis and it is difficult for the cabinet to be homogenous in such a case. I warn against engagement in a political and sectarian project and insist that there can be no solution except with the establishment of a national Iraqi project. In the past, sectarianism has never been a problem; it has only become a problem recently. I don’t think the problem lies in the matter of participation in the cabinet or not. It is rather in the amendment of the political process. Is the political process based on the marginalization of others and the presence of the militias? Whenever the concerned groups agree on modifying that way of acting, then we will agree on any kind of form of cooperation.

-No mixing of politics with religion
What about reports of an alliance with the Sadrist current or other currents in the framework of electoral cooperation?
These are nothing more than rumors.

Our party, the Iraqi List, has two approaches:
First: Coordination with the Sadrist Current within Parliament, dialogue within the dialogue council and the Reform current through the shared issues that we agree on concerning the identity of Iraq and its future.
Second: Formation of a large national popular front with forces that are still not taking part in the political process, such as NGOs, parties and professional associations.
This proposal is moving forward strongly and emphasizing the formation of a national and popular grouping. Thus the efforts of the Iraqi List have been successful.
We insist on presenting a national project for all Iraqis which is far removed from political sectarianism. Iraq has always been and will always be for all its people. And we hope that the state of the law will be its foundation and sovereignty. We are against the establishment of a federal state because Iraq is an Arab country having an Islamic core and should have complete sovereignty.
Any way, the issue of national reconciliation is the key to all this and we are working hard on this. No one is excluded from the process except killers and other criminals.

– Will the political map of Iraq change after the election?
We’re working and exerting pressure so that the elections take place in the best conditions. The important thing is that the polls take place with transparency and neutrality in order to avoid the errors of the past. During the last election campaign 13 martyrs fell in our ranks and hundreds of activists of the Movement of Iraqi National Understanding were arrested in the southern provinces. Four hundred of them were jailed in Nasiriya.

– How can Iraq attain a lasting state of stability?
There is a basic and essential interest for all the parties to use all their strength to establish national reconciliation and call upon the Arab nation to be supportive and help us in this process. During the first Sharm al-Sheikh summit I worked so this reconciliation could be at the forefront of priorities. I am thankful to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who responded to my call and accepted the final declaration suggestions I made to reach that goal. I call upon the government to elaborate these decisions and take appropriate measures to reach the needed reconciliation. The situation doesn’t bear any postponement as the number of Iraqi refugees outside their homeland has reached four million, according to the census made by the United Nations. They’re mostly in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. Many of them are doctors. Imagine: out of 38,000 registered doctors, only 5,600 are still in Iraq.
These refugees are enduring acute financial and social distress, but they’re getting minimal help from the government. Despite the prevailing situation in Lebanon, the Lebanese authorities have been very cooperative in helping the refugees on their soil. In addition to that, there are hundreds of thousands of refugees within Iraq due to the political conflicts and sectarian fighting, the like of which Iraq has never witnessed during its past history. The Baath Party’s policy, which harmed the country greatly during 35 years, was to oblige many people to join the party. So why punish those who civilians and military for a political affiliation that was forced on them? What is the use of punishing these citizens, who comprise such an important component of our society?
The government should deal with the abnormal political and security factors in a manner that establishes national reconciliation, without which there can be no security or stability for anyone.

– Talks in Beirut
During your visit to Beirut, you had talks with officials and politicians. What was the focus of these discussions?
It was a private visit and I took advantage of it to present my congratulations to President Michel Sleiman.
I also met with Speaker Berri, Prime Minister Saniora, MP Saad Hariri, sheikhs Mohammad Rashid Kabbani, mufti of the Republic, and Abdelamir Kabalan, vice-president of the Higher Islamic Shiite Council, and other personalities.
My talks were construction, marked by an atmosphere of brotherhood. I reiterated to President Sleiman the support of our ministerial and parliamentary delegation for all initiatives intended to reunify ranks, and we found him to have the qualities of a wise leader. He is a great patriot open to all currents, firm and clear in his manner of expressing his ideas and his constant principles. I advise all sides to rally round the head of the state and to give him complete support, in order to be able to benefit from assistance, both Arab and international. In this way Lebanon will be able to recover its place in the concert of nations.

-  What of the exodus of Christians from Iraq?
I’ve been able to talk to many Iraqis who have fled from the country, and they’ve related the difficulties they’ve had following the assassination of the bishop of Mosul and members of the clergy, not to mention innocent civilians.
I feel it’s important to stress that the Christians are an integral part of the Iraqi social fabric. They have actively contributed to its development and prosperity in all fields. They are true patriots who have no loyalty other than their loyalty to Iraq. They have endured the same dramas as their fellow-citizens because of the wave of terrorism on the banks of the Euphrates.
It goes without saying that a resolution of their case must be in the framework of a general reconciliation.

Finally, in reply to a question about possible Iraqi aid to Lebanon in terms of petroleum products at advantageous prices, Dr. Allawi promised to raise this matter through the ministers representing his party in the cabinet and its members of Parliament.
He also recalled a number of agreements signed with Beirut when he was prime minister stipulating the rehabilitation of the oil refinery in Tripoli and the construction of a port in South Lebanon which could be used by Iraq as a transit point.