In October 2010, Masoud Barzani, President of Iraq’s Kurdish province, launched the Arbil initiative, which led to the Arbil accord that envisaged a national unity government, ending an eight-month stalemate.
Under the deal, Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and President Jalal Talabani were to keep their jobs for a second term and Eyad Allawi, who narrowly won the elections, would head a new executive body called the National Council for Strategic Policies (NCSP).
With the NCSP not yet formed, Al Iraqiya leaders have threatened to withdraw from the government.
Gulf News spoke with Allawi, a former prime minister who heads the Iraqiya party, on the issue. Below are excerpts from the interview:
Gulf News: As sponsors of the political process in Iraq, did the US convince the political blocs to give [Prime Minister] Nouri Al Maliki another chance? What is their opinion today regarding what is happening in Iraq?
Eyad Allawi: In my opinion, the US was keen to not give the Al Iraqiya bloc its constitutional rights, despite the fact that their security agreements in Iraq clearly stated that they will protect democracy in the country.
However, we did not hear one word from the international community in support of the election results. Instead, everyone was in accord with the Iranian vision and will.
I believe Iran is the strongest; however, it has committed miscalculations. Iraqis will never accept interference, although they are keen to set up positive relations with countries around the world that are built upon mutual respect and non-interference in the internal affairs of others.
The Al Iraqiya coalition, all national forces, and myself, are opposed to wars waged against countries and peoples, including all neighbouring countries.
We call for building and protecting mutual interests. I believe it is in the interest of Iran to re-evaluate its position.
As for the US with which we have to maintain our friendship because of our many joint interests, I believe they also have to re-evaluate their stand regarding the Middle East as a whole in a way that will guarantee the people’s will, freedom and choice.
If Al Maliki attempts to establish a majority government, what will you do?
If he is able to do that, we will send our blessings. However, we will peacefully object to the policy of acquisition and absolutism and we will work towards real national reconciliation. We shall also work towards relieving Iraq of foreign influence and political sectarianism.
Iraqis voted for you, they wanted you to start a new phase of reforms, to get rid of sectarianism, to get rid of corruption and weak government performance, in addition to all the ailments suffered in the government apparatus. It is said that you left the field to others who proved their failure over the past four years.
What do you say?
I have not and will not stop defending Iraq and the region. However, the national forces lost this phase because of Iran’s strong stand against the national approach. The US was also keen that the nominated person for the prime minister’s post must not be from the Al Iraqiya Bloc. This notion was backed by the Supreme Court which gave an unconstitutional and undemocratic opinion — and it was not part of its job in the first place — regarding the right of the largest bloc to unite with others after the elections to present a candidate for the premiership.
That is how forces that believe in politicising religion were able to further their efforts with regional and international blessings.
Al Iraqiya had to bow out for the sake of the Iraqi people, for Iraqis not to remain without a government that will offer them services, security, improved incomes, and infrastructure — none of which has happened up till now.
At the same time, we insist on a real partnership as the only alternative to protect Iraq and its people.
Members of Nouri Al Maliki’s State of Law Coalition say that you provoke Arabs and Iraqis against the government.
What do you say?
Baghdad’s government does not have a foreign policy. It is personal at best. I have not heard that the cabinet has set definite and clear foreign policy lines, nor have they determined Iraq’s national interests, Iraq’s role in the Islamic and Arab spheres. What is Iraq’s role in the international arena? What is Iraq’s stand regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? What is its stand regarding Iran, Turkey, and Syria? How do you go about solving the problems with Kuwait? What is Iraq’s role and efforts to set up strategic relations with the GCC countries ….etc? There is a clear case in efforts made to damage Iraq’s Arab ties and extensions.
Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has the armed forces linked to his office. What will you do if your offices are deprived once again of the assigned protection and guards?
Our protection is the Lord Almighty and the Iraqi people. If what you have pointed out recurs, then that will be the very last mask to fall off the governing authority’s face.
The military forces linked to Al Maliki’s office have to be returned — after purification — to the ministries of interior and defence, as well as the National Security Authority. This was also agreed upon in the Arbil agreement and initiative.
Is there truly an Iraqi political process and a national partnership in this government?
No, there is no political democratic process in Iraq, as the elections were forged. A large portion of Iraq’s community was marginalised, and the Al Iraqiya bloc was heavily targeted. Many detentions are still taking place against Al Iraqiya and its supporters.
The national partnership is completely non-existent. I will repeat this once again, we have taken part in this government; however, we are not partners.
We took part to prove our good intentions for the sake of the Iraqi people. We are still waiting for the complete partnership to take place through the implementation of the initiative’s nine chapters, including a road map to take Iraq out of the tragic situation it was pushed into.
If matters continue as they are now, what will you do? Are there any future plans?
As mentioned earlier, we may call for early elections, or conduct a confidence vote against the prime minister. The political process belongs to the Iraqi people and not to the US, Iran or any other country. We are also studying other peaceful and democratic options.
Do you believe that conducting early elections will solve the problem, especially as the people have become more aware of the ongoings in the government today?
Yes, and I believe that there is no need for a partnership in the future. The winner — whoever that may be — gets to put together the government, and the loser becomes a protected and unoppressed opposition.
Popular polls in different research centres and the people’s demonstrations point clearly to the refusal of Iraqis to politicise religion and sect.
The suppressed protests and demonstrations are further proof of the sad state of affairs in Iraq, especially with its prisons filled with detainees.