Sunday, January 26, 2014

Osama al-Nujaifi visits DC

Last week, Iraq's Speaker of Parliament visited DC.

The Sunni lawmaker met wit US President Barack Obama (pictured above).   He met with Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.  The White House noted he met with Vice President Joe Biden:

This afternoon, President Obama joined Vice President Joe Biden’s meeting with Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi and a delegation of Iraqi parliamentarians. Both sides reaffirmed the importance of the strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq.   The President encouraged Iraq’s leaders to continue dialogue to address the legitimate grievances of all communities through the political process. Both sides agreed on the need for both security and political measures to combat terrorism, and discussed efforts to formally integrate local and tribal forces into the state security structures consistent with the Government of Iraq’s public commitments in recent days.  President Obama and Vice President Biden also expressed the United States’ strong support for continued cooperation between local and tribal leaders and the Iraqi Government against al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)/the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  The President and Vice President underscored that the United States stands with Iraq and its people in the fight against AQI/ISIL and other extremist groups.

He declared in an interview, "We don't object to the war against terrorism but the Prime Minister acted alone in this case while he was supposed to ask for the approval of the Parliament."

It was a very busy week.

Friday, he met with US General Ray Odierno.

Thursday, he spoke at he spoke at the Brookings Institution.

Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi:  We first got rid of an oppressive regime and it was followed by a military occupation then a Constitution that was written in unfavorable conditions and circumstances.  There was also a road map that was set.  The Iraqis were not able to contribute to this road map because we were in a rush.  And we wanted Iraq to be an exemplary democracy.  
The Constitution in Iraq was written under very difficult circumstances and in a very sensitive period in the country  and on the hand of politicians who suffered a lot in the past -- arrested or condemned to execution, exiled or in prison.  So the psychological environment was very hard and there were mutual fears between the Iraqi components.  This was the reason why the Constitution has some problems.  And some Articles in the Constitution can be interpreted in different ways. 
We also set up mechanisms to build institutions.  But the orientation of the Constitution was not as it should have been because of the political tension and divisions.  And the institution stipulated in the Constitution was not built as it should because of the problems.  
For instance, the Federal Supreme Court which is the highest judicial body and it rules on the conflicts between different parts of the country.  
So far, we were not able to implement it because this law needs two-thirds of the votes in the Parliament and all the political parties do not agree.  So far it is tribunal.  
Now we have courts that do exist so it is not does not have the Constitutional prerogatives to be able to rule on interpreting the Constitution or deciding if the laws are Constitutional.  That's why there are Constitutional differences between the provinces, between the provinces and Baghdad or between the legislative and the executive powers. 
All this made political life more complicated in Iraq.  And our path towards being the democratic process that we seek was not smooth. There are bad implementation of the law and selective implementation. Parliament adopted some 215 laws.  Some are very important for the stability of Iraq and for providing services to the people and for building the state as it should be built.  But some of these laws were not implemented.  They were adopted, published in the journal -- official journal -- and theoretically should have been implemented but so far they are not because there are unilateral political decisions not to implement them.  
For instance, the law on the provinces that give important prerogatives to the provinces and enough funds and means to implement the essentialization of the state.  But this law was not implemented because some in the country believe that it should not be.  
Also the law about customs, it was adopted two years ago but it is paralyzed on purpose.  
So we are facing many obstacles when it comes to building institutions and building the state of Iraq.  There is selectivity in implementing the laws.  Sometimes the law is implemented on some Iraqi parties and not on some other Iraqi parties. Hence a lack of confidence by the citizens in the political process, in the state institutions and also in the participation in the political process.  
Iraq is now facing a terrorist threat as we've seen since the beginning of the year when the change has started.  And now we need to know how to defeat terrorism at the security and at the ideological level.  
We do know that in 2007 with the surge of the American forces sectarian violence ended in the country.  And we set a plan to fight al Qaeda and the terrorist groups with the support of the Sunni clans -- most especially in Anbar -- they were armed, financed and promises that they will be part of the armed forces.  And the clans were able to defeat al Qaeda and security was restored in Anbar that represents 31% of the surface of Iraq.  So we were able to bring security back and the world is witness.  
But after this victory, there was no follow up on the promises that were given to them and they did not get their rights as, for instance, to integrate into the armed forces, to get the salaries that they need to protect them from being targeted by the terrorists.  Very few of them got salaries, those who did get salaries got salaries that were very, very low, many of them were arrested because of systematic targeting by sectarian politicians or even by al Qaeda because they wanted to undermine the rule of the tribes.  
From 2009 until a few months ago, these forces were almost completely destroyed and then al Qaeda came back stronger than before.  al Qaeda was able to paralyze the tribes and the central state did not follow up on its moral and verbal promises. 
So al Qaeda is back and it is exploiting political differences and the general feeling of frustration among the Iraqi people.  It also is exploiting the systematic corruption at the political and economic level, finding the support, finances and means in some provinces in Iraq.  And in 2013, more than 9,000 Iraqis were killed and more than 25,000 were wounded and this is the highest figure in recent years. 
So the political components in Iraq were not able to build the Iraqi political system or to implement the Constitution and to reach a genuine partnership and a genuine reconciliation.  They were not able to implement the laws as it should be and get rid of corruption and abuses and they did not respect all the Iraqi components as to represent them  in a fair manner in the armed forces.  According to the Constitution, they did not provide the provinces with enough funds. Also we did not adopt the law on hydrocarbons oil and gas which is very important to set a balanced relation between the provinces and the center for the production and exportation of oil.  
So some parties are implementing the Constitution based on their own perspective and this is hindering the building of the state, the national cohesion and is leading to more division.  And more and more people are being disappointed and do not trust the political process at this point as we have seen by the very low turnout in the last general elections [2013 provincial elections] and the ones before [2010 parliamentary elections]. We believe that Iraq is, at this point, at a crossroad.  The key to situation is clear and we can find a solution.  What we need though is a strong determination and the political will for everyone to agree on the Constitution and to forget the past, to move beyond the fears and to stop punishing the Iraqi people and move to reconciliation and prevent Iraq from sliding into even greater troubles.  
In the Kurdish provinces [Kurdistan Regional Government, three semi-autonomous provinces in northern Iraq] there was a law adopted to amnesty every one who committed a crime against the Kurdish people and worked with the previous regime.  Some of them were accused of violent crimes but they decided to amnesty everyone.  And the situation in the Kurdish provinces is stable and everyone is part of the political process.  The Kurdish provinces are now an example of security and successful investment and  wise politics.  
But in central Iraq, we are still arresting people and we are also still implementing the law on the Justice and Accountability in a partial sectarian way.  We are still banishing some of the Iraqi people who were not part of the previous regime and doing so for political reasons.  That is unfair. 
So we have failed in implementing this law.  
The political process is now in jeopardy.  
We need to act clearly and swiftly.  
The next elections are very important and could solve many problems. 
The situation should be stable and calm.  
We should put an end to the violence and the  killings and we should avoid any political measures that are provocative and the day before yesterday a decision to [create three new provinces] which led to lots of reactions.  
Also the issue of what is happening in Anbar Province. Of course, al Qaeda is there and we should fight al Qaeda and we believe so.  The tribes are fighting terrorism at this point.  But not everyone in Al Anbar Province is a terrorist.  [Some residents have been taking part in protests.] There are political demands and rights and problems that need political solutions and not military answers.  
So I am ready to answer your questions now but let me state again that Iraq is at a crossroad -- either it will move towards success and democracy and provide a successful example of a democratic country in a difficult region or, God forbid, we will move into something similar to what's taking place in Syria today.  The second option is to be expected if we do not confront the existing problems in the correct manner. 
Today, Iraq needs national reconciliation and partnership instead of the marginalization 

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