The Iraq List’s president (and former prime minister) Ayad Allawi said that he will continue to confront what he considers an “emerging dictatorship” in Iraq, represented by “Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s monopolization of power.” In an interview with Al-Hayat, he pointed out that “Iran and the US are supporting the position of Maliki remaining in power.” He warned of the consequences of interfering in Iraqi affairs and declared, “The Iraqi forces that agreed to coordinate their positions during their meetings in Erbil and Najaf will continue to tirelessly confront outside interferences by any party.”
The former prime minister revealed that the idea of withdrawing confidence from Prime Minister Maliki was suggested by President Jalal Talabani during a meeting in Erbil in April 2011 [sic].
The following is the text of the interview:
Al-Hayat: The Iraqi political crisis has taken a new twist with the proposal to withdraw [parliamentary] confidence from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Do you expect that this will happen or are there political forces that are out of your control that will block the project?
Ayad Allawi: There is a consensus among important political parties and notable politicians — such as the Sadrist movement, the Kurdistan Alliance, the Iraq List as well as independent figures — regarding the monopolization of power in Iraq. We believe that this is something that will lead to a dictatorship. The mentioned forces also reject the Erbil agreement’s lack of implementation. That agreement [which allowed Maliki a second term as PM after the 2010 elections in exchange for concessions] came at the initiative of Massoud Barzani, and was produced under the current government.
There is a consensus to block the path toward a dictatorship, to ensure a peaceful transfer of power and to reject the existence of an individual, partisan or regional regime in Iraq. This consensus provided an opportunity for major political forces to meet in Kurdistan on April 28 of this year under President Jalal Talabani. The issue of withdrawing confidence from the prime minister was raised by the president in the presence of myself, Barzani and Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr. Speaker of Parliament Osama Najafi explained the constitutional method of withdrawing confidence. The president of the republic recognized that the Constitution authorized him to withdraw confidence from the prime minister, and therefore there was no reason for Najafi’s detailed argument at the meeting.
Not only did we agree on withdrawing confidence, we are also unified in our rejection of the general trend in Iraq, which has become very dangerous on three levels. The first level concerns the regime’s terrible constitutional violations, which are symbolized by the prime minister. The second level is regarding the extremely grave human rights violations that are occurring in Iraq, which are also constitutional violations. We are now hearing about secret prisons, torture and arrests. Finally, the prime minister’s unilateral decision-making constitutes the third level of danger. We do not know what’s going on in Iraq or what its political orientation is. We are not being consulted, as individuals or as parliamentary blocs, in forming the [country’s] political orientation. Perhaps the only thing we agreed upon [with Maliki] was asking the US to leave Iraq but we also requested that Iraq be removed from Chapter VII [of the United Nations’ charter] and that we are made aware of what is happening in the discussions and relations with Iran. These dangers are the result of the Iranian interference in Iraq and its political decisions.
Al-Hayat: Right now, all indicators show that Maliki is strongly supported by Iran first, and the US second. How will you deal with this situation?
Allawi: The Iraqis’ will to confront the regime’s despotism will not be stifled due to the US or Iran’s hegemony, or because we fear them. We all remember that when the whole world was supporting Saddam Hussein and his regime, we were opposing it. We did not care that the US or others were supporting him. And now, it is not only the US that is supporting the despotic methods that are plaguing the [Iraqi] political process. Iran is involved as well, and it decides who becomes the prime minister of Iraq. We must stop Iran’s hegemony and Iran must back down in the face of the Iraqi people.
Al-Hayat: There are indications that Iran opposes the withdrawal of confidence and supports Maliki’s retention of power. What is the next step? Do you think that after the collapse of the no-confidence motion, Maliki’s position will be strengthened?
Allawi: Maliki will not stop his intimidation tactics and abuses. Hundreds of Iraq List activists have been imprisoned on false charges. The charges are always ready to be applied, and they remind us of dictatorial regimes. When Iran supports such a governing style, it harms Iraq. If [Iran] does not back down then it will face major problems with the Iraqi people in the future.
Al-Hayat: If the no-confidence motion fails, what is the next step?
Allawi: Withdrawing confidence from the government is only part of our position. Our position is to stand up against despotism and the monopolization of power, which will turn Iraq into a dictatorship. We must resist this march toward dictatorship by employing the Iraqi Constitution and by using peaceful, political means. Withdrawing confidence is only one method that may lead to this goal, but if it doesn’t work then there are other ways. In the near future, we may request to question the prime minister in parliament because of his unacceptable practices. We may form a new national democratic front from within the political process.
Al-Hayat: Do you trust the Iraq List’s allies today?
Allawi: I have absolute confidence. Massoud Barzani and I have fought long battles against the former dictatorship for decades. There was clear cohesion and absolute confidence between us in the darkest of circumstances. I also have confidence in Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr, who is a respected man. Apart from some rumors, he has taken a clear national stand and declared his rejection of the monopolization of power and a dictatorship in Iraq. Due to his positions he was faced with problems, even from Iran. However, Mr. Muqtada comes from a dignified and prominent family that is experienced in Islamic jurisprudence and politics. For these reasons, the Iraq List has absolute confidence in our allies.
We will not retreat from our mission. I have fought against the idea of dictatorship for 30 years and I was almost killed in that fight. I will face any emergence of a dictatorship in Iraq using all of the peaceful and democratic means that are available. I will not allow [a dictatorship] to grow. I will make an alliance with all patriotic Iraqi forces that agree with my position.
Al-Hayat: As an alternative to withdrawing confidence from the prime minister, what would you say about a proposal to hold a national conference with guarantees that Maliki will change his course?
Allawi: Maliki and his group lied to us. They lied to the Iraqi people. They signed the Erbil agreement and did not implement any of its terms. When the president requested a national conference they said, “We do not need a national conference, let’s call a national meeting.” However, the whole subject was abandoned. Then the Erbil agreement was abandoned. Today, there is no defense minister, interior minister or intelligence chief. Instead, there is a prime minister who is also the general commander, the defense minister and the interior minister. How do you engage in a dialogue with someone who is throwing your supporters in prison? We cannot have a dialogue when we are being accused of crimes. We cannot hold a dialogue with the person who is preventing the deputy prime minister, Saleh al-Mutlaq, from entering his office. We cannot have a dialogue with the person who wants to kill [me]. A dialogue should be built on the foundations of good intentions, confidence and on the complete conviction that Iraq is for all Iraqis. We have set deadlines for the reaching of a national consensus regarding government bylaws, the appointment [of ministers], the council of ministers and accountability mechanisms. Deadlines have also been set for bringing about justice and the dismantlement of illegitimate bodies that were formed by the PM's office. However, all of this has thus far been to no avail. Instead, they completely breached the Constitution in addition to blatantly threatening our lives and the lives of others’. They had plans to liquidate people, which they discussed behind closed doors. Maliki and his men are oppressing and abusing us while we are supposed to be political partners. All of the government’s charges against us are false and fabricated in Iran.
Al-Hayat: Some people say that there are advantages to this crisis. In a way, it has ended political sectarianism in Iraqi politics. In the Iraq List, which is considered an umbrella for the Sunnis, there are deputies who stand with Maliki and there are Shiite deputies who support withdrawing confidence from him. Do you think that this crisis has reduced political sectarianism in Iraq?
Allawi: Certainly. The April 28 meeting not only transcended sectarian politics, but also ethnic and regional politics. And I assert that the April 28 meeting was a purely Iraqi national meeting.
Al-Hayat: What is your relationship with Ahmad Chalabi today?
Allawi: Our relationship is good, and we have discussed many issues. We are united in confronting despotism and the monopolization of power. However, brother Chalabi did not sign the request to withdraw confidence from Maliki.
Al-Hayat: There are those who say that the crisis is no longer a domestic one. The president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani, is in Turkey discussing Iraq. Iraqi figures are in Tehran discussing the same issue. There are accusations that a coalition comprised of Arab states and Turkey will intervene. Has this Iraqi issue become regional?
Allawi: Nechirvan Barzani is in Turkey to attend the World Economic Forum. It has absolutely nothing to do with discussing Iraq’s issues with Turkey. And as far as I know, nobody went to Iran.
Al-Hayat: Did the Sadrists hold talks with leaders in Iran?
Allawi: No, the Sadrists have not held any talks [in Iran]. Mustafa Yacoubi was in Iran to inform the Iranians about the Sadrist movement’s position. He is now in Baghdad. We did not go to Iran, nor did we go to Saudi Arabia. Our decision was an Iraqi one, and we reached an agreement with our brothers Massoud Barzani and Muqtada al-Sadr. No outside entity was involved in the discussion.
The issue is purely Iraqi. Parliament deputies are dealing with it from within the political channels. They want to withdraw confidence from Maliki in accordance with the constitution. Which Qatari-Saudi conspiracy are they talking about? What will Qatar do? Will it send an army?
Al-Hayat: There is talk that Qatar is financing [the opposition] and offering bribes.
Allawi: It is the other side that is handing out bribes. We have somebody in the Iraq List who said that Maliki offered him half a million dollars to leave it, and a half million more to join the White Bloc. This is the where the bribes can be found. And those who are making such accusations against us are the ones who are perpetrating these acts. Administrative corruption and commissions are constituting illegal funds.
Al-Hayat: Describe the level of US influence over Iraq since their withdrawal, and what is the impact of this influence?
Allawi: The US has a strategic agreement with Iraq, which has a security aspect, among others. The US is also a superpower in the UN Security Council, where Iraq is still subject to Chapter VII. The US is now holding Iraqi funds that are deposited in the US, and those funds are being transferred to the Central Bank of Iraq under US protection. This agreement was renewed by the current US president, so this is a means of power that is possessed by the US over Iraq and the Iraqi people. Additionally, Iran has influence as well.
Al-Hayat: Why do the US and Iran agree on Iraqi issues when they disagree on so many others?
Allawi: This is the truth: A US official told me that neither I nor any other Iraq List member could be prime minister of Iraq, because of Iranian opposition to this notion.
Al-Hayat: Are you referring to [US Vice President Joseph] Biden?
Allawi: I do not wish to disclose who, but senior US officials said to me and to leaders from the Iraq List that Iran will not accept an Iraq List member taking the prime minister position, regardless of electoral results. These were the US officials’ words.
Al-Hayat: Do they still have the same position?
Allawi: They have the same position today. We are not looking at this from a position of hostility to the US or Iran. We want to restore our relationship with Iran, and we want the US to not interfere in Iraqi affairs after its occupation dismantled and destroyed Iraq’s institutions. We want to be friends with the US, but without it interfering in internal affairs. Note that America says that it does not interfere, yet it agrees with Iran’s position.
Al-Hayat: Currently, do they want Maliki to remain in power?
Allawi: Let me give you an example. If you look at reports by Human Rights Watch you will find a large record of blatant human rights violations in Iraq. But why is it that the US, which speaks out in support of human rights, does nothing about these violations? We want the US to do the logical and positive thing, which is in the interest of Iraq and even in the interest of the US itself.
Al-Hayat: How do you read the situation in Syria? And how do you assess the Iraqi government’s position toward Syria?
Allawi: The situation has become very difficult. Hundreds of people are being killed every day and the destruction continues. All of this is happening even though Syria is considered the "bride" of the region because of its beauty and its decent people. Today, the Syria that we have known no longer exists because of the killings and indiscriminate shooting. If all those people were terrorists, then this is a disaster. Does it make sense that there are so many terrorists covering Syria from end to end?
I spoke with President Bashar al-Assad before and after this whole crisis started. The situation today is very sad and bothersome. The death of so many victims is not justified at all. I do not consider the Iraqi government’s position on Syria to be the position of the true Iraqi government because it was taken unilaterally. Also, we do not even know the prime minister’s policy or that of Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. I cannot comment on the government’s position on the Syrian crisis, but Iraq, its government and its prime minister can play a positive role with Iran and Syria. Iraq bridges the Islamic region, which is comprised of Turkey, Iran and the Arab world. This bridge is supposed to be used for good.
Al-Hayat: You talked about the killings in Syria. There is a mechanism behind them. Do you hold the Syrian regime responsible?
Allawi: Yes. From the beginning, through an emissary and before the situation had worsened, I proposed to President Assad to move toward political openness and to consider all the fallen as martyrs. I asked him to sit with the opposition to hold a dialogue and to abolish Article 8 of the Constitution, which is related to the Baath Party’s dominance. But when things soured, President Bashar described his opponents as terrorists. So I abandoned my efforts after I saw that there was nothing I could do. And then we started supporting the Arab League’s position on the Syrian crisis.
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