The Iraqi elections will be held in this country in less than two weeks. These elections could determine Iraq’s political fate, deciding the country’s president, prime minister, and head of parliament. The position of prime minister, the country’s most executive one, is the one most sought after. One of current Iraqi Prime Minister Noori al-Maleki’s most serious rivals is Dr. Ahmed Chalabi, a prominent Iraqi politician and one who has been called the architect of the new Iraq. An MIT graduate, he is currently a part of the Citizen Coalition in these elections. Iranian Diplomacy recently spoke with Dr. Chalabi about the Iraqi elections and the situation in this country today.
Iraq’s political scene is very tumultuous these days. The Iraqis are preparing themselves for the upcoming elections and the campaign hype is very high. How would you assess the political scene in Iraq today?
These are Iraq’s golden days. Although there are numerous problems and we are not happy with the current situation inside the country, there is an excitement about the election and the people are preparing themselves to participate in a decisive election. Following years of dictatorship by the Ba’thist regime and Iraq’s involvement in futile wars which led to oppression and other major problems for the people, now the situation is more desirable in many aspects. Despite the shortcomings, the present situation is much better than the past. Although numerous threats and different problems still exist and the security and stability of the country are threatened by some opportunistic terrorist groups, this is a golden opportunity for us to build our own future and the future for the next generations. Anyone who believes in Iraq, the people and the regime and seeks to achieve democratic ideals and a better future for himself and his children and to reconstruct the country must comprehend that he must participate in the election and the political process of the country so that the country would enter the right path of major reconstruction. Iraq must progress through a well-studied program and be promoted to a better status. We must be able to move forward based on long-term programs and the existing situation and act in a way to not only reconstruct ourselves but to also impact the future of the region.
Dr. Chalabi, you were one of the critics of the Maleki administration in the past. But these days we do not hear many criticisms from you. Could you frankly express your opinion about the policies of Mr. Noori al-Maleki?
When Mr. Maleki followed an improper path, I expressed my criticisms against his policies. But when he was moving in the right path, I, along with many others, supported him. The statements that I have made with regard to different issues can be found and referred to. Right now the policies of Mr. Maleki have unfortunately failed. He has not succeeded in administering the country. It is very unfortunate that he has not left any solution for his failed policies. Perhaps the clearest approach was expressed by the Shiite Marja’ who has explicitly mentioned his failures. Unfortunately the policies of Mr. Maleki are individualistic. His viewpoint is limited to a defined framework and do not allow other outlooks to be presented about the situation of the country.
Do you assume that Mr. Maleki would be able to win this election?
The fact is that I do not expect the people to leave the destiny of their country to such a person who has not been successful in running the country in the past. I know that many people who use Mr. Maleki will not be happy with my statement but this is a fact that cannot be ignored.
Is it possible that you might replace Mr. Maleki?
Anything is possible but I cannot make predictions. It is the people who will determine the next prime minister, as they also elect the president and the head of the parliament. I cannot make any predictions and whatever I say today would be unrealistic and hasty.
What should, in your opinion, the priorities of the next Iraqi administration be?
The response is very simple. Iraq is a country which suffers from poverty, unemployment and a shortage of housing. These problems are directly related to people’s lives, thus, they must be placed among the priorities of the next administration. Any government would be duty bound to pursue these matters to strengthen the interdependency of the people with their country and also the relations between the people and the government. The new administration must also redefine its economic policies to improve the unsuitable present situation, especially in the area of reconstruction and creation of industries which is the introduction to any progress. Today Iraq relies only on the oil incomes, and this is very unfortunate. In the Citizen Coalition, we have designed an inclusive program to which you could refer.
You had said in the past that sectarian division in positions would not succeed in Iraq and that political participation must be pursued. How would this be possible while sectarian tensions in Iraq are at their climax? Every day, many Iraqis, whether Shiite or Sunni, lose their lives due to the same sectarian outlook. Don’t you think that under such conditions, sectarian division would happen anyway?
Yes this is true. Unfortunately our country is faced with sectarian divisions, but this is wrong. The country must not be administered based on sectarian divisions. The results of such an approach can be seen now. We support the government of political majority separate from these sectarian divisions; a government which is based on patriotism and is established on the basis of expertise and not friendship and partisanship. We support powerful parliamentary opposition to supervise the activities of the government. Many things could be done through this approach in the path of the progress of the country. Many policies of the government have now failed. The activities of the parliament are not desirable. It could be said that the parliament has not had a good track record either. In the future parliament, subcommittees must be formed with the presence of the representatives of different factions to accurately follow the economic, political, social and cultural issues of the country. Financial corruption must also be seriously fought against. Unfortunately, no measure has, hitherto, been taken in this regard or, if it has, it was with the help of arms. When there is no practical framework for the fight against corruption, the simplest path which is resorting to arms would be pursued. But this is not the right approach and has not been successful. We must have a defined framework for all issues including the fight against corruption, a corruption which has infiltrated all aspects of the government and seriously impacted the entire situation of the country.
How would you, as an economist who has been successful in economic activities, assess the future of Iraq’s economy?
I predict a very good future provided that the country is administered by a group of economic experts. In that case, we can then think about the reconstruction of Iraq and be hopeful about its future.
The Americans have played a significant role in the establishment of the new government in Iraq; from their military attack to supporting the reelection of Noori al-Maleki in 2009. How would you evaluate the US’ policies, especially those of Barack Obama, with regard to Iraq? Is the present situation acceptable for them?
The White House is dissatisfied with the actions of the Iraqi government particularly with regard to its failure in dealing with security threats which has led to the killing of thousands of Iraqis and also regarding the expanded financial corruption and lack of economic and construction projects despite the fact that Iraq’s income during the past eight years has exceeded 800 billion dollars. This amount could certainly help to reconstruct the country. The US administration is not satisfied with the present situation.
Would the US administration support Maleki again in this election?
Despite all the criticisms against Noori al-Maleki and his administration and the many shortcomings of the country, the US still has a positive view of him. One of their reasons is that there is no one who could seriously compete with him. Nevertheless, the US states in the end that everything would be related to the outcome of the elections. One must wait and see what the results of the election would be. Everyone must accept the outcome of the elections.