Friday, January 24, 2014








Iraq's Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is currently in the United States.  With Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi currently in exile, al-Nujaifi is the highest ranking Sunni in the Iraqi government.  This morning, 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 

Okay, on the above.  This is the second week where inadequate translators were provided at a DC Iraq event.  Last week, it was Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq at the US Institute of Peace.   Brookings' translator -- a woman -- was better than the man translating at the US Institute of Peace.  He was awful.  It took him so long -- lengthy pauses -- to figure out what was being said that he would stop mid-sentence because a new person had begun to speak.

She wasn't that bad.  But "[Some residents have been taking part in protests.]"?  I have no idea what he said because she rushed through a bad translation.  She did this also with the section where I have "[create three new provinces"] which instead found her stating that the military launched campaigns in four provinces on Tuesday.

Until the end of the speech, she repeatedly used the term "confessional" when the English word for the term al-Nujaifi was using was "sectarian."  I do realize that context is a great deal.  I really think if you're translating on current events, you should know current events.  The woman did better than the man who stumbled and fumbled and left whole sections untranslated.  But this really shouldn't be considered acceptable.  As I've noted before I have a friend who runs a translation firm.  I told her about this experience and asked if it's considered acceptable?  She said it wasn't.  And I don't see how it could be.  Two people were hired to do jobs which were translating the remarks of visiting politicians.  If you're not translating the remarks, if you're not translating them correctly, you're not doing your job.

On the above, I also broke it up into paragraph form.  Normally, we don't do that.  But that's such a large section of words.  And they had to be included because if Saleh al-Mutlaq and the MPs last week got very little US media coverage, Osama al-Nujaifi is getting even less coverage.

Gus Taylor (Washington Times) is one of the few covering this morning's event.

With fears growing that the situation could trigger an all-out civil war between Iraq’s Shiites and Sunnis, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has yielded to pressure from the Obama administration to delay using the Iraqi military, which is dominated by Shiites, to mount full-scale assault on Anbar.
Mr. al-Maliki has also begun paying more secular Sunni tribesmen to fight back against the extremists in Fallujah.
But Mr. al-Nujayfi on Wednesday suggested the move may be too little too late — or that it must be expanded upon significantly and quickly if the Maliki government has any hope of forging a sustainable alliance with secular Sunni tribal leaders going forward.
He also said the rise of al Qaeda-linked groups in Anbar could most accurately be blamed on the Maliki government’s abandonment of previous alliances that U.S. military forces once nourished with those tribal leaders.

Karen DeYoung and Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) report on the Brookings event and on the visit to the US:

The amount of face time that Nujaifi got with top U.S. officials — including Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel — suggested that Washington realizes that mobilizing Iraq’s beleaguered Sunni community will be key to restoring order in Anbar. A State Department official said Washington is hopeful that the ongoing crisis might deliver a larger breakthrough in Iraq’s stagnant politics.
“A big part of what Nujaifi and we are trying to do is move this beyond the military front,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the situation. “Even if you can quell the al-Qaeda advances long-term, you won’t be able to make any progress without political reform as well.”
Yesterday, Iraq's Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi met with US President Barack Obama.

And yesterday, the White House issued the following:
The White House
Office of the Vice President

Readout of Vice President Biden's Meeting with Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi

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.

RECOMMENDED:   "Iraq snapshot"
"Osama al-Nujaifi meets with Barack"
"Nouri's Cabinet's 'confused' as his leadership"
"Manhattan screening tonight of Oscar nominated The..."
"Obama Nominates "War Criminal" Barron To First Cir..."
"Elementary and Ed Snowden"
"NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden"
"community - lava and other nonsense"
"Ed Snowden"
"Justin Bieber"
"That awful ObamaCare"
"Squandering a natural resource"