Dr Iyad Allawi: Give us back our dignity

Says the Prime Minister of Iraq's first post-war sovereign government

27 June 2004

Independent

On Wednesday, the sovereignty of Iraq will be restored and the Iraqi people will take their first important steps towards a free and prosperous future, with hope for a new dawn after over three decades of tyrannical rule, repression, wars and sanctions. This will be an important milestone for Iraq, the region, and indeed the whole world, endorsed by the unanimous approval of the UN Security Council in Resolution 1546 earlier this month. As Iraqis, we thank the coalition for the sacrifices made by its soldiers and its people for the liberation and rebuilding of Iraq, and for the contributions by all the countries, international organisations and NGOs that have braved the risks to assist Iraq in its time of need. We hope for the continued support of the global community as we Iraqis take the crucial steps in assuming responsibility for our own future.

The members of my recently named interim government are among the brightest and most capable of Iraqi men and women, representing our unique mix of ethnic, religious, geographical and political perspectives, all united in a common patriotic purpose of setting our beloved country on course towards peace, stability, freedom and economic progress. It is a great honour for me to be chosen to lead the new Iraqi government during this critical and historic time. Our government's policies will be based upon four inter-related objectives:

First and foremost, our priority is to establish security, without which little other progress can be made in the long overdue reconstruction process for the country. This mandates the rapid rebuilding of Iraq's key institutions for law enforcement, including the army, police, border control and intelligence services. This process is already under way, with a multi-faceted integrated plan that encompasses the establishment of five divisions in the new Iraqi army, unifying the command-and-control structure of the various security forces, building counter-terrorism intelligence capabilities, establishing a ministerial national security council, and an agreed framework for the disbanding of the militias and reintegrating them into the nation's security forces.

Throughout this process the government will make a clear distinction between those Iraqis who have acted against the occupation out of a sense of desperation, and those foreign terrorist fundamentalists and criminals whose sole objective is to kill and maim innocent people and to see Iraq fail. Our objective will be to reach out to the former group in a national reconciliation effort and invite them to join us in a fresh start to build our country's future together, while at the same time isolating and defeating the latter group, whose destructive objectives are fundamentally at odds with those of the Iraqi nation. In this regard, we are drawing up plans to provide amnesty to Iraqis who supported the so-called resistance without committing crimes, while isolating the hardcore elements of terrorists and criminals and undercutting their base of support. The honour of decent Iraqi ex-officials, including military and police, should be restored, excluding of course those who committed heinous crimes against the nation.

The second key element of our policy will address the dire economic situation, where immediate priorities must be to reduce the high rate of unemployment in Iraq and to restore essential basic services throughout the country. Promises must be translated into tangible results in order to address the crisis of credibility and win back the trust and loyalty of the Iraqi people. This will require absorbing a high number of skilled and unskilled workers in reconstruction projects and activities that will follow the restoration of sovereignty, and whose main focus will be rehabilitating the infrastructure of the country, including transport, electricity and water networks, health services and education. In addition, we must restore and build up the nation's oil production and revenue.

Third, the sovereign Iraqi government will secure the development of and support for a strong and independent judicial system, well trained and well funded, in order to ensure the rule of law, protection of property rights, and respect for human rights. An area of focus will also be in anti-corruption laws and regulations. These steps are not only a vital prerequisite for the goals of establishing security and enabling economic progress, but also make up a fundamental cornerstone for the future free and democratic Iraq that we aim to build.

The fourth objective of our government's policy will be continuing and accelerating the political process and march towards democracy. Our aim is to cement national unity and promote a spirit of reconciliation by ensuring that all voices and groups are heard, to prepare the country for free and fair elections through an agreed constitution. Ballot boxes must replace bullets as the determinant of political authority in Iraq. Nation-building is the key, and alienation or revenge must be avoided. It should be noted that with all these initiatives Iraq, like all nations, has a unique cultural and historical national context, with its own customs and values. As such, the democratic system developed in Iraq will not and should not be a replica of an imported model from the US, Britain, or indeed any other country. Rather Iraqis themselves need to find and create the democratic political process that works best for us, while sharing in the universal values of all free nations, benefiting from the experience of other countries, and drawing upon the advice of international organisations such as the UN.

As we near the point of the restoration of Iraq's sovereignty, we see that the challenges are great and the stakes are high for Iraq and, indeed, the whole world. We must not underestimate the magnitude of the task that lies ahead. Despite the hardships, as Iraqis we are determined to work together and assume responsibility for the success of our country, though we will, nevertheless, continue to need the support and commitment of the international community in order to realise our national aspirations. In particular, we are placing our trust in international commitments of reconstruction aid and debt forgiveness, as well as assistance with multinational military support until Iraq is ready and able to assume full responsibility for its own security. With these efforts, God willing, Iraq will take its rightful place among the free and prosperous nations of the world, ensuring the peace, prosperity and respect for their dignity that Iraqis have so long been denied, yet so richly deserve.