An open letter to Iraq’s PM-designate Abadi

Mr. Haidar al-Abadi, you have good intentions to bring unity back to Iraq, but more needs to be done

Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi

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Firstly, we congratulate you on your new mission and pray to God to help you take on difficult responsibilities in this critical phase in history. The legacy of your predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki, is undoubtedly a difficult one.

Maliki was handed a unified Iraq, but has since left it fragmented.

Cities such as Mosul have fallen victim to the occupation of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and to awful sectarianism.

Iraq now tops the list of corrupt countries, where injustice, poverty and a huge disparity in income prevail. Iraq’s internal affairs were run from other capitals, all in exchange for keeping Maliki in power.

In short, the desire to cling onto power came at the expense of principle, destroying lives and the state in the process.

Mr. Haidar al-Abadi, you have good intentions to bring unity back to Iraq, but more needs to be done, especially since you enjoy an unprecedented level of support, both internally and internationally, from bodies such as the United Nations. This support gives you the green light to take the lead and enforce difficult decisions to stop others from trying to obstruct the development process.

The attack against a Sunni mosque in the Diyala province, believed to be carried out by Shiite militias, highlights the complicated challenges and conspiracies that hinder government formation efforts and threaten to push the country into a horrific bloody conflict.

Mr. Haidar al-Abadi, you have good intentions to bring unity back to Iraq, but more needs to be done

Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi

Allow me, as an external observer with a strong passion toward Iraq’s history and its sacrifices and as someone who believes that Iraq belongs solely to the Arab world, to say the following:

• Coexistence among sects and religions should be reinforced since these various groups have always lived together in harmony. Comprehensive political policies must enforce equality among Iraqi regardless of sect or ethnicity.

• Enhancing a democratic system that focuses on equality will undoubtedly protect the state from the perils of power-hungry leaders in the future.

• Allocating positions of power based on sect will only have a negative influence on the country. Lebanon is a clear example of this. Politicians should, instead, be appointed based on their qualifications and integrity and not their religious affiliations. There needs to be a strong system of accountability for abuse of power and financial corruption.

• The government should prioritize development plans, as well as provide citizens with a decent living. Poverty, unemployment and the deterioration of basic services and infrastructure all point to the government’s lack of development planning. Solving these problems will reconcile Iraqis with their government more than any military solution ever will.

• Iraq needs to turn over a new leaf by letting go of revenge-based agendas. By this, I do not mean ignoring the major corruption that took place. A court of high integrity should be formed to hold criminals accountable and take back state property. Forgiveness is not synonymous with compromising the basic tenets of law.

• People’s needs and opinions should be discussed, even if this includes a call toward a federal state. This is a valid option that has been considered successful in many countries that have taken up such a choice. In short, power of consensus should be the ultimate deciding factor. No one should claim they have the ultimate answer.

• Iraq is an Arab country. It was the cradle of Islamic civilization for centuries and it will forever remain Arab. As such, strong and honest relations with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf and Arabic countries is in Iraq’s interest. One of the major mistakes Maliki committed is burning important bridges with key Arab countries, while alienating others.

The fundamentals of politics dictate keeping a minimum channel of contact open. Maliki bet all his money on Iran, which eventually deserted him.

Hours after Mosul fell, the Iraqi army lost confidence in its army and its spirit was weakened by Maliki’s sectarian policies. As such, Iraq is in need of a strong, united army to eliminate militias. The Arab world is witnessing one of the toughest times in its modern history. Things began to unravel in Iraq from the time the country occupied Kuwait. It was then that hidden agendas were revealed.

Still, Iraq may be able to regain its leadership role, first by building a unified and cohesive society and then by moving toward a greater regional Arab role that will hopefully restore some of our losses and much of our dignity.

This article was first published in Arab News on August 26, 2014.

Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi is the editor-in-chief of Sayidaty and al-Jamila magazines. A prominent journalist who worked with Asharq al-Awsat in London and Arab News in KSA, al-Harthi later moved on to establish al-Eqtisadiah newspaper in KSA, in which he rose the position of Editorial Manager. He was appointed editor-in-chief for Arajol magazine in 1997. He won the Gulf Excellence award in 1992.

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