Who are we? Where do we want to go? How can we come together as Iraqis as we endeavour to march towards building a strong community against all kinds of malignant cancers such as Daesh and others?
I will try to answer some of the above questions, maybe so that it can help us to define the parameters of our collective journey since the journey so far has been filled with social, security, economic and political crises. Every day we see the introduction of new initiatives, some labeled as a historic settlement initiative, others called reconciliation initiative or other tags in order to build and restore the broken social harmony among the various components of the Iraqi people.
To define all the key parameters of our new Iraq, I think it is necessary to look at reality from different points of view that have not yet been deeply contemplated and can be complementary to what was previously presented by various government initiatives. These principles are based on building new foundations for Iraqi society in relation to safety, social harmony, human development, adopting collective actions and finally consolidation toward unity of objectives among members of our society. Below are details of these basic principles, rules and prerequisite requirements necessary to reach our objectives together towards development of a new Iraq.
I – Community Safety:
- To consolidate the system of sharing powers of the different executive, legislative and judicial authorities with the unity of purpose in building the society while cementing the peaceful transfer of power via democracy. This needs to be followed by clarifying the roles and responsibilities of all authorities to create a complementary rather than a conflicting state system.
- To recognize that the ballot box is the only referee.
- To renounce violence in all its forms and seek only peaceful solutions with the prohibition of Iraqi blood.
- To consider terrorism and violence by all means as a cancerous tumour which must be eradicated from the Iraqi body, tomorrow’s Iraq must be free of malignant and infectious diseases.
- Iraq’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity are an objective that we should not disagree with and which should be adopted by all parties.
- No supremacy to the rule of law.
- Purge the body of the state from the scourge of administrative and financial corruption. This is an immediate need and can be reached if we decide to do so.
- Adopting new administrative systems based on the principle of accountability and responsibility of state officials before others and at all levels.
II – Adoption of Collective Action:
- Create channels of direct communication between the different political leadership teams so as to reduce complications and maybe prevent crises, especially as our society members seeks direct face-to-face personal relations as a prelude to build confidence.
- Work hard to reach common vocabulary (and meaning) as much as possible, especially during crises, so as to move towards solving some of the existing complexities.
- Adhering to the principle of win-win, rather than zero-sum, in negotiations between parties.
- Create a new political and social vocabulary that includes new concepts and mindset that reflect the drive toward a common vision of the future of Iraq.
- Dialogue should be the primary method of resolving differences with emphasis on few important rules such as, respect for others, or the truth is not limited to one person/party, or we should not be prisoners of the past in building our future together, etc.
- Improving the decision-making process via the consolidation of teamwork, rather than individualism, as a basic and new culture in society.
III – Establishing Social Harmony among Communities:
- To stop the media war and escalation against their opponents, more so, to stop tagging their opponents as anti-nationalist or agents of foreign entities which leads to an increase in complexity while entrenching hatred. This negative approach usually leads to the transfer of crises to the populist rather than being handed by the elite and people’s elected leaders.
- To consider the diverse ethnic, tribal, religious, national, intellectual and multi-party components of Iraq as a source of strength and as a natural extension of Iraq’s history, geography and future.
- Recognizing that each entity of Iraqi diversity has its own specificity, structure and customs. It is necessary to work to re-establish the cohesion of each component through an internal code of honor, as well as to create a national code of conduct between all components.
- Everyone with Iraqi nationality has all the rights and duties of citizenship, and citizenship is the basic DNA for building the social fabric and contract of tomorrow’s Iraq.
- We must recognize that there is a crisis of confidence in Iraq, hence the need to focus on moving on the path of rebuilding confidence via three axes:
- A) Rebuilding trust between the elites and leaders of political blocs and parties.
- B) Rebuilding confidence between the Iraqi people and the elites and leaders blocs and political parties.
- C) Rebuilding confidence between the components and spectra of the Iraqi people themselves in all ethnic, sectarian and other variants.
- The elites and political leaders that lead Iraq must realize that history is ruthless, merciless and cannot be misrepresented. Therefore, sincere intentions must be present to all sons of tomorrow’s Iraq.
IV – Building the Iraqi Character First:
- Recognition by all parties (albeit only with themselves) of the mistakes of the past, after reflecting on their role in the political process following the changes post-2003, with serious reflection developments take place and mistakes reduced.
- Giving priority to the families of victims and martyrs of terrorism and guaranteeing the rights of minorities, while stressing the urgency of the return of displaced (internal and external) people to their homes.
- All political, economic, social, cultural and security projects in the country should be geared towards building a new Iraqi character that embraces social harmony and tolerance as the soul for its recuperating body.
- In case of disagreement, the judicature’s references should be the common denominators of religious values and ideals and principles that are not in dispute.
V – Unity of the March Towards the Iraq of Tomorrow:
- Endeavouring to reach agreement with others (within and outside their communities) toward a common visions for the Iraq of tomorrow.
- Agreement on the parameters of future political program for the central government and the provinces. This needs to be consolidated as key parameters for the project to build Iraq’s tomorrow. This program must include seeking effective solutions and agreements on substantive issues which has been controversial for some time now such as the boundaries of decentralization, clarity of role and responsibilities between federal provinces and regions, and how to manage the wealth of Iraq, local and national security, amending the constitution, agreeing on the role of religion in society, giving priority to youth projects and supporting this important segment of the Iraqi people.
- Working together not minimize internationalizing issues as much as possible, since the increasing the interference of external parties will increase the complexity.
- Working together to define a political road map, with a timetable and legislative framework, for tomorrow’s Iraq to solve existing crises.
- Agreement between the parties to search for an Iraqi solution first and then extend the hand to the others outside Iraq to provide support it if we need help.
- To consider the methodology of good governance as a necessary strategy to rebuild the Iraqi state on sound grounds including transparency, justice, equality, accountability, integrity, good governance, respect for human rights and freedom of opinion as strong foundations on which the DNA and culture of Iraq will be built.
- Protect the heritage and history of Iraq as a responsibility of all parties.
- Respect and protect the freedom of movement of citizens within the state.
- We must work together to secure peace within the borders of Iraq.
- There must be political, social and national will for Iraq’s political elites and their constituents to rebuild a nation that has suffered and continues to face economic, security, political, social and other challenges and difficulties. Iraq must be the common denominator of all actions and initiatives in this regard.
It is necessary to realize that the Iraqi state is rapidly losing its ability to manage its affairs. This loss will not be able to be restored without creating a new national project that addresses the root of the problem while giving strong doses to manage complexity based on new discourses and mindset.
Some may see my points above as dreams, I say that dream is a necessary pre-requisite for building a new approach, a dream is what distinguishes a human from others, and with the grace of God dreams can mean changing the reality for the better. This dream may take a long time but it is possible, not impossible, and we must do it by translating it into reality, if not for us, then for our children and grandchildren.
Through my work as an official in the Iraqi state, I have experienced the weakness of confidence and trust among the officials who are from different communities. Yes, we certainly need to strengthen the relationship between the different communities of society based on constitutional, legislative and executive rights. In order to improve this codification we need first to determine the rules of engagement and define the parameters of requirements for the project of building tomorrow’s Iraq.
What I have tried to describe above can be called an accord, a draft constitution, a new social contract, a common dream for most Iraqis who want to live peacefully together, or call it a new political road map between citizen and the state. Let us not be fixated with what to call it, we know that universal values and concepts began as a dream and was translated into reality by the hands of its missionaries. Let us be as much responsible for the historical role required that awaits us.
The search for a solution and agreement on the basis of political harmony and the introduction of political programs to bring us closer to our dreams is the key to open all closed doors in Iraq today. The first step before any move to build a solid and strong foundation, with deep roots in communities, is to reach out to all the spectrum and components of Iraq.
Note: In the second part of the article (Building Nations and Party Manifestos), we will try to delve more deeply into introducing possible political manifestos for parties and coalitions in addition to proposing some mechanisms to break political and societal bottlenecks.
Former Iraqi Ambassador to Japan and the United States