On Friday, June 6th, Adam and Alex attended a panel discussion featuring two Iraqi parliamentarians, Sheikh Khalaf Al-Ulayyan, founder of the National Dialogue Council, a nationalist Sunni Islamist political party, and Dr. Nadim Al-Jaberi, co-founder of the al-Fadhila Party, a nationalist Shiite political party. The lawmakers testified before congress earlier in the week. Their visit was arranged by the American Friends Service Committee http://www.afsc.org/, particularly through the work of their consultant, Raed Jarrar. The discussion touched on many issues, including reconciliation within Iraq, the role of the United States in the future of Iraq, oil resources, and the threats faced by Iran and al-qaeda. Here are some brief reports from Adam and Alex…
Adam Reports… It was unequivocally made clear that in their opinion America needs to leave Iraq. Dr. Al-Jaberi responded to the three main fears about what would happen as a result of an American withdrawal. Dr. Al-Jaberi believes, contrary to popular belief:
- Iraq will not crumble due to increased sectarian fighting – Such fighting did not exist before America arrived. Iraqis have coexisted peacefully across its sectarian divides since the country came into existence. He does not anticipate any increase of fighting after American withdrawal.
- Al-qaeda will not take over – there was no presence of al-qaeda before 2003. The only reason that they have grown and been able to recruit so many people is because they are rallying people around a call for liberation from the Americans. Once America leaves, there will be nothing to rally around.
- Iran will take not over – Iran has only been able to gain influence in Iraq under America’s presence.Iran’s main reason for meddling in Iraq’s affairs is that America poises a major threat by being so close to their borders.Iraq has defended itself from Iran throughout its history and is capable of doing so without an American presence.
The lawmakers were also strongly against the proposed Security Agreement by the Bush Administration. Sheikh Al-Ulayyan said that such an agreement would push Iraq from being occupied by America to being part of America. He asserted that it would give the U.S. the rights to use its military bases in Iraq to carry out military missions to any part of the world and that it would give the U.S. the right to arrest any Iraqi without permission of the Government. He thought that it was completely unfair to the Iraqi people.
When asked about the upcoming elections and which of the candidates’ policies they preferred, Dr. Al-Jaberi responded that Iraqis do not rely on a change of faces in Washington to determine their future, they rely on themselves.
Alex reports…the members of Parliament were also adamant that the US State Dept. and Pentagon should give the Iraqi government full self-determination. Especially in the realm of the Reconciliation process, the lawmakers were frustrated by how many times the US had overturned or blocked laws created by Parliament.
Dr. Al-Jaberi told us the US Government blocked a resolution that would grant amnesty to organizations that took up arms against occupying Coalition forces. He believes bringing those groups to the table would be crucial to the Reconciliation process—much like they did in Northern Ireland in the 1990’s. However, the Pentagon is not eager about granting amnesty to these groups.
Sheik Al-Ulyyan was very certain that the reconciliation process could not be successful with a large presence of U.S. and Coalition forces. He said the occupation forces:
- ignore or create problems in order to justify their presence;
- protect many parties;
- refuse to protect other groups as a way of political punishment.
While he did not explain his point of view, it is very interesting to see how Coalition troops are perceived by Iraqi parliamentarians.
Initially, the AFSC had planned to bring many different voices to the table to hear how different political parties are working for the Reconciliation process. Unfortunately, many were unable to attend. I am sure this would have made the conversation much different. However, it was an extremely fascinating conversation and I am glad I was able to attend.