Friday, June 09, 2006

Our Strategy for a Democratic Iraq

Nouri al-Maliki, The Washington Post:
The completion of the national unity government Thursday in Iraq marks the starting point for repaying Iraqis' commitment to and thirst for democracy. We are at this juncture thanks to the bravery of the soldiers, police and citizens who have paid the highest price to give Iraq its freedom. Our national unity government will honor these sacrifices by pursuing an uncompromising agenda to deliver security and services to the Iraqi people and to combat rampant corruption.

This government will build on the additional momentum gained from the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in order to defeat terrorism and sectarianism and to deliver on the Iraqi people's hope of a united, stable and prosperous democracy by following a three-pronged strategy:

We will draw on the country's untapped workforce to kick-start extensive reconstruction, put into motion an initiative for genuine national reconciliation, and increase the intensity and efficacy of building the military and police. While some parts of the country have been very quiet and secure, this has not resulted in increased investment or reconstruction. Our government will correct this imbalance and develop the infrastructure and services in these more secure regions, making them a model for the rest of the country. We will mobilize the impressive energy and skills of Iraq's young population to invigorate the rebuilding effort.

This government will embark on a national reconciliation initiative, which is important if Iraqis are to begin to heal the divisions and wounds brought on by Saddam Hussein's dictatorial rule and further widened by terrorism. This, along with genuine cooperation among all of Iraq's ethnic and religious groupings in this national unity government, will allow us to pursue the terrorists with maximum force.

Baghdad is home to a quarter of Iraq's population and is its financial and political center. This government of national unity will launch an initiative to secure the capital and confront the ethnic cleansing that is taking place in many areas around it. We will meet head-on the armed gangs and terrorists who we believe constitute the main threat to security. Furthermore, we will develop and strengthen the country's intelligence services, which represent the best form of defense against terrorist bombings.

We believe we will soon reach a tipping point in our battle against the terrorists as Iraqi security services increase in size and capacity, taking more and more responsibility away from the multinational forces. Key to meeting this target is ensuring that current forces are properly equipped and competent to take over security, while at the same time enhancing and expanding the training program.

To provide the security Iraqis desire and deserve, it is imperative that we reestablish a state monopoly on weapons by putting an end to militias. This government will implement Law 91 to incorporate the militias into the national security services. Unlike previous efforts, this will be done in a way that ensures that militia members are identified at the start, dispersed to avoid any concentration of one group in a department or unit, and then monitored to ensure loyalty only to the state. In addition, we will engage with the political leaders of the militias to create the will to disband these groups.

While security represents the major impediment to reconstruction and the provision of essential services such as electricity, administrative corruption is also contributing to the problem and robbing Iraq of its wealth. We will fight corruption from the top down. We will revamp and strengthen our anti-corruption watchdog, the Commission for Public Integrity, and initiate necessary political, economic and civil reforms. This will include gradual reductions in government subsidies, which impede Iraq's economic recovery and abet corruption, coupled with the establishment of a social security program for the least privileged.

The political and economic reforms outlined here are guided by a common belief in democracy. Liberty is the essence of a democratic system, which is why I believe they must go hand in hand.

Finally, to achieve this vision, it is necessary that Iraq's neighbors not interfere in its internal matters. While some neighboring countries provided refuge for many Iraqis during the rule of the dictatorial Baathist regime, this does not give them a right to meddle in Iraq now or turn a blind eye to terrorists' operations. READ MORE

Iraqis have elected a national unity government that will always put national interests ahead of sectarian or ethnic agendas. This government will support the judiciary in relentlessly pursuing the murderers and kidnappers who have blighted Iraqi society. With the help of the international community and regional partners, we will be able to defeat the terrorist groups in Iraq.

The scale of the task ahead is humbling. Iraqis have time and time again demonstrated their patience and perseverance in the face of many challenges. With our allies, we will also persevere to make Iraq a prosperous democracy in the heart of the Middle East.

The writer is prime minister of the Republic of Iraq.