Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Iraqi Deputy PM calls for regional cooperation

Speaking at a Wilson Center forum in Washington Monday, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih acknowledged that his government must do more to meet political benchmarks, but urged regional and internal stakeholders to bolster their commitment to the resolution of a conflict in Iraq that he deemed pivotal for the “future of the Middle East and Muslim societies that have been radicalized.”

Characterizing the central issue in his country as an urgent battle against “al-Qaeda on behalf of the rest of the world,” Salih maintained that eradicating extremism is imperative, but stressed that expanded political efforts are needed in such a struggle.

“Insurgency can’t just be defeated by military means, it must have a political component, Salih said.

Salih identified several key elements of this political framework, including power-sharing across sectarian and ideological lines, strengthening the clout of moderate decision-makers, and securing a shared regional commitment to combating terrorism. He also spoke on the progress of specific aspects of the framework that are often cited as crucial to national reconciliation. On the status of legislation intended to equitably distribute national oil revenues, he played down wrangling over the specifics of the plan – though he did assert his desire for a reduced state role in managing oil fields, a key point of contention among lawmakers – and maintained that consensus had been achieved as to the basics of a draft that he said should be ready for Parliament by the end of May. On the topic of constitutional review Salih was less optimistic, maintaining that the process was “underway,” but warning that it may not “be achieved within the prescribed time period.” On reforming de-Baathification policies, he admitted that the process had been overtaken by “political agendas” that had “done more harm than good” and called for a drastic response to atone for the “abuses” carried out in the name of the policies.

Salih also emphasized the need to maintain good relations with Iraq’s neighbors. He underlined the importance of working with Turkey to rein in Kurdish PKK fighters in northern Iraq – a source of longstanding tension between the two nations; called on Iran to recognize the threat that terrorism in Iraq poses to its own interests and to not use the country as “a stage for settling scores;” and demanded that Syria “shape up” and be more willing to engage in bilateral talks for the purposes of moving towards regional stability.

In responding to questions on the influence that Iraqi’s religious community and women’s rights organizations can have for bringing about a resolution to the conflict, Salih praised the efforts undertaken by both parties and suggested that both are key to amplifying moderate voices for reform.


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