In an interview this week with Ned Parker of the Los Angeles Times, former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, whose Iraqiya alliance edged out Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s party in national elections last month, warned of potential chaos if he is denied the right to form the country’s next government.
Below are highlights from the interview, made available to the Global Viewpoint Newtork, in which Mr. Allawi shared his views on Baghdad’s recent spate of attacks; the competition among parties to form the next government; and also his chief competitor, Mr. Maliki.
Q: With two days of major bombings in Baghdad last week and the shooting of 25 Iraqis in a village last weekend, is security deteriorating in Iraq?
Allawi: The security has been deteriorating for almost eight to ten months… I think it is the failure of reconciliation and the sectarianism that still prevails. I also believe the readiness of security and military services have not been adequate. I think both the Army and police were built on and around sectarianism rather than professionalism.
I believe also the forces who took part in confronting extremism and Al Qaeda have been suddenly declared antigovernment and have been pursued and detained. I’m referring to the sawa [Sunni paramilitary Awakening movement of former insurgents].
Also the surge had ended and the Americans withdrew from towns and cities in preparation for drawdown. All of this combined encouraged the killers and extremist forces and terrorists to start operating again in this country and to increase their activities...
There is literally a vacuum after the election until the new government is formed. We don’t have now a full-functioning government. We don’t have a parliament and the American forces are preparing to leave so really there is what I would call a vacuum. This encourages terrorists… The terrorists thrive on such a political environment.
Q: If the violence continues to rise, should the US administration reconsider its plans to drawdown to 50,000 non-combat troops by the end of August?
Allawi: I think the Americans should adhere to the dates prescribed but I think Iraqis should shoulder responsibility. I think the Iraqis should expedite the formation of the government. The program for this government should most importantly have a very clear foreign policy and address the issue of security, and the heart of the issue of security is restructuring the Army and police, and even the judiciary…
Frankly speaking, the deterioration of the security in Iraq and the fact America will draw down its forces should create the right pressure on Iraq to expedite the formation of the government and be more willing and ready to compromise with each other and to create an inclusive government and at the same time a functioning government.
Q: Isn’t it optimistic to think that the American drawdown of troops will help push the Iraqis to form their next government?
Allawi: We are now in April, six months from drawdown, which is not much really. It’s neither here nor there. By the time the official results are declared, we will have five months for doing the drawdown. I’m sure also the terrorists and extreme forces will try to sabotage and delay the formation of the government in Iraq, so those two reasons have to take their toll on the political forces in Iraq to really start thinking of forming a government…
Q: Are you willing, in the name of forming a government, to sacrifice the post of prime minister?
Allawi: If there is indeed a reason to do this, a logical reason to do this, then one would consider even leaving the country for others. But it is our right, based on our constitution and democracy, that we should spearhead the formation of the government. Now I cannot see a reason why we should be denied this… Why this objection and what about the will of the people and the vote of the people?
Q: If Maliki’s State of Law alliance tries to form the next government instead of your slate, which has the largest number of seats in parliament, what will you do?
Allawi: If they insist and they want to occupy [the government], this will bring the country into really severe chaos… Denying the rights of the people, denying the constitution, a revolution and a coup against the constitution, this will be devastating. It will throw the country wide open to violence.
Q: Some Iraqis express fears that Prime Minister Nouri Maliki could become an authoritarian ruler. Are you concerned about this?
Allawi: Of course, we are worried. That’s why we believe in democracy ; that’s why we worked with democracy; and why I personally supervised the first democratic process in this country and I myself surrendered power peacefully and immediately as soon as the new government was formed.
Q: How do you view the current prime minister?
Allawi: I see there is a concentration on his party. That his party has been the favorite in getting jobs and so on, in security and the security apparatus, the Army and the various institutions. We are people who believe that although a prime minister may be belonging to a party, he should be a prime minister for the whole country... Iraq cannot be ruled by a party. It cannot be ruled by a person. It cannot be ruled by a sect. Iraq should be based on equal partnership among its citizens.
Q: What is the tipping point for a return to a sectarian conflict?
Allawi: Once the Americans withdraw [in August], God forbid if there is no government by then, this would be a tipping point… Indeed the attacks will be expedited… This will expedite the breakdown of law and order.
Q: If there is no government in place by the end of August, do you think the Americans should reconsider their timetable for troop withdrawals?
Allawi: It’s not in the interest of Iraq or the United States to keep the Army here for good. Frankly, the presence of the American Army is not the magic solution. The American Army has now been here going into its eighth year. What we need is to get a way out of sectarianism, to have reconciliation, to have institutions and to have a strong foreign policy.