President Sisi (C) meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at Cairo-based presidential office - photo courtesy of the Egyptian Presidency/ File photo
CAIRO – 4 February 2018: “Baghdad has survived, united and triumphed," a sentence Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al Abadi used to sum up the Iraqi people’s triumph with their steadfastness and unity over the Islamic State (IS).
The Iraqi prime minister praised the national role of the Iraqi people in eliminating terrorism and supporting efforts of the security services in the country.
Abadi, who has made it possible to achieve the difficult equation of his government's successful victory over ISIL militarily, and to develop a comprehensive national strategy to eliminate sectarianism, and consolidation of the concept of citizenship and partnership, spoke to Egypt Today on the fight against terrorism in Iraq, and details of Kuwait's conference scheduled for February in the presence of a large number of states. In addition, Abadi emphasized the role of the Arab media in shaping awareness among citizens.
Iraqi Prime Minister Dr. Haidar Al Abadi, said in an exclusive and comprehensive dialogue for Egypt Today that his country welcomes the participation of Egyptian companies in the reconstruction of Iraq, explaining that his country needs nearly $100 billion to reconstruct the country, praising the great experience of Egyptian companies in several areas that Iraq needs in the coming period.
The full text of the interview is included below.
What is the reality of the security situation in Iraq? Is Baghdad safe?
The Iraqis have suffered for 50 years, and sadly not much has been heard about Iraq, except for stories of terrorism, tyranny, tales of war and destruction; creating a negative impression that must be removed and where the reality of the situation in our country must crystalize in its stead.
There are entities who do not want Iraqis to see the liberation of their country from terrorism, who in fact want to erase Iraq from the world map. Some do not want it to be reconstructed, but the steadfastness and unity of the Iraqis have dispelled all those plots that wanted to disintegrate the country and push it into conflicts. The unity and steadfastness of the Iraqis have achieved the victory by making sacrifices to liberate their lands and their children. The capital, Baghdad, is safe and the situation is stable in the country and its choice as capital of the Arab media confirms the extent of our country's freedom.
Terrorism years ago threatened Baghdad and all Iraqi governorates, but we kept the freedom of the media to a great extent and we want to maintain it, provided that the freedom of truth, the good word and the non-promotion of falsehoods and rumors prevails.
What strategy have you used to face the terrorist organization ISIL?
After ISIS controlled several Iraqi provinces and threatened the capital Baghdad, the Iraqi people united against the extremist organization and provided a large number of volunteers to fight alongside the security forces. Due to the steadfastness of the people and their unity, we have squandered the ISIL terrorist project.
As the fighting intensified and military commanders raced in the battlefields to wipe out Daesh, I issued my orders during the last year not to advance the leaders in the front ranks of the battle so we don't lose any of them, which would have helped terrorists achieve their goal of liquidating military commanders.
What happens in Iraq occurs in most countries. We must support the steadfastness of the people, conveying the truth, supporting the aspirations of the people and reviving the spirit of hope for the proper transformation of the process. Human experience is important in this context and I hope that the media will focus on that aspect.
The Arab reality is in front of burning areas and disagreements because of polarization and I felt that states are seeking to pursue their interests and agendas at the expense of others. For example, fighting in Syria is fierce and it is a fight for influence and it has become a humanitarian catastrophe in our sister country.
The tragedy of Syria, the exodus of millions and what is happening in Yemen and Libya must be confronted by an Arab decision; we must not wait for any directions from the West. The western countries have interests and we are part of these interests, and if our lives and interests are foreclosed for them, there will be no solution because the Western states have priorities other than ours.
The terrorists have taken great control of social media sites in recent years. What's the impact on Iraq? And how do we cope with the danger of social media?
Today the whole world is witnessing a real problem in its openness to social media sites which has become the source of information for many people including politicians. I see a problem with information where there is information that builds, while other types of information wants to destroy others and deprive us of the grace of freedom. We must not allow the spread of lies and rumors.
There are campaigns that want to provoke discord between nations, nationalities and doctrines and blood-stained dollars are spent on them. A word as is, can revive hearts and unite nations; it can also be a bullet and a destructive bomb when used in falsehood. We support the freedom of the media provided that there is a commitment by the media, as we don't want to control the media.
Terrorists are rooting out malicious ideas targeting our young people, and we call on the Arab media and the press to beware of the phenomenon of social communication that states cannot fully face. I am with keeping liberties but a tool must be with companies to pressure them not to use organized crime, and terrorism through means of social communication. The modern technology used by terrorists and the channeling of young people through the enormous capabilities of those groups can destroy societies. Social networking sites have become a weapon, and we must put pressure on social media companies to prevent speech in support of terror and hate.
Terrorist groups used social media in a horrid way and social media companies are not interested in Arab opinion and have not worked to address this phenomenon
How can we address the takfirist ideology that hit Iraq?
The weapon of economic development is very important and is the most appropriate mechanism to counter takfirist ideas. The amount of money that has been spent in conflicts in the region, particularly the Iraqi-Iranian war and others would have solved all the problems confronting the Arab states. We look forward to the money going to the poor classes to launch development projects. We must also create hope for youth and the states of the region are to be concerned with this issue.
There must be contact with the countries of the region and Iraq, which has several alliances in the region. We seek economic cooperation with the states we are allied with, and the question here is whether we can stop the polarization in the region that has drained our fortunes and capabilities.
Now Iraq has begun to recover but there are still problems confronting us. Despite the multiplicity of religious doctrines in our country, everyone lives in an atmosphere of national unity; the governor among us being the Iraqi constitution. The difference between the elements is healthy and good, and there are facts to be highlighted, but the rejection of dialogue and the other view leads to terrorism. It poses a threat to states.
When is the reconstruction of Iraq going to actually be on the ground? What are the opportunities for Egyptian companies?
Frankly, we are working to restore security and stability to all liberated areas by providing basic services of water and electricity and returning the displaced. We formed a Higher Council for the reconstruction of liberated areas because all the cities of Iraq need reconstruction, as a result of the war on terrorists that has destroyed a large number of Iraqi cities. The collapse of oil prices in recent months and the war have caused negligence in providing services to the Iraqi citizen, as the devastated areas need to be fully reconstructed.
There are stable Iraqi cities and things are going well, for example, Anbar and Salah al-Din, and oil companies have returned to work in these cities. As for the Reconstruction Conference, we have called on Kuwait to host the Iraq Reconstruction conference in the presence of representatives of international companies.
The fact is that reconstruction is mainly based on investment, but the regional and international situation does not allow nations to give grants because of the decline in oil and other things. However, we aspire for there to be grants and there should be a part geared to invest in reconstruction, and Egyptian companies will have a large role because of their vast experience in a number of areas we need in the coming period. The investor is looking for investment opportunities and our country is conducive to investment, which creates significant job opportunities in Iraq.
Investment provides added value for a citizen who feels that the situation has improved with the presence of investment in various fields. Some countries have gone through false experiences, and Iraq suffers from corruption, as well as, bureaucracy in the country. Nevertheless, we are determined to confront and resolve those problems to create the fertile enabling environment for investment. We are striving to embark properly on the reconstruction and strive to confront and fight corruption, and we are working to ensure that routine is not a burden on the Iraqi citizen and we welcome Egyptian companies to work on reconstruction.
As for the Iraqi citizen, he wants to develop in Iraq as an oil country, not aware of the challenges facing the country and its inability to reconstruct. Iraq faces problems of unclear systems in explaining the image to the citizen who always demands development. We have ISIS governorates and others have been affected. These governorates have provided their sons for the defeat of ISIL, and we will take care of all Iraqi governorates because they do need development.
Here, it was pointed out that some thought that the emergence of ISIL would enable them to carry out their malicious plans in Iraq and deceived the Iraqi people, some of whom had initially welcomed it, and caused the terrorist organization to destroy the infrastructure in Iraq.
Iraq was destroyed twice; the first time was when ISIS came into being and the second when we fought to defeat ISIL and had to make great sacrifices. The priority in the coming period will be for the Iraqi citizen to feel the development, and a large proportion of the displaced have been returned to their cities.
ISIL's adherence to its presence in Mosul has caused the entire infrastructure to be destroyed, and the Iraqi army has clearly resolved the battle but destroyed the city's infrastructure with old buildings.
Will the crisis with the Kurdistan region of Iraq be resolved before the next legislative elections are held?
At the outset, I affirm that the Kurdish problem is partly historical and we respect the aspirations of the Kurds, and the Kurdish problem has been the battle of all successive Iraqi governments. There is a national problem because they have national regions and there is a crisis in oil and the salaries of workers in the territory are being re-employed and we are working to resolve those problems.
We oppose the lack of transparency or accounting in the Kurdistan region and refuse the way things are managed there because they are managed in a partisan manner. We in Iraq and for years have adopted on the quota for the top political positions as partisan elections are in the quota system, because the Iraqi parliament is formed on the basis of a party. Hence the government will be partisan.
During my recent participation at the Davos conference, I met with the prime minister of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Nivan Barzani and Gobad Talabani, and agreed on a road map that we hope will be properly implemented. Here I would point out that some do not want to resolve the crisis and insist on a national homeland for the Kurds, which is a dream and an ambition, but one which we fully reject. I have complete determination to resolve this problem fully, and am keen to resolve and impose the federal authority in the territory as part of our commitment to the Constitution and the law.
Will the conference on reconstruction in Kuwait contribute to accelerating the fight against corruption, especially since the granting countries bind their contribution to transparent financial and accounting management in Iraq?
That is true, we are working to implement and scale up anti-corruption measures. Even though no one is able to completely eliminate corruption in the Iraqi state, we are on our way to eliminating the causes of corruption in our country.
In previous years there was corruption where for example passports were issued to Iraqi citizens by paying between $2,000-3,000. Former governments tried to hit hard and arrested a large number and now we succeeded in issuing one-day passports by carrying out procedures and a clear-cut mechanism to fight corruption. For the reconstruction of the country, Iraq needs an estimated $100 billion. Maybe no one can fight corruption completely, but in investment we make sure the money is in right place.