Feb 26, 2010

Ba’athism as a political ideology has no place in today’s Iraq

Here is an interview with professor  Daniel Serwer, vice president of the Centers of Innovation in institute of peace based in Washington D.C. He leads the Institute's centers of innovation in rule of law, religion and peacemaking, sustainable economies, media and conflict, science, technology and peacebuilding and diaspora contributions to peace and conflict.

By: Abdulla Hawez

Abdulla: As lots of Newspapers mentioned conflict between Arabs and Kurds might happen, if coalition troops withdraw in Iraq? Do you expect any sectarian conflicts in Iraq as far?

Serwer: I don’t think we can yet rule out conflict after Coalition troops withdraw.  We need an intensive effort to resolve some of the Kurdish/Arab territorial disputes, and to get all of them into a process that both sides can regard as fair. 

Abdulla: If any anticipated conflict take place, in your opinion who might be a possible mediator between them?

Serwer : Hard to say, but certainly the UN and US would have to do what they could to stop any conflict. 

Abdulla: Do you think without “Baathes” reconciliation can happen in Iraq? (Now for upcoming Iraqi parliament election accountability and justice organization ban a lot of candidates for they are Baathes. What do you say about that).

Serwer: You make peace with your enemies, not with your friends.  Ba’athism as a political ideology has no place in today’s Iraq—the current constitution makes that clear.  But there are lots of people who were Ba’athists in the past who need to be brought back into the political process, provided they renounce violence and acknowledge the current constitutional regime.  I don’t see how preventing them from running for election helps bring them back into the political process.

Abdulla: How do you see Security in Iraq? As election is up, do you think the security would become worse?  

Serwer: It might get significantly worse, especially if the electoral process is not seen as free and fair. 

Abdulla: How do you see the future of negotiation between KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) and Baghdad’s central government over oil and gas law and over disputed territories?

Serwer: I’m disappointed that more has not been accomplished both on the hydrocarbons law and on disputed territories.  The issues are moreover linked, so it seems to me progress on one might be made easier if we had some progress on the other.  USIP has recently published a paper on these issues, which I commend to your attention:  http://www.usip.org/resources/iraqs-oil-politics

Abdulla: How do you assess Kurds role in Iraq? Do you act as mediator between Sunnis and Sheaas?

Serwer: No, I don’t see the Kurdish role in Iraq as one of mediator between Sunni and Shia, but I do think the Kurds are an important factor in maintaining Iraq as a single country.  I also think it is important that Kurdish leaders protect Kurdish interests within Iraq, in addition to helping the country govern itself more effectively

Abdulla: I like to ask you about Media’s role also, what shall media do to close pilitical’s viewpoint over disputed issues?

Serwer: Accurate and professional reporting will help a great deal.  Sensationalist and inaccurate reporting will make things worse. 

Abdulla: What do you recommend for Iraqis until get out from this sectarian inflamed?

Serwer: It is not for me to recommend to Iraqis, but I do think that ordinary Iraqis can play an important role by signaling to their political leaderships that they don’t want to see violent confrontation.  Iraq has institutions—the Council of Representatives, the government, the Constitutional Court—that can manage disputes and point in the direction of nonviolent solutions.  If the people make clear that that is what they want, they are more likely to get it. 

Abdulla: My last question is about Iraq’s political environment as all, what do you expect to happen in the upcoming election? Do you expect radical change in Iraqis political map?

Serwer: The provincial elections in January pointed in the direction of some realignment away from more sectarian political parties and towards more nationalist and even secular forces.  There have also been important changes in Kurdistan, with the emergence of a third political force.  Will this continue?  Hard to tell at this point:  what counts is not only the outcome of the voting but also the subsequent process of choosing a president and empowering a prime minister and his government. 
The key thing for Iraqis to understand is that their votes count.  The key thing for the political leadership to understand is that the integrity of the electoral process is as important as the outcome.  Iraqis have a great opportunity in March to take back their country and lay the basis for a much better future.  Or they can sow the seeds of future division and conflict.  The Americans I know will be happy to see free and fair elections that lay the basis for a peaceful and prosperous Iraq.

This interview published on Aso daily newspaper in Kurdish.

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