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From Hotbed of Conflicts and Confrontations to Field of Regional Cooperation and Integration

From Hotbed of Conflicts and Confrontations to Field of Regional Cooperation and Integration

Saturday, 15 January, 2022 - 08:00
Mustafa al-Kadhimi
Prime Minister of Iraq.

The crises, wars and conflicts, which are undermining peace and stability in the world, are also threatening the Middle East and Arab world that are hotbeds for tensions and constant confrontations. The tensions are expected to deepen given the series of conflicts that have accumulated over the decades.

This description is apt given the geopolitical position of the region that acts as a bridge between East and West. This makes it an open ground for major civilization shifts in the world, as well as internal conflicts and constant changes. Several other countries have confronted dangerous geographic and historic challenges that have led to major wars and bloody conflicts. In the end, however, they reached civil peace, security, stability, cooperation and social cohesion.

The Middle East suffers from contradictions and has been home to major world civilizations since the dawn of history. It embarked on its path towards modernity without reconciling between its heritage and the very essence of modernity. Of course, foreign factors have played a role in shaping state policy and deepening internal contradictions and turning them into factors for conflicts that reproduce escalating crises.

The strategic nature of the region lies in it being a crossing point, not just for trade, goods and explorers, but for the exchange of ideas, ideologies and human concepts and values.

Here we must ask whether the constant conflicts, fighting, instability and crises that have plagued our region are an unescapable destiny that cannot be changed. Other countries and peoples in different parts of the world have suffered from what we are enduring, but they managed to overcome them and shaped new futures for themselves. They succeeded in transforming into constructive examples that can be followed.

Can our peoples set alternative choices that can shape their future and allow them to join the league of developed and advanced countries?

All conditions are available to transform our region from a hotbed of crises and instability to a positive environment and open space for development, growth and fruitful cooperation between its people and bridge of communication between other peoples and nations.

The wealth of our region, its human resources and historic past are sources that can achieve this transformation and provide the region with new options so that it can take advantage of its potential for innovation and sources of strength. This will help it reclaim its place as a hub of progress in all fields that had previously made it a beacon of prosperity.

What inspires us, as we look forward to such a historic shift, are the recent experiences in other countries that were able to overcome their backwardness, bloody conflicts and poor natural resources, to transform into examples of modernity, progress, development, and economic and social growth.

Take Singapore for example. In the mid-20th century, it was a hotbed of dangerous diseases and open ground for gangs, armed mafias and organized crime. Thanks to the vision of its founder, Lee Kuan Yew, it has become one of the world's most modern countries on the economic, social, technological and human levels.

Another example is South Africa that managed to eliminate its terrible apartheid system to embrace free democracy and a modern economy and erase traces of the former regime.

Rwanda offers another example of change and transformation. After the genocide - one of the worst ethnic mass murders that claimed the lives of nearly 3 million people - it managed to complete its democratic transition and forge ahead in building political and economic stability in a period of two decades.

We can cite several examples of such shifts, from South America, to South Asia to eastern Europe.

Aren't these examples enough evidence to confirm, without a doubt, the ability of our people and countries, which boast natural wealth, human resources and a rich history, to aspire to achieve what other countries have and choose a different fate for themselves?

We have all the capabilities to achieve such a historic transition: Massive wealth, major human resources in our youth and a historic heritage. Combined, these factors can inspire a new beginning.

All we need to accomplish this is a united vision and common will to create a new reality that would be marked by economic integration, common interests and bolstering relations between our peoples. They would be governed by a political authority that respects the higher national interests of every party, consolidates security and seeks to establish an integrated, effective and prosperous economy.

Our choices must be based on everything that bolsters our unity, bridges divides and relies on dialogue to resolve differences.

In the years of opposing the former regime, we dreamed of a different Iraq. A democratic Iraq that respects man, provides a dignified life for its people and acts as a building block for regional integration.

Today, Iraq is faced with two choices: Remaining an arena for regional and international conflicts or becoming a bridge of communication and a land of integration between the people of the region.

Our vision paints the picture of an Iraq that rises up from its oppression, rises above its wounds, reconciles with itself and is able to cooperate with its brothers and neighbors in transforming the project of an integrated, cooperative and peaceful Middle East into a living reality. All this will be a positive factor in Iraq's recovery and help support its rise.

We have fulfilled our commitments during our rule in the interim government. We have set the foundations for this vision and it was consolidated during the Baghdad cooperation and partnership conference that was attended by neighbors and friends of Iraq. We have expressed our sincere intentions to forge ahead.

Experience has proven that great potential is available to create security integration throughout the region. There is a great need to link its countries with land, rail and electricity networks. They must also work together in the energy domain, transfer of gas and mutual investment.

But before all that can happen, our region needs to consolidate initiatives to reach solutions, expand dialogues, show mutual good intentions to resolve crises, and shun foreign influence in drafting the desired solutions.

The world has witnessed turbulent changes. We are today living in an unprecedented historic era where the interests of people have become more and more interlocked and integrated. This demands greater communication and cooperation in all vital fields.

Our region enjoys common interests in several domains that can pave the way for developing relations between its countries. They can invest in trade, agriculture and industry projects and transform the region into a major global hub as it was in the old world of the past. We share major common challenges, such as terrorism, poverty, drought, and social and climate problems. We must all cooperate together in order to ease the impact of these challenges and overcome their repercussions completely.

Our people deserve more than what they are getting. They have much more to give in the course of human civilization and they can and they have the necessary will to achieve change.

Evidence has shown that the leaders of the countries of the region share a similar desire for change. This is necessary to shift from constant crises to consolidating common interests and integration in a climate of recovery and prosperity.

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