Mustafa al-Kadhimi
Former Iraqi Prime Minister

Need of Transparency for Comprehensive Reconciliation

Before I assumed national responsibility as Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq, I recalled many questions that I had carried with me since my forced exile until my return in mid-2003, through all the stages that followed, all the way to the legitimate popular protests in October 2019.

There is a common denominator between these questions, the lack of an important characteristic in their answers, which is transparency. Therefore, transparency is the first step to building an institutional democratic state that enshrines the concept of belonging to the homeland - the state and requires all of us to put its highest interest ahead of any other consideration.

Here, I remember what I said on the anniversary of the passing of former President Jalal Talabani, in the dear city of Erbil on October 3, 2022: “Let us adhere to dialogue, dialogue, dialogue... and nothing else, as it is our only way to resolve the crisis.”

Today, I am still confident about this path, because of its necessity at various levels, politically, economically, socially, and structurally, provided that it is transparent, clear, comprehensive, deep, and productive, removes past obstacles, and establishes the foundation for reform of our political system.

Why do we lose time?

Discussions between elites, officials, and those concerned with public affairs always conclude with an acknowledgment of the failure of the political process that was built after 2003.

This failure extends to the form of the political, economic, and security system in the first place, the unifying relationship between the social components and segments in the second degree, and the nature of the discourse directed to the masses, competencies and energies of the impulsive youth (in particular) in the third degree.

All of this failure is manifested - in the end - by the helplessness of the state as a whole, the weakness of its institutions to perform their tasks, and the difficulty in regenerating itself.

These discussions raise questions and problems and, at the same time, search for “convincing” answers that can be streamlined in media and public discourse, ensuring interaction between political and popular actors.

Therefore, it is necessary to start from a basic rule that calls for understanding the movement of history and learning from the experiences of others. History - even if it is past - moves forward and cannot go backward.

My constant recall of the experiences of others is not a pleasure, as much as it is a sincere invitation to benefit from and learn lessons and to buy time and invest it, instead of wasting it. Today, we are in a fight against time, and missing the opportunity - now - means delaying the future for years.

Our young Iraqi experience - at various levels - seems humble in the face of the tremendous leaps that our surroundings and the world are witnessing. Therefore, the national, humanitarian and moral duty requires launching a sustainable reform and development project. This is based on the conviction that the era of coups is over, that military interventions do not build but rather destroy, and that honest discourse is linked to actions, not words.

How can we achieve this?

It is essential to open broad and transparent discussions regarding all thorny issues, or those that raise “reservations” and require a kind of consideration and silence. These discussions are based on legitimate questions, imposed by the failure to implement previous visions, and it has become necessary to address them so that they do not resurge in the next few years.

What are the components of our Iraqi national identity? What are the unifying threads between our components? How can they be formulated and re-presented in a convincing way to all national, intellectual and social segments? This problem is the introduction to preserving the history that is deeply rooted in humanity, and it would be the starting point for building our future, for which we fought throughout the years of exile and defended those who opposed the dictatorship inside and outside Iraq.

What is the most appropriate form of government? How can we express the true will of the people? What is the optimal electoral system for this? Do some constitutional provisions need to be reconsidered? Let us define them and propose mechanisms to modify them.

How can we organize the relationship between the central government and the Kurdistan region? Have we succeeded in implementing the federal system? Or should we move to the Confederation? How can we restore prestige to the state and its institutions? What is the most appropriate solution to control the rampant weapons that have become part of the culture of our society?

Has our economic system succeeded in achieving the desired prosperity or failed in attaining the minimum level of development? How can we restore the balance between the state’s financial resources without total dependence on oil?

What needs to be achieved: the higher Iraqi interest or the interests of others? Why can’t we be like others who put the interests of their country before everything else? Are Iraqis required to be internationalists or patriots? What are the forms of interaction with major issues and their limits? How will we build our state within this geographical, politically conflicting space? How can we turn this threat into an opportunity to make Iraq an arena for meeting, launching, and attracting major projects that achieve economic interconnection between our surroundings?

How do we employ our moral and value system in our political work without making it an excuse for committing crimes? So that we do not lose those who believed in us, and we do not misplace values formulated by human nature.

These problems will remain captive to the idea if they are not transformed into a serious dialogue that produces concepts, through a national institution that brings together the political, intellectual, academic and social elites, cooperating with each other, to find answers and turn them into projects in the hands of those concerned.

Thus, we restore lost confidence, so that the people will be on the side of the state that is keen to renew itself on the one hand and establish a real reform path on the other, to reach comprehensive reconciliation based on dialogue and word, not violence and blood.