Security holds the key to return of normalcy in Iraq

DUBAI - For ordinary Iraqi citizens, traumatised by war, deprivation and decades of brutal dictatorship, their primary concern is security and stability and some hint of normalcy.

By Hani M. Bathish

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Published: Fri 2 Jul 2004, 10:36 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:45 PM

Yet, for many in that strife torn country the resistance to occupation has come at a heavy price. Apart from kidnapping foreigners, Iraqis are killing Iraqis in a never ending cycle of violence.

A seminar held last Wednesday evening at the Dubai Press Club on the issue of the handover of power to the Interim Iraqi Government by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), reflected the extent to which this most sensitive of topics elicits strong opinions and emotionally charged discussion.

Fingers of blame were pointed at the Arab media for allowing the former regime's crimes to go unreported for years and swallowing Saddam's pan-Arab rhetoric hook, line and sinker.

Participants in the discussion who expressed opposition to the US-led invasion and occupation found themselves being accused of defending the former regime of Saddam Hussein.

Dr Mohammed Al Douri, the former Iraqi ambassador to the UN, and Dr Ali Al Dabbagh, Iraqi political analyst, were the main speakers. The third speaker, Dr Mezher Al Dolaimi, Head of the Iraqi Human Rights Commission, did not show up for the seminar.

The seminar was moderated by Sabah Nahi, Vice-President of the Iraqi Journalists Union. Dr Dabbagh blamed the absence of security in Iraq squarely on the shoulders of the occupying forces who left Iraqi borders undefended allowing foreign elements to infiltrate which led to chaos. He said that no place in Iraq is safe today, not even the Northern Kurdish areas.

"I understand resistance against military occupation like in Southern Lebanon, but killing schoolchildren and worshippers leaving a mosque is not resistance. The resistance kill those who cooperate with the occupation, each occupation elicits resistance that is a legal right of any people," Dr Dabbagh said.

He said that Iraq did not lose its sovereignty when the US invaded and occupied the country, sovereignty was lost by the former regime whose misguided policies led to sanctions, loss of control over considerable tracts of territory and loss of control over oil revenues.

"On the ground, Iraqi people want one thing more than anything else - security. They want that before jobs, before schools and before hospitals," Dr Dabbagh said, adding that many external forces conspired in the aftermath of the occupation to kill Iraqis, telling people in Iraq to die and become martyrs for the resistance.

"We must not allow the traces of the former regime's crimes of 35 years to be obliterated and merely point the finger at what has happened at Abu Ghraib prison. What the US did at that prison in comparison to what the former regime did to the people of Iraq over 35 years," Dr Dabbagh said.

Dr Mohammed Al Douri, having been voice of the former regime at the UN in the last desperate days before the fall of Baghdad, was asked many harsh questions by several Iraqi audience members, for whom the former regime was a blight on the land and its people. One audience member demanded to know if the Baath party will finally admit its mistakes and apologise for its failed adventurous policies that ultimately led to Iraq's defeat and occupation.

Dr Al Douri reasserted his position on this issue by expressing no regrets for discharging his duty as UN ambassador to defend Iraq before the world. "I am Iraqi and an Arab, I have done nothing to be ashamed off, but I am worried when I hear talk of federalism in Iraq or peace with Israel, these concepts were brought from abraod and they aim to destroy Iraq. Iraq needs to be united, its people need to be united," Dr Al Douri said.

Dr Al Douri said that there can be no talk of sovereignty being handed to the Iraqi government as long as large numbers of foreign troops remain on Iraqi soil. He said the interim government does not have full control over security issues as the US forces continue to play a large security role, adding that the government does not even have control over national revenues, as the money goes into a fund monitored by an authority supervised by the occupation forces.

"Before handing over power to the interim government Paul Bremer signed 47 documents, they include many appointments and a provision that foreigners who break the law in Iraq are immune from prosecution under Iraqi law. This is a provision reminiscent of 19th century European colonialism, similar to laws imposed by France on the Ottoman Empire and those imposed by Western powers on China in the 1800s," Dr Al Douri pointed out.

He said that Bremer also appointed 90 monitors to oversee work at the various Iraqi ministries and over 150 advisers to assist the ministers in their work. Dr Al Douri said that Iraqis are skilled and qualified enough to handle their own affairs, but stressed that these provisions point to the fact that the present interim government is one merely appointed to run the country's day-to-day affairs.

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