Date: 26th October 2016
MERI Forum 2016
Salim Al-Jobouri, Speaker of Iraqi Parliament
Ammar Al-Hakim, Head of Islamic Supreme Council, Iraq
Barham Salih, Former Prime Minister of KRG
Dlawer Ala’Aldeen, President of MERI (Chair)
This is a summary of the panel discussion, please find the full video of the debates and Q&A below.
The defeat of the Islamic State (IS) does not necessarily imply a transformation to a peaceful and prosperous Iraq but it could be a step in the right direction. What happens after IS, however, depends on the will of the Iraqi political actors and whether they have the political will to take this opportunity to reform the systems of governance. Good governance is desperately needed in Iraq so that all the rival ethnonationalisms can be involved in the political process. The politics of domination that has led to groups seeking non-political means of representation needs to change to a more inclusive form of governance. The reform package and decentralisation promised by the Prime Minister have yet to be implemented. The country also faces outstanding issues between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the central government in Baghdad. These are in addition to other problems such as corruption, lack of security and public services, among others. Iraq and the Iraqis therefore face multiple challenges which largely stem from the issue of governance. The panel aimed to address the question of how to govern Iraq after the defeat of IS in a democratic and transparent manner, serving Iraq’s population in the best possible way? This includes examining the wider political system, including the federalist elements, and analysing the changes that need to be made.
Dlawer Ala’Aldeen opened the panel by painting a picture of Iraq as “the cradle of civilisation, but now it is just known for crises”, stressing the “need to build the areas of cooperation” and arguing that “we have an opportunity now in face of a common enemy”. He also highlighted the need for reconciliation as the basis for good governance.
Ammar Al-Hakim echoed this sentiment stating that “in the end we have a united Iraq. I think that Shias and Sunnis together with the other elements should understand that they should co-exist”, arguing that the groups gain valued from being in Iraq. Planning was noted as key in the journey forward as he suggested that to date it has been lacking in Iraq. He suggested that “we have a constitution which we can rely on to launch forward, we can fill the gaps later” but that “we have to think out of the box which we locked our minds in during the last 13 years”.
The role of democracy in post-IS Iraq was examined by Salim Al-Jobouri: “it is our responsibility to take the best from democracy and make it work”, arguing that “sovereignty is not a mask” but there is a need for “clear relationships with foreign countries”. He stressed the impact that IS will have on Iraq, stating that “after the war against ISIS the social intellectual and political map of Iraq is not going to be the same”.
Barham Salih supported this notion of “the end of an era”, calling for a “historical solution” for Iraq. He also brought structural failure in Iraq to the fore, including economic crisis. He called for more economic integration and pointed to the lack of Kurdish representatives in Baghdad. However, Salih also highlighted the role of international actors as spoilers for peace: “Iraq is going to be a constant place for external conflicts, they carry them out on our soil”.
The speakers concluded with a discussion of potential solutions, Al-Hakim citing the need to formulate a national strategy for the country.