By Ali al-Dabbagh
Ali al-Dabbagh is the official spokesperson for the Government of Iraq.
The relationship between the US and Iraq has entered a new and important stage, in that the large part of the US forces withdrawal from Iraqi cities, towns and villages to a number of designated US bases has successfully taken place. The movement of the US forces and any future combat missions will from now on take place in coordination with the Iraqi government. This withdrawal marks the new phase in
US – Iraqi relations and reflects America's new role and mission in Iraq. The free movement of US forces throughout Iraq caused friction with Iraqis in various locations throughout the country, and US forces incurred significant losses as a result of this. This was a result of the high state of alert that accompanied US troop movement, as well as the US forces granting themselves the right to respond to any movement on the enemy side with heavy gunfire, and in some cases this movement was not necessarily enemies at all. This tension was further increased when the US gave this right [to respond with gunfire to perceived threats] to the [US] security companies operating in Iraq, a number of whom committed massacres whose affects are still being felt today. For example, there is the Blackwater security company that has been accused of the Nisoor Square Massacre in which a number of [Iraqi] citizens who were standing at a traffic intersection in Nisoor Square, Baghdad were murdered. It is therefore important to reduce the causes of such bloodshed, and the US forces withdrawal will help to reduce the tension between the two sides.
This withdrawal and the new stage in US – Iraqi relations will create many new challenges for the Iraqis, this is something that the government is well-aware of, and it has no choice but to handle this responsibility. However this withdrawal should not restrict the rights of the Iraqi people to make reference to the mistakes committed by the US forces since entering Iraq. This is largely reflected in the actions of some US officers who lacked the requisite experience and who thereby caused great embarrassment to the US administration, from [some of the actions taken by] US General [Jay] Garner and US Administrator Paul Bremer, to the military officers and soldiers on the ground who used excessive force against innocents. This withdrawal therefore does not eliminate the Iraqi people's right to claim compensation for any damage caused.
The forthcoming [stage] in US – Iraqi relations is important, and will result in non-military cooperation in several civilian sectors. The previous 6 year long [US – Iraqi] relationship was burdened with addressing the deteriorating security situation and the unexpected terrorist threat, as well as dealing with the violence that characterized the subsequent sectarian conflict that almost destroyed Iraq and Iraqi unity. This tense security situation resulted in a unified point of agreement for the Bush administration with regards to dealing with the situation in Iraq, namely military cooperation that is solely concerned with reducing the violence and its causes without paying any regard to issues that do not serve this objective. When we [the Iraqis] would speak to the American side about support and cooperation on public issues in order to create employment opportunities that would help to reduce violence in Iraq, the Americans viewed this as wishful thinking, a view that they said was supported by the evidence on the ground.
However now with the encouraging decline in the security threat, and the decline in the remaining terrorist threats capability in controlling the areas of some provinces, although remaining aware of the continued existence of terrorist cells whose only political project is that of killing and destruction, I believe that this new situation will result in long-awaited cooperation on a public level that will help to form a long-term strategic relationship [between the US and Iraq]. This relationship is one with a sovereign Iraq that has the right to be treated equally and has a long and proud history and national identity.
This cooperation may help to establish an excellent US – Iraqi political relationship in the future, and this is also a test of the American commitment to support Iraq's efforts to remove itself from [UN] Section VII as this is something that is no longer justified as Iraq is no longer a threat to the peace and security of the region or the world. Iraq has also agreed to resolve the outstanding issues with Kuwait, and has also resolved the former issues that resulted in disaster and tragedies for Iraq and the entire region, such as the reckless practices undertaken by the former regime that had tied Iraq to a spiral of despair, poverty, and destruction, in all aspects of life.
This strong desire for a good relationship [with Iraq] is still of great importance to the new administration in Washington. This was expressed by US Vice President Joseph Biden, who spoke of the unconditional US commitment to expanding the civilian aspect of this relationship, as well as the US commitment to provide support and assistance to Iraq for as long as the Iraqi government wants it. The US concern over some of the sensitive outstanding issues [between the two countries] does not diminish this commitment, and this is a concern that we share with the Americans, as these issues slow down the creation of the desired democratic structure for the new Iraqi [political] system.
To compliment the cooperation on the public level, Iraq is also looking to expand its economic cooperation with the US, winning the country financial and economic investment in its markets, as well as rehabilitating its institutes to help in the countries reconstruction.
[There will also be] cooperation in the scientific and cultural sectors to rehabilitate the institutes and universities after they suffered a severe setback. We, the graduates of the seventies generation were proud of the quality of the education that we received, however after our graduation the curriculum and the standard of teaching deteriorated. The Iraqi government is now attempting to bridge this gap and rehabilitate the universities to the standard of their US counterparts. We look to the US that leads the world in research and development to help us bridge this knowledge gap.
As for the judiciary and respecting human rights, the effort is focused upon eliminating indifference to a democratic state in which citizens can be confident of their rights that cannot be abrogated by the ruler or those in power. There is also cooperation in other sectors that indicates a new and long-term relationship between the US and Iraq as it is a country that genuinely wants to adopt a democratic system. Iraq is a country whose people are proud of their history, a country that cherishes its diversity, religion, and respects those that disagree with it.