A Chat with Iyad Allawi
Here’s something you might find interesting. I had a one-on-one interview with Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi on Wednesday when the fighting was raging in Sadr City. It was for TIME Magazine, but — so far — the Q&A is not available online. [UPDATE: The other questions are now available online.] Anyway, my editor said I could post the questions that didn’t make it into the print version for reasons of space. This transcript is pretty raw. The print version has condensed and cleaned up the language a bit. (English is not Allawi’s first language.) Before people start yelling censorship or something, know this: I approved every edit in the printed version so that it was true to the man’s words. Any changes were purely for space reasons and any errors are my fault, not the magazine’s.
[UPDATE Aug 17: Perhaps it wasn’t clear that the questions on this site are the outtakes of the interview. The published questions are available on the TIME site. I published these outtakes to because I believe in transparency in journalism — which means making notes available when you can. In this case I was able to show some additional questions, that were mainly designed to put him at ease. I would urge you to read all the questions on both sites.]
Anyway, here’s the introduction and the questions not included in the print version.
These are trying days for Iyad Allawi, the Iraqi Interim Prime Minister, who has two separate threats to his power: the Sunni insurgency in the west and the al-Sadr rebellion in the south. He sat down last week for an interview with TIME reporter Christopher Allbritton in Allawi’s spartan office in his Baghdad villa. A couple of Iraqi police officers stood in an antechamber, but signs of U.S. patronage were everywhere. Even the air conditioner units bore the label, “Property of the U.S. Government.” Dressed in a natty, brown-plaid suit, Allawi was alternatively avuncular and aggressive.
Does Moqtada al-Sadr have a future inside Iraq’s future political system? Well, if he wishes to do so, he would have. He can. As far as we’re concerned we have no problem with that. I think he should be party of the political system, and he should allow the people to give their opinions of whether they will pick him as the president or not. It is better for him to be inside the political process rather than outside the political process and trying to force his way on Iraqis and the Iraqi people by using arms and guns.
Regarding the arrest warrant against Ahmed Chalabi. He says this is all politically driven because of his rivalry with you. Is this true? Absolutely not true. The judicial system is independent here and we have no power over the judicial system. I have spoken with Chalabi myself two days ago. He called me and I assured him that this was definitely a government sponsored — and he knows this by the way, he declared this, by the way, on an interview yesterday. We have nothing to do with this at all. On the contrary, we are now trying to find ways of trying to put this into the proper context and get him back into the political process and get him back into the country.
Do you expect him to come back and stand trial? I hope so. I hope he should come back and I hope he will definitely defend from the allegations But as far as the government is concerned it has to be very clear that the government has no power on the judicial system at all.
About he future of Iraq and the recent past, here’s an easy one: What’s improved and what’s deteriorated since you’ve taken office? Well, I have to tell you, you know, there is what we call the process of improving the security of Iraq. Now this government, in this process, we have really done a lot so far given the very short period we have been a government. We have dismantled the ICDC, created the National Guard instead, expanded with the National Guard to create at least one division so far with the Iraqi Army. We have beefed up the police, created the intelligence. So this is on the security. And we hope that this will continue.
On the process of reconciliation and national unity and rehabilitating Iraq back into the region, we have done a lot. We have done the law of amnesty, we have the ongoing conference, which will take place in two or three days time, we have been outreaching, even to the peripherals of the so-called resistance. We have been holding face-to-face meetings, asking them to get back, to be part of the reconciliation process. We have been visiting the region. We have developed very good ties again, which would enable us to reintegrate again in a positive and a healthy way.
On the political process itself, we have even moved farther than that, and as I said, we are now going to have our first national conference. We hope the United Nations will put more effort so we can do it together, expedite and speed up the process of the, the political process.
On the issue of the economy, we have laid down very important ministerial committees, to take care of the economy. We have established the Supreme Council for Oil Policy, the Supreme Economical Committee, which I chair myself. We have established the Reconstruction Committee, which my deputy chairs. The Reconstruction Committee has gone into immediate dialog with the donor countries and we hope the money will be coming in by the end of this month. We have earmarked a lot of projects for the underdeveloped areas in Iraq.
So these are all processes that have been achieved so far in spite of the very short period and problems we are facing.
In what ways do you disagree with current U.S. policy and in what ways would you like to see more from the U.S.? Frankly, the relationship with the United States is very friendly, very positive. We appreciate what the United States has done to Iraq, starting from liberation, post-liberation. Now, the United States is helping in the reconstruction of Iraq. As you know, the United States is the major donor to Iraq in the donors’ conference in Madrid. What we want to see is the implementation of the program that we want to do and the reconstruction and expediting the channeling of funds into Iraq as soon as possible. There are indeed, as in any Arab country, there are areas of agreement and there are areas of disagreement, but the most important thing is that we have a very healthy dialogue with the United States. This dialogue will continue. We are very appreciative of the role the American ambassador Negroponte is doing here. He’s a very positive person and engaging in a positive way with the Iraqi government and we hope the relationship will continue to be healthy and positive.