The Brookings Doha Center held its first policy luncheon hosting former Prime Minister of Iraq, Dr. Ayad Allawi, as guest speaker and drawing a group of outstanding participants from the worlds of business, media, and government in Qatar. The Brookings Doha Center is a project of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings and an integral part of the Brookings Institution.
The session was also attended by H.E. Mohammed Abdullah Al Rumaihi, Assistant Foreign Minister for Follow up Affairs for the State of Qatar, who reiterated in the opening remarks his country’s readiness to play a mediating role aimed at reaching political reconciliation in Iraq.
Dr. Ayad Allawi, who served as the Prime Minister of the Interim Government of Iraq in 2004 through 2005, relayed to the audience insights from his term as a member of the Governing Council in Iraq following the invasion in 2003 and then from his term as first head of government since Saddam Hussein.
Allawi stressed that decisions taken by the occupying powers following the invasion of Iraq such as the deep dismembering of the Iraqi army created the conditions that allowed for the deep insecurity prevalent in Iraq today. In particular he cited the “de-Baathification” process and the dissolving of the military as the core errors. He argued that these acts left many former Baath party members jobless and allowed Iraqi army stockpiles of weapons to fall into the hands of terrorists and militias.
Allawi, an avowed non-sectarian, but liberal Iraqi secularist, said that the two major obstacles in the way of Iraqi reconciliation today are sectarianism and lack of security. He reiterated his view that Iraq throughout its history was not a sectarian country and that the prominent tribes in Iraq historically had within them Sunni and Shia parts of the tribe. Allawi cautioned that extremist groups with political backing sought to give people the impression that Iraq is a sectarian society. In this realm, he criticized the role of Iran and its expansionist ambitions saying that Iraq has an “unhealthy relationship” with its Iranian neighbor.
Allawi answered several questions from the floor, most of which revolved around the issues of sectarianism, federalism, corruption and accountability as well as Iraq’s relations with other Arab countries. Allawi stressed that economic and political solutions lay with nationalist and not with extremist groups and explained that Iraq is a very resourceful country that can benefit from the good offices of its Arab friends.
Towards the end of the session, and prompted by the question of an audience member, Allawi confirmed his intention to run for office again to “prevent Iraq from falling into the hands of extremists.”
Dr. Ayad Allawi is currently the Chairman of the National Iraqi List which won 25 seats in the Iraqi Parliament in the 2005 elections.