Thursday, September 21, 2006

Iraq in Transition

Event Title: Iraq in Transition
Sponsors: The Brookings Institution
Location: The Brookings Institution; Falk Auditorium
Date: September 13, 2006
Time: 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Approximate number of Attendees: 200
Intern Attending: Ashley Smith

Introduction: Martin Indyk, Senior Fellow and Director, Saban Center for Middle East Policy

Martin Indyk described Barham Salih's difficult path to his current position. Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih began his career in politics as a member of the then outlawed Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Despite being arrested by the Iraqi secret police, Salih took his high school exams within the prison and achieved the third highest grade in all of Iraq. Having left Iraq in 1979, he went on to achieve a Ph.D from the University of Liverpool and work under PUK leader Jalal Talabani, Iraq's first democratically elected president. After working for the Kurdish movement in the United States for ten years, he was asked to return to Iraq to help shape its new interim government. In 2002, Barham Salih survived an assassination attempt by Al-Qaeda. In 2005, Salih won reelection and is now serving as Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq.

Featured Speaker: Barham Salih, Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq

In his opening statement, Barham Salih was optimistic about Iraq's future. He pointed out that, contrary to popular belief, the Iraqi constitution was not written overnight. He acknowledged that not everyone within Iraq is in favor of federalism, but the mere fact that different factions have come together to help with the democratic process in Iraq is something positive.

Salih emphasized the need for speed and the importance of economic strength and employment opportunities as tools for creating regional stability. Additionally, he stressed the need for both a national compact as well as an international compact. The focus of the national compact should be on national reconciliation, democratic federalism, political inclusion, and a fair oil policy, which will hopefully result in political equilibrium within Iraq.

In order for the international compact to become a reality, increased security is necessary. A 1991 UN Resolution required Saddam Hussein to disarm and discontinue his support of terrorism. Despite this, the Ba’athist-Jihadist pact that supports Al-Qaeda is still creating problems in Iraq. However, Iraqi security forces are gaining strength, with a 61% increase from 2005-2006. Salih reminded us that Iraq is in support of the international community’s commitment to fighting terrorism. Therefore, plans for an “International Compact with Iraq” that the United Nations is helping with, have just begun. A meeting has recently taken place in the United Arab Emirates to facilitate the development of this compact, and hopefully the plan will soon become a reality.

No comments: