During his the Participation in the Sulaimani Forum, President Salih: Corruption is the Political Economy of Violence and There Must be Measures to Eliminate it

2019/03/06

President Barham Salih emphasized that adherence to the Constitution and national fundamentals guarantees that Iraq remains unified.
In a speech at the Sulaimani Forum on Wednesday, March 6, 2019, His Excellency indicated "the specificities of the Iraqi society are an enriching source for our country, not a factor of fragmentation or division." 
The President clarified that all the political indicators indicate the completion of the ministerial cabinet, including the security ministries, within these days.
President Salih added that corruption in Iraq is a very big problem, and there what objectively indicating its transformation into a deep state that hinders the building of the State, its institutions, and the imposition of the rule of law in them. 
“Corruption is the political economy of violence and it perpetuates it.” His Excellency stressed.
If we have not been able to eliminate corruption, we would not be able to eliminate the cycle of violence and crisis in Iraq, the President added.
President Barham Salih asserted that Iraq seeks to converge views among all on the basis of its Arab depth, and that the country is on the verge of major economic transformations and has started to emerge from the crises.
His Excellency indicated that the eradication of terrorism will not be achieved by military means only but through cooperation and regional and international support from all sides. 
The President noted that Iraq will not be a military base for any State and that everyone should respect the country’s sovereignty.
The forum was attended by two former Iraqi prime ministers, leaders of political blocs and forces, a large number of ministers, governors, and heads and members of diplomatic missions in Iraq as well as former heads of states, Arab and international figures in addition to many political analysts and journalists.

The following is the full text of President Barham Salih’s dialogue at the Sulaimani Forum:

Mina: Mr. President, first of all, thank you very much.
I would like to ask you first about the subject that preoccupies many Iraqis, which is, of course, the security situation. We read a report from the US Department of Defense before a short period that says that ISIS is rearranging its ranks and may be able to restore some attacks on Iraq. How do you evaluate the security situation today and is there an upcoming battle with ISIS or similar organization?

The President: I am really happy to see so many friends around. Thank you for joining us at the forum. I no longer the host of this form, I am hosted by the AUIS committee and by H.E. Qubad the Deputy Prime Minister of KRG. Really hope that you have good time here.
Mina, Thank you very much for this opportunity and thank you very much for your interest in what is happening on the Iraqi arena.
I want to point out that in many cases they talk about Iraq as if it is only a scene of conflicts and problems.
We have wonderful competencies in this country, within this country, and outside this country.
This young lady has managed to occupy distinct positions in the Arab and international press. I wish you all success.
With regard to the security situation and security developments, the victory against ISIS is an important victory and cannot be underestimated.
But this victory is a field victory and a military victory. The alleged caliphate has been the eliminated. The Iraqi arena has been liberated from the military presence of ISIS. There are some foci for ISIS still lingering on the Syrian arena; also these are in the process of being finished. We must recognize the importance of the military victory in the field, but at the same time we should not underestimate the magnitude of the existing challenge, because the threat of terrorism has not been eradicated yet, and the threat of ISIS has not eliminated until this moment. There are many scattered elements of ISIS who are still spreading between the border between the Iraqi and Syrian arenas, and may have the opportunity to reorganize their ranks.
In addition to this, especially in the Syrian arena, there are extremist organizations and their numbers in the thousands represent an immediate and future danger.
The elimination of terrorism will not only be done by military means, but also by pursuing first the intelligence and security effort.
This will be a long process, also requires an arrangement for political situations, especially in areas liberated areas from the control of ISIS and enable our people in those areas to return to their homes, reconstruction, employment issue, and also the issue of regional and international action.
ISIS did not come from a vacuum but came through many cracks in the international and regional situation. There are hands that have manipulated this scourge. In the end led to disasters in the area. Iraq was at the forefront of the scene.
Iraq was at the forefront of a process of the elimination of ISIS.
The Iraqis have sacrificed the dear and precious of the Iraqi forces from the army, the police of the Peshmerga, of the Popular Mobilization, they did an important job cannot be underestimated.
Let us remember what we were four or five years ago, Dr. Haider al-Abadi is present at this meeting to talk to us about that bitter experience we had experienced.
In this context, this victory is also achieved with the support of our friends and allies in the international coalition. This effort was commendable and important in achieving this victory, but I want to say that the mission is not yet done and that the threat of terrorism is still present and requires us vigilance to continue with the intelligence and security effort, and also to rearrange the situation of the region and the repatriation of the internally displaced persons and the reconstruction of our areas.

Mina: When we talk about the internal situation, as you did, there are elements that led to the emergence of ISIS or different terrorist organizations. Unfortunately, some of these elements have not been properly dealt with. A year has passed since the important Kuwait conference, which has allocated 30 billion dollars to help rebuild Iraq. But we see so far there are areas of disaster, really disaster if it is in Mosul, whether in Anbar or elsewhere areas, Salah al-Din and others. of course, there are segments; groups of Iraqi society have suffered a lot because of ISIS. The question is where is the reconstruction that many Iraqis aspire for, and where are the political arrangements needed for the stability of the country?
Mr. President: Actually, the people of Mosul and the people of many of these liberated areas from the control of ISIS, have the right to criticize the performance of government and criticize the political leaders on the issue of reconstruction. In these areas, the scenes are horrible there, people's lives are miserable and human suffering there is truly serious. But also to be realistic, Iraq is going through hard and difficult circumstances. What Iraq has gone through not only over the last four years or five years with regard to the issue of fighting ISIS, but before that the violation by terrorism and wars and economic blockade and other problems.
In addition to these political complexities in the Iraqi situation, there are obstructive factors, but there are a large number of our brothers from the Iraqi Council of Ministers, political leaders and members of Parliament. I want to confirm that the government, especially the Prime Minister, insists that this is a basic priority. God willing, with the beginning of the new legislative term of the government and the completion of the new government cabinet, which we expect according to all political indicators to end soon in these few days or perhaps a week or two weeks, these are the indicators from Baghdad.

Mina: Including the Ministry of Defense?
Mr. President: Yes, including Ministries of Interior and Defense, so the indicators confirm, so the ongoing negotiations confirm, but as you know that this is Iraqi policy. In the past, we had a dictatorial regime, the “beloved” leader decides and it is implemented immediately. We have accepted for ourselves a democratic parliamentary system, in which there are a lot of take and give. Unfortunately, this does not rise to what is required with regard to the need to deal urgently with the problems of people and with the suffering of people, especially in these areas that have been exposed to the violation of terrorism and that their people are still living in the camps and their homes have been destroyed, but all indications and all assurances from the government and even from the international community are necessary to proceed in this area quickly and urgently.

Mina: You were one of the most people who talked and you are still talking about the importance of combating the scourge of corruption. The scourge of corruption is harmful in many areas in the country. What are the current measures to encounter the scourge of corruption?
Mr. President: Corruption is present in Iraq and perhaps in many countries in the region, but I'm talking about Iraq, is really a very big problem. There are those who point out objectively that corruption has turned into something like a deep state that hinders the process of nation-building, state institutions, and the rule of law process and social harmony. Corruption is the political economy of violence that perpetuates violence. If we have not been able to eliminate corruption, we would not be able to eliminate the cycle of violence and crisis in Iraq.
All political parties emphasize this issue, the supreme religious authority in Najaf emphasizes this subject, citizens when we talk with the citizen in any part of this country, we talk to him about what are the priorities required to fight corruption and provide services.

Mina: We have talked a lot about the challenges facing Iraq and unfortunately they are serious challenges, but I would like to ask you, what are the signs of hope?
Mr. President: Of course, those who deal with the political issue in Iraq and want to be part of a political project must be optimistic.
I say to be fair and objective in our assessment, we may differ at the beginning of the situation in Iraq. There are those who refer to this year or that. I can say there will be no disagreement that Iraq has lived four decades of problems since the years 79-80 of the Iran-Iraq war to the war of Kuwait to the blockade to the year 2003 to the violation of terrorism. 4 decades have passed on this country where it did not know anything of stability. No country has been exposed to what Iraq has been exposed to.
I see now and after the military victory on ISIS there is confidence among the Iraqis that success is necessary and possible and there is insistence on success and there is a real change in the political vocabulary in Iraq.
I say it frankly and I have said that a few days ago on television that citizen in Basra; the Shiite citizen in Basra criticizes the performance of the Shiite government or Shiite ministers because of the lack of services as well as citizens in Mosul and Anbar criticize Sunni leaders as well as citizens in Sulaymaniyah criticize the Kurdish government.
The population of Iraq today is 38 million people and increases 2 million every year. 70% of Iraqis under the age of 30 and there is serious unemployment among young people. The biggest challenge to Iraq is to provide job opportunities. But Iraq, with its resources and an important location, can turn this into an important investment. Now Iraq is on the verge of major economic changes and job creation. Iraq will be a workshop in the near future and it is an existing opportunity before us if we did well.
The second point is that we are living in this environment and this region. Iraq is governed by its geography, is governed by what we have dealt with throughout our history. Iraq is the arena in which regional balances are drawn up throughout history.
Is it possible for Iraq to be an arena for consensus and reconciliation among the countries of the region or not? In my estimation, yes!
"There are many differences between Iran and the Gulf countries and between Turkey and this and so on. But despite the divergence of views on this point or that, everyone must participate in not allowing Iraq to collapse, God forbid.
The collapse of Iraq is the collapse of all countries in the region and the return to terrorism. Everyone shares a degree of success. And also the opportunity to reconstruct Iraq and that Iraq be a bridge to the economies of the region by linking the infrastructure between Iraq and the Gulf and Turkey between Iran and the Arab region and the Mediterranean.
Iraq, with its location and its epicenter, can put this in front of the region. The region is now tense and its problems are in my estimation many countries are looking for opportunities to mitigate the situation, mitigate people and ease tension. Iraq is the only country, if we do well, can play that role starting from the national interest, enough to be the arena for the conflict of others. We pay from our resources and the lives of our citizens. We do not want to continue with that spiral. Our relations with our neighbors are important. Our relations with Iran are important on which we will build on for our interests, the interests of the peoples of the region and the interests of both sides. Iraq is based on its Arab and Gulf depth. There were important meetings with various Arab countries, King Abdullah's visit to Baghdad, before that my visit to Amman, before that the economic agreements that were signed with Kuwait. We are moving in that direction, God willing, with other countries. These are also all indications of what Iraq wants, which is to be an element of interdependence with Turkey, Iran and the Gulf. Yes, we do not enter into the policy of the axes. We affirm our interest in the reconstruction of the country. The interest of the country is to be the balance element in this region and that the interest of stability and the non-return of terrorism is a common interest of all in the region. Iraq is capable of playing this role.

Mina: My question is that the regional situation is getting worse. And you have already answered that. But I would like to ask you some details of the regional situation which must affect Iraq. Do you expect that Syria is going to calm? Is there a political solution in Syria or is it still complicated?
Mr. President: As for Syria, the debates are still ongoing and there are no options but a political solution.
To be honest, I have said so frankly to all the leaders in the region that I have met and all agree with that and even the most hostile countries with Syria in the media and political positions agree that the situation in Syria is unsustainable and that what happened was a great disaster not only for the Syrians themselves but also for the region.
Thousands of dollars have been wasted for this absurd situation. In the end, we stress Iraq's point of view on the need for a political solution based on the free will of the Syrians. We as an Iraqi state concerned security and politically with what is happening in Syria, and we are in constant contact with the Syrian government and exchange views with our neighbors in Turkey, Iran and the Arab League.
There is an urgent effort in terms of opening a window for peaceful solution in Syria. The situation cannot be delayed. This crime, which afflicted the Syrian people, is a fact that cannot be underestimated. One million Syrian children were born in the camps, not to mention the millions who were also displaced.
This environment that incubates terrorism and extremism, which has not yet ended, only with a political solution supported internationally and regionally and based on the free will of the Syrians.

Mina: A lot of media was aware of the statements by US President Donald Trump on the presence of US troops in Iraq but also to keep an eye on the neighboring Iran and you have commented on this statement. I would like to ask you the current tension between America and Iran, as well as the Arab concern about some Iranian actions, and vice versa, and the crimes that occur on the ground. How can we protect Iraq?
Mr. President: The United States is a friend and ally. The United States has helped us in the fight against terrorism. We thank that contribution, but we do not hesitate to confirm this, but the existing American elements are at the agreement with the Iraqi government specifically to train and empower Iraqi forces and provide advice in the war against terrorism.
There are no ground combat forces, no US military bases, and the specific purpose of these elements is to combat terrorism, not for any other purpose.
Any purpose outside this agreement is unacceptable to the Government of Iraq and is unacceptable. From what we see from the Iraqi sovereignty, we had dialogues with the American side and these points have been confirmed.
My perception is that there is a good understanding that this is a policy and other than that is not agreed upon and is not compatible with what we wanted for ourselves and that America wanted to deal with.
With regard to the American debate or vision or US policy with Iran and the regional tensions represented by Iranian relations and some Gulf states.
I am realistic, this is what we hope will not be there, we are working to ease the tension, and we want Iraq to be part of these debates. They should highly appreciate the magnitude of the victory. This victory is still unstable and not consolidated. It is not acceptable to burden Iraq with others’ policies and we distance our country according to these considerations.
We ask everyone to take into account the specificity of Iraq's situation and Iraq's priorities. We can say, as others say, our interest first, that we do not want to be the base of any hostile action against any of our neighbors.
In the end, I will go back to 4 decades ago. In the course of these lean years, what has been going on over the spiral of violence in the region may have been that the security and political system in the region is collapsed. The regional system collapsed and these movements and debates are part of the manifestations of the absence of this stable system in the region.
Iraq calls for the establishment of a new regional system based on respect for sovereignty based on the creation of infrastructure for economic interests among the countries of this region. This is not far from the reach. Many countries have done so.
Iraq is once again with its geographical location with its resources, even with its population structure, with its components, is capable of being a central element in the region's reunification. The Iraqi-GCC economic cooperation The Iraqi-Jordanian economic cooperation The Iraqi-Iranian and Turkish economic cooperation and the creation of a network of interrelated interests of infrastructure, of the oil export, of railway, free industrial zones, and common trade exchange lead to a new state of common relations between us.
All these countries want job opportunities for their unemployed youth and this will only be achieved by focusing on that. I may be dreaming, but in these situations, the dream is not a crime.
Europeans throughout the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries were subjected to many wars and universal ones. In the twentieth century they had two world wars. The Middle East did not know these two world wars in this perspective.
But then and the Marshall Plan the Europeans agreed to the economic interdependence of the iron and steel industry and railways.
Europe Today is another case that we have known. This region with its diversity is perhaps easier.
The paradox of Iraq may have been at the top of the scene of violence and terrorism. Perhaps we can do this pivotal role for ourselves. I say these beautiful words that require good governance. It requires dealing with the internal bottlenecks, requires commitment to the constitution requires overcoming and solving the problems that have plagued Iraq for many years.
And this is linked to many of the respective parties. The Kurds have their particularities and as the Arab working on them.
I imagine.. Imagine and that I do not be exaggerating, all should learn from our previous experiences based on an Arab project in Baghdad to promote the country to be comprehensive and by God it may be a dream, but that the political and community will are able to do so.
In this context, I would like to acknowledge an observation, and this is his felt during meetings and visits, that the community situation is more developed than the political situation. I am the politician and other political leaders, must be aware that the society goes, its expectations and aspirations sometimes penetrate the political deadlock that hinders our work.

Mina: We have two minutes to conclude this fruitful sitting. We have two questions. If you allow me to call you to the Prime Minister, as we call you the president of the university, which means a lot to you. What is your message to the university students who sought and worked hard to gather us in this forum, and also the students of Iraq?
Mr. President: Since assuming the Presidency, I have resigned from the Board of Trustees of the University; I must be ready and at the service of all universities of course. I have always been, but we wanted the University of Sulaymaniyah to be a model and example to be followed by other universities, and a catalyst for the required reform in other universities.
His Excellency the Minister of Higher Education, Dr. Qusay Al-Suhail, as well as Brother Yousef Koran from the Kurdistan Regional Government are also present here.
This university is a good experience, but attention to the new generation, to education is a real investment in the future. All admit, including the Minister of Education, that the status of universities does not rise to what is required to compete in the labor market in this age.
This painful irony, Iraq was at the forefront of education and health services in the sixties and we are now in another phase.
We have a great effort. I was in Paris a week or two ago and we had a meeting with UNESCO and UNESCO was insisting on the provision of services and consultations, but in Iraq, there are wonderful and sophisticated competencies at home and abroad. God willing, we will be able to do so. My words to the students at Sulaymaniyah University and Iraqi universities is that we should work together to invest the present opportunities. God willing, your future will be different from the past experienced by previous generations over the last four decades.

Mina: For many years, some have raised the idea of dismantling and dividing Iraq. A US newspaper once put the cover (The end of Iraq). We were saying that Iraq is bigger than that and can continue. Are we finished the risk of the possibility of dividing the country?
Mr. President: There are historical, geographical and political requirements that make Iraq remain. But its survival as unified is primarily linked to the commitment of all to what is enshrined in the constitution and to emphasizing the national fundamentals and asserting that the underlying peculiarities of this society are an enriching source for our country and not a fragmenting factor nor a divisive one.
When ISIS came to Mosul (your city), but ended up to violate all, the Kurds, Yazidis, Christians, Muslims, Shiites and Sunnis.
And my estimation is that everyone learned from past experiences and it is in our interest, the interest of all in Iraq, and also the interest of the region in a successful, unified and democratic Iraq, which can deal with the great entitlements ahead.
I am optimistic about the future with the magnitude of the challenges that lie ahead.

Mina: Thanks
Mr. President: Thank you Khatoun.


Presedent

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