President, In a Speech to the World Economic Forum, Emphasizes: Iraqi Youth are Protesting for Change for Better Iraq, Sovereign over its Decision, Territory

2020/01/22

President Barham Salih confirmed that Iraq is going through tough times as protesters, most of whom are Iraqi youth, have been demonstrating in the streets for nearly four months.
"They are demanding change, and they have deep desires and demands for economic opportunities and for a homeland, and to make their voices heard and answered", the President added.
in a speech to Davos Economic Forum, today, His Excellency explained that the regional conflict, at the same time, is threatening our sovereignty. We are in the eye of the storm.
The President expressed his confidence that Iraq can rise to these challenges, rather than falling prey to them. "We can still emerge as a better, stronger, more cohesive and prosperous country," His Excellency added.
"Escalated tensions between Iran, the Gulf countries and the United States over the past month have reminded us that our ambitions remain vulnerable to politics conflicts beyond our control, and to unwelcome foreign interference," President Salih said.
His Excellency stressed that Iraq seeks good relations with all, and we have no interest in being dragged into conflicts not of our choice and making. If our neighbors and our allies remain at loggerheads, our sovereignty is not respected, and our territory is used as a battleground, then we cannot hope to achieve our own agenda of change. 
The President added that the recent call by the Iraqi parliament for the withdrawal of US troops from our country is not a sign of ingratitude or hostility. Rather it is a reaction to what many Iraqis see as violations of their country’s sovereignty.
The following is the full text of the speech:

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my pleasure to be here at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum representing my country.
Under the visionary leadership of Professor Klaus Schwab, this gathering has become the foremost event in the world to address global and regional challenges. 
Since the first World Economic Forum in 1971, it has demonstrated what is possible when governments, corporations, civil society organizations, and the world’s great thinkers come together to find solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. 
It shows what can be achieved through common action, common purpose and common resolve.
And it is a venue for serious conversation about how to achieve our most aspirational goals....
No one in this room will be surprised when I say candidly: these are challenging times for Iraq.
Protestors, mostly young Iraqis, have been demonstrating in the streets for nearly four months, putting their lives on the line to demand change. They have deep desires and demands for economic opportunities and for a homeland, and to have their voices heard and answered. 
At the same time, escalating regional conflict is threatening our sovereignty.  We are in the eye of the storm.
I have confidence that Iraq can rise to these challenges, rather than fall prey to them.  We can still emerge a better, stronger, more cohesive, and more prosperous country.
In my speech in New York to the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in September last year, I laid out a vision of hope and prosperity for the future of Iraq and the Middle East. While recognizing the fragility of our hard won stability and security at the time, we had much to be hopeful about. 
The scourge of Da’esh had been defeated in Iraq, thanks to the gallant sacrifices of Iraqi forces, the Iraqi military, Hashed al Shabi, Peshmarga and other units, and with the support of the international community. 
Iraq stood on the threshold of a new era, one where internal wounds could finally heal, where we could finally move past decades of wars, sanctions and atrocities, and where we could work collectively towards the economic and social vitality that Iraqis so deserve.
My vision was then, and still is now, for Iraq -- which sits at the heart of the Middle East -- to be a force for stability, and a bridge for greater economic integration in the region.
Escalated tensions between Iran, the Gulf countries and the United States over the past month have reminded us that our ambitions remain vulnerable to politics conflicts beyond our control, and to unwelcome foreign interferences.
We seek good relations with all, and we have no interest in being dragged into conflicts not of our choice and making.
If our neighbors and our allies remain at loggerheads, our sovereignty is not respected, and our territory is used as a battleground, then we cannot hope to achieve our own agenda of change. 
Iraq owes a debt of gratitude to the international coalition led by United States, especially for the military and economic support that it provided, and continues to provide, in the fight against Da’esh.  The military coalition that the United States led was instrumental in allowing Iraqi forces to emerge victorious in that existential battle.
But Iran also played a pivotal role in the war against ISIS, and we share long-standing ties of geography, of water resources, of economy and of religion with the Islamic Republic.
Iraq’s relations and interests are also also inseparably bound to its Arab depth— needless to say, Turkey our northern neighbor is of major consequence to our interests. As you can see, Iraq’s geopolitics is rather interesting, challenging and vital to say the least.
It is not in our interest to choose to ally with one at the expense of the others as long as our sovereignty and independence is respected.
No country should seek to dictate to Iraq whom we should have relations with and how. Our policies, and our diplomatic and economic ties, must be driven by our own national interests, not those of others, even our allies.  Iraq sovereignty and stability should the common interest of our neighbors and international partners.
And we should not be penalized for protecting our sovereign interests or seeking to strengthen our military independence.  The recent call by the Iraqi parliament for the withdrawal of US troops from our country is not a sign of ingratitude or hostility. Rather it is a reaction to what many Iraqis see as violations of their country’s sovereignty— This issue will be resolved through dialogue at the heart of which must be iraq sovereignty and stability.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Security and prosperity in Iraq will not be possible unless the whole Middle East finds a way to move beyond instability and conflict. The ravages of relentless violence and confrontation bring nothing but suffering to our people, robbing them of the futures they deserve.
I still believe that Iraq can be a catalyst for positive change.  It is not just that the country has, since Mesopotamian times, been a cradle of civilization and a melting pot of different faiths, sects and ethnicities.  Few countries have faced the horrors of war, of violent repression, of chemical attacks and mass graves, of sanctions, and of sectarian and ethnic bloodshed as mine has, and few crave peace and stability more.
These bitter experiences have taught us that, despite our differences, there is more that binds us together than keeps us apart.  The protestors are yet another sign of this -- their patriotism and commitment to Iraq is demonstrated daily on the streets of Baghdad. .
We have shared dreams, and a mutual interest in cooperating to achieve them. 
Crucially, we learned that we can only achieve these dreams if we are united in a common aim and with a common purpose.
This is a lesson for our region as well.  Prosperity depends on eradicating extremism and teaching compassion and inclusiveness.
It depends on building bridges not slamming doors. 
Regional frameworks for security, economic, and commercial cooperation that provide an avenue for political dialogue and dispute resolution among foes are needed.  We should seek to find our own solutions to our own problems.
This is what young Iraqis in their thousands are demanding in peaceful protests on the streets of Baghdad and other cities, which began nearly four months ago. 
It is devastating and painful that acts violence by outlaws has led to the death of over 600 innocent, peaceful protestors-- mostly young people, born in the 1990s and after – as well as many security personnel. I condemn these crimes/ acts in the strongest of terms, and the perpetrators will be dealt with in accordance with the law. Justice and Security are the basis of a state and society -- of a nation. Peaceful protest is a fundamental right.
Young Iraqis are protesting for a better life, a homeland, more jobs, improved services, and an end to crippling corruption that has blighted our country for too long.  I want the same for them. 
They want Iraqi nationhood to be inclusive, not divided according to communal identity.
They want a democratic political system that reflects their collective identity and restores their dignity. They want free and fair elections.
This is a generational shift that reflects a yearning for something better, something more. 
This will not be an easy process.  Nor can it be achieved overnight.
We need to restore Iraqis’ trust in their government and to re-look at our laws and our constitution to see how they can be made to renew and strengthen the bonds between Iraqi leaders and our people, allowing the former to more fully represent the latter. 
We also need to establish the conditions for sustained economic growth and to create jobs for our young and rapidly growing population.  Youth unemployment is already rampant, and it will only get worse if we do not provide our young people with the education and skills they need to succeed.
65% of Iraq’s 38 million people are under 30 years of age.  My country has the highest fertility rate in the Middle East, and its population will grow by around 1 million per year over the coming decade.
These demographic and economic realities cannot be denied of dealt with by the status quo.
The Iraq state cannot do this on its own.  The public sector is already strained. We need to boost our still-nascent private sector, and I look to those gathered here today to do their part by bringing foreign investment and skills to Iraq. 
We understand that we have a crucial role to play in making this a reality.  We need to become a country where Iraqis and foreigners have the confidence to invest for the long term, and where the private sector feels empowered.
As such, we have to establish the legal and regulatory foundations to protect investors and liberalize markets. 
Needless to say, Corruption needs to be confronted— this is cancer is the political economy of conflict and political instability.
And good governance and rule of law must be established in practice, rather than simply being a rhetorical mantra, repeatedly endlessly but never followed through on.

We have benefitted throughout these difficult times from the wisdom and guidance of the Marjaiyah in Najaf, especially His Eminence Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani whose leadership in our darkest days has been critical, and who has helped to deliver Iraq to safer shores.  I am sure I speak for you all when I say that I pray for his rapid recovery from his recent surgery. 
Finally, we need to rebuild and modernize our infrastructure to create the necessary foundations for economic growth. 
The reconstruction and restoration of the areas destroyed in the fight against Da’esh remain a priority.  But, if we are to achieve our potential in the longer term, our ambitions must go far beyond that. 
We need new ports, highway networks, railways, airports, industrial cities, and dams.  We need new irrigation and land reclamation projects. And we need support for training our young generation to be productive citizens in a vibrant 21st century economy.
Iraq cannot do any of this on its own.  Both the capital investments and the expertise needed will be huge.  Once again, Iraq is looking to international financial institutions, donor countries, sovereign wealth funds, and the international private sector — in other words, all of you — to be our partners.
I would like to leave you with these final thoughts
As I have said, these are tough times for Iraq and the region.
But stabilizing Iraq and charting a course for peace and prosperity is a crucial step to eradicating the extremism and conflict that afflicts us all. 
We are blessed with many advantages as we tackle this task.  Iraqis of all background are determined and resilient people who have lived through decades of violence and privation without surrendering their dignity or their spirit. And indeed, we are blessed the Marjayia in Najaf has been been the anchor for moderation, tolerance and reforms— and indeed for consistently affirming iraqi sovereignty.
As I look around this audience, I see many friends and allies who I know share our vision.  It is my sincerest hope that you will continue to support our endeavors. 
We Iraqis know that, ultimately, the future lies in our hands.  But we are also grateful for the help of our partners, east and west, and we know that their commitment to us is vital to our success.


Presedent

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