Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace with Ali Abdul-Amir Allawi.
The U.S. effort in Iraq is at a critical turning point, as Congress attempts to set a timetable for withdrawing American forces while the administration increases troop levels in Iraq. Meanwhile, casualties continue to mount.
Don't miss this unique opportunity to hear an insider's viewpoint on the road ahead in Iraq, from a leading official of the Iraqi government.
Allawi spent three decades in opposition to Saddam's regime, living abroad and teaching at Oxford University. He returned to his homeland in 2003 to serve as minister of trade, minister of defense and minister of finance in the post-Saddam Iraqi governments.
In January 2007, Allawi authored a key article in the London Independent newspaper, laying out a blueprint for peace in Iraq. He knows intimately the key figures and factors shaping the situation in Iraq.
Ali Abdul-Amir Allawi
Ali Abdul-Amir Allawi was Minister of Trade and Minister of Defence in the cabinet appointed by the Interim Iraq Governing Council from September 2003 until 2004, and subsequently Minister of Finance in the Iraqi Transitional Government between 2005 and 2006. A Shia Muslim, Allawi was part of the Iraqi exile community in London during the rule of Saddam Hussein. He was one of the organizers of 'The Declaration of Iraqi Shia', a statement released in 2002. Before being appointed by the governing council in 2003, Allawi was a professor at Oxford University. Ali is son of Ahmad Chalabi's sister, making him Chalabi's nephew.
Mary G. F. Bitterman
Before becoming President of The Bernard Osher Foundation, Mary G.F. Bitterman most recently served as President and CEO of The James Irvine Foundation, an independent grantmaking foundation serving Californians, and as President and CEO of KQED, one of the leading public broadcasting centers in the United States. She has served also as Executive Director of the Hawaii Public Broadcasting Authority, Director of the Voice of America, Director of the Hawaii State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, and Director of the East-West Center's Institute of Culture and Communication.
Bitterman currently is a director (and Chairman) of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), The Bernard Osher Foundation, Bank of Hawaii, Barclays Global Investors, Santa Clara University, and the Commonwealth Club of California. She has produced several documentaries for public television and has written on telecommunications development and the role of media in developing societies. She is an Honorary Member of the National Presswomen's Federation and a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. Bitterman received her B.A. from Santa Clara University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr College.
Good afternoon and welcome to today's meeting of The Commonwealth Club ofCalifornia. I am Mary Bitterman, a member of The Club's Board of Governors andPresident of The Bernard Osher Foundation. It is my pleasure to introduce ourdistinguish speaker Mr. Ali Abdul-Amir Allawi. Mr. Allawi, born in Baghdad, graduatedfrom the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science degree inCivil Engineering. He did Post-graduate studies in Regional Planning at the LondonSchool of Economics and then obtained at Masters of Business Administration degreefrom Harvard University. Mr. Allawi was active in the opposition to the Baathist regimein Iraq from 1968 onwards. He spent a number of years in finance and various positionsoutside Iraq including a position at the World Bank. In 1978 he co-founded ArabInternational Finance Merchant Bank based in London and in 1992 he founded anotherfinancial group which manages to hedge funds. From 1999 to 2002 Mr. Allawi was aSenior Associate Member at St. Anthony's College, Oxford University.Mr. Allawi was Minister of Trade and Minister of Defense in the cabinet appointed by theInterim Iraq Governing Council from 2003 to 2004. And then became Minister ofFinance in The Iraqi Transitional Government from 2005 to 2006. His book "TheOccupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace" was published this year by YaleUniversity press. Ladies and gentleman please join me in welcoming Mr. Ali Allawi tothe podium. Mr. Allawi.Thank you very much for this introduction Mary and good after ladies and gentlemen.When I first went to Baghdad; it was not really my intention to write a book. I went thereto serve and to try to see how we can reconstruct a new order, a new system in the countryof my birth and to try to break the cycle in this history of violence, depression in wars.Iraq has been one of the most invaded countries in the world and over the last severalmillennium it has been the battle ground for all kinds of civilizations, army's passingthrough from the Babylonian, Assyrian days right through the pre-Islamic period. Andthen it was a center of the Global Empire, the Abbasid Empire which stretched on theAtlantic to India. And was then the center of the civilized world. So it has a very longand tumultuous legacy. But towards the middle period, the Middle Islamic periodsometimes along the 13th 14th century Iraq sank into obscurity, as a forgotten problemsof the Ottoman Empire only to reemerge after World War I, after the break of theOttoman Empire as an independent nation state. As a monarchy which was to their large extent thecreation of the British and outside monarchy the king was imported, a great that mighthad imported from what was then the Hejaz northern Saudi Arabia and put on top of thiscountry which has, which had in it and continues to have a mosaic of peoples and nationsof ethnicities and sectarian groups.This country was never united or ruled as an entity within these present geopoliticalboundaries prior to World War I. In some cases people may think that this is a contrivedcountry, it's a country that has been created out of, the request of the Ottoman Empire andtherefore it does not have the (indiscernible) those of being a nation. But the reality in mymind is small complex as everything in Iraq. So a brief survey of our modern historywhich show that the country was ruled by a small minority attached to the rulingkingdom, mainly drawn from the Sunni Arab Community, which presided over a majoritypopulation that was Tribal Arab and Shia, with the significant non Arab component in thecountry the Kurds. This kind of imbalance was accepted to a very large degree; by nearlyall the main political elites that form the political class of pre republican Iraq. It wasbased on a type of a unwritten agreement that the Sunni Arab community would maintaintheir control over the main organs of the state as it were, would maintain that control overthe key positions of power, but would allow the more ambitious Shia elite a place in thepolitical order and would allow them some space within which they could play out theirpolitical ambitions. The other side of the equation was that the state or the governmentwould not infringe on the institutions of the Shia in Iraq, educational, cultural, mercantilethe Shia were very important business men in the 19th, throughout the 19th and 20thcentury. But above all it could not encroach on the religious institutions, the so called(unidentified) or the Supreme Religious Council of the Shia which is identified and identifiesitself where the legacy of Shia Islam, it is very difficult to think of Shia Islamwithout thinking of the clerical or religious leadership.This system was shaken by the coup of 1958 which drove me and my family to exile. Myown family, my extended family had been involved in the History of Iraq, since it'sfoundation with Ambassador's, Minister's, Governor's, Senator's, that came to an end in1958. And I left Iraq into what was then a useful. Within a few years my own familymade their peace with the new republican order and they came back into Iraq. I continuedto study aboard but as a student I was an exile. And then the coup of July 1968 whichbrought the Baath Party into government, made it clear to me that a chapter has ended inthe Iraq's history. Because the Baath was determine to impose its own totalitarian ruleover the country. And in a kind of modernizing project, they wrong rough shot over allthe institutions of Iraq's civil society. And particular they began to declare war, at firstquietly and then more openly, embarrassingly against the main props of the Shia identityin Iraq. And throughput the 1970's they encroached more and more on the, not only onthe state but on the society. There was a near successful interruption by the(indiscernible) and in mid 70's which ended in tears as the Shah of Iran withdrew hissupport from the Kurdish minority from to that might add by Henry Kissinger and byshifting US policy towards Iraq. So this was the first serious experience of Iraq had withthe United States, prior to that we were part of the anti-communist, Baghdad backalliance. But the US was an observer, rather than a active well it wasn't active member,but it was an observer of the pact. Throughout the 1970's there were few Iraqis in exileand most Iraqis basically accepted the terms of the new relationship with this centralizingtyrannical party but which one, which also presided over a huge expansion in the Iraq'srevenues and it's oil base. And in 1970's we are seeing many days and many places hasbeen as it were the (indiscernible) days of Iraq. That ended in the end of the, decade of 1970's.Well we had Saddam Hussein who was then a main player in the firmament of Baathistpolitical leaders, assume power. And he then began to instill a new kind of order, not aparty order driven by an ideology but rather a personal dictatorship based on his ownfamily, his own region and his own tribal, affinities. Then we had another tremendousevent which colored the Iraqi history and colored the development of the politicalapposition and that was the Iranian revolution which created another class of refugees thatexpanded the base of the Iraqi opposition in exile. Throughout the 1970's Saddam alsobegan to take very serious measures against the Shia clerical leadership and the ShiaIslamic parties which culminated in the execution in 1980 of Grand Ayatollah Baqir alSadr. This was the first time in modern history that a person of that stature was center tothe hang (indiscernible). In the 1980's Iraqi opposition was built around exiles of theIslamic parties, a few smattering of liberals and democrats and Kurds. And the fortunesof the opposition rose and fell with the outcome of the battles between Iraq and Iran. ButI think the opposition was very poorly informed because the entire world was supportingSaddam then and not only the regional powers but also the United States and the scale ofthis support that was given to Iraq and the Iraq-Iran war become when he clearafterwards. When the war ended, it ended with a terrible massacre genocidal massacre ofthe Kurdish; Kurdish population of Northern Iraq the infamous and file campaign, therewas not much of an opposition we are speaking about.This again took another twist after his misadventures; Saddam's misadventures in Kuwaitwere the United States was now drawn in rather than a defender of the Iraqi regime butnow is its nemesis and we all know what happened and Iraq was expelled from Kuwait.But the result of the expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait did not lead to the desired result ofoverthrowing the regime for verity of reasons. Mainly to do with the fear of theconnection between the Shia and the Iran, the Western Army or the US army did notmarch on to Baghdad. And hoped for a coup de'tat that would maintain the polystructures of Iraq relatively intact. At that point the Iraqi opposition which wasforgotten for long, we were not allowed to, the US state department was not allowed to establishcontacts with the Iraqi opposition until the Kuwait war. This was suddenly had anotherlease on life; and this time we had huge numbers of people who came out of Iraq as aresult of the terrible violence and depression that Saddam use to quell the uprisings ofMarch 1991. So throughout the 1990's the Iraqi opposition in one shape or form wasbecoming, drawn in into the US confrontation with Saddam.Two very important events happened in the 1990's which were not really given duecredence. But which played a very large part in affecting the political landscape after theinvasion and occupation/liberation of Iraq. The first one is as I said earlier the violenceused to quell the uprisings, nearly 300,000 people, Shia Arabs were killed and thisdocumented not only by Human Rights Watch Amnesty International but also by physicalevidence of exhumations of mass graves. It fundamentally affected the psyche of the Shiaand made them, in the past they may have been partly loyal to the state, certainly loyal tothe country. This time I think they lost their loyalty to the state and continued of courseto be loyal to the country. So when the American army moved into Baghdad in April 9th,they came into the country that had been really terribly rocked by not only wars, the IranIraq war but also by the violence used by the regime that there is various segments ofpopulation as well as the sanction period of the 1990's which destroyed the fabric of theIraqi society, basically destroyed the middleclass, and the middleclass or the existence ofthe middleclass was the backbone of the US project if there was one. And the backboneof the liberal democratic project, liberal democratic Iraqi project if there was one.Without a middleclass it would have been next impossible to establish a democratic orderthat could be routed in society.None of this was taken into account frankly in all of the opposition conferences andseminars and meeting that we had either independently or at the US administration. TheUS administration contrary to what people think was not really influence by the Iraqiopposition. Especially some names (indiscernible) his affect on the US policy, this isreally I think putting the cart before the horse. US policy was driven in by people ofWashington not by visual thinking and representations of the Iraqi opposition. But Icould sense even that later day, when we came clearly that the United States was going toembark on the invasion and occupation of Iraq that there was no coherence, there was nostructure to the American Project. The history of weapons of mass destruction really itdidn't feature whatsoever and are thinking of Iraqi figures before the war. To us it wasjust a very good excuse to have the United States on our side and get them to do the heavylifting of over therein a regime which would be an impossible in my opinion to over frontand then the other way. The Iraqi opposition simply did not have the evidence to do that.All was, we were not given the evidence to do that.So when the American army entered Baghdad four years ago we felt that we were goingbuild a new democratic liberal order based on notion or citizenship and that would beinclusive based on the notion of the tolerance society. And we were rudely shaken bywhat we saw there. The CPA which came into power in Iraq as a result of the failure ofthe first American led administration of Iraq, the so called (indiscernible) which was ledby General (indiscernible) came into Iraq really not knowing what to expect, not knowinganything about the country but still guided the midst of the existence of this ephemeralmiddleclass and through a constant reputation of notion such as liberty, democracy,human rights, things like that, they thought they will into the country a kind of westleaning fertility. What happened was at the CPA become increasingly more, disoriented,increasingly more incoherent and the entire American project in Iraq began to falter very,very early on. In writing my book I kept a diary which was really very important tool forme in remembering and trying to reconstruct events and my responses to them. And Iremember writing in October 2003, just after an attack on Wolfowitz was then staying atthe Rasheed Hotel inside the Green Zone that this project is going to fail. It is going tofail because of the, there was no structure to it, there was no end purpose to it and it didnot seem to be something that had a specific end result to which the United State wasgoing commit itself, commit its power and the Iraqi opposition very quickly timed intofractions that were vying for power and seeking to establish the relative power vis-ÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â -viseach other why abandoning the notion of creating a kind of common vision for the country.The milestones that we imposed on the political process, primarily as a result of thedomestic American political pressures, these specific milestones, transfer of sovereigntyto Iraqi government before the end of June. The elections to be held before the end ofJanuary 2005, a constitution to be negotiated by August 2005 and a referendum to beapplied in October 2005 and another set of elections in December of 2005. All of thesewere milestones that were imposed on a very unstable political foundation, a veryunstable and shifting political foundation. Not taking into account the enormousconsequences that arose inside Iraq and in the region as the result of the Americaninvasion and occupation of the country. It basically up ended power structures that hadbeen in place for decades if not centuries and created a situation inside the Middle Eastwhere countries had to recon with the transfer of Iraq from one category of country toanother category of country and had to recon with the presents of large American troopsand the effects of these troops on their own internal security.The transfer of sovereignty which was supposed to put into place a more responsive Iraqigovernment, in fact deepened in many ways, the device inside the country, deepened thefishers inside the country. And set the times of politics rather than in times of issues butmore in times of ethnicity and sect. Now whether this was inevitable or not, in given thehistory of violence of the state against its own population and the history ofdiscrimination and advantage and disadvantage as another issue. But the terms of politicswere set in a specific way as a result of the, this milestone approach. By the time theconstitution was being negotiated, it became clear that this was not a document, it isgoing to be a kind of founding national compact that you had in this country with the yourown constitution. It was more a series of deals that were broke up by the political figures,each one trying to maximize his group or his particular sectarian or ethnic perspective. Infact the constitution if true to be told was written effectively in less than 4 or 5 weeks.It's literally, inexplicable given the nature of the problems of the country. Many casesthat went through and the elections of December 2005 set basically in concrete the natureof politics which is going to be driven by sectarian and ethnic considerations.What we have now is a situation where it is very unlikely that you can overcome theresults of one of the few positive results or affects in the Iraq of the overthrow of theregime. If we make a balance sheet along side of course the huge advantage to Iraq andIraqis a removal of the dictatorship and the tyranny, of empowering certain people whowere disembarked and giving rights that did not exists before. Maybe these rights areonly couched in technical or theoretical terms. But they have set the framework I thinkfor future political structure of the country. But if you compare it to the other side of theequation these are the positive. If you compare it to the other side of the equation ofcourse you see violence, you see mayhem, you see killings on the huge scale, you seeendless terrorism and outrageous and bombings, population displacements, refugees andnew refugee crisis emerging. And you wonder whether the whole thing really holdstogether, whether one would cancel the other out. Before what was in my mind a veryclear and consistent reality which is actually as we always through a tyranny, we alwaysthrough a dictatorship and we empowered, the groups were disempowered. Overtimebecame whittled away by the missteps and just simple incoherence of all the policies thatwere pursued by the United States and the narrowness and the self-centeredness of theIraqi political class that emerged to act as interlocuters.There is a huge range of issues now that need to be looked out from the Iraqi perspectiveand they range from the political securities issues, economics issues, constitutions issues,institutional issues, each of these are enormously complex and have their own range ofproblems, their own range of complexities. For example if you look at the securityproblems facing the government right now, we have issues like the surge, we have issueslike civilization, we have issues like the state of the military, our own military thecapability on the Iraqi military to confirm this challenges. The insurgency what is the socalled nationalist or "legitimate insurgency" what scale is it, we have this issue of AlQaeda and terrorism. The political fissures inside the ruling political condition is alsoextremely problematic and has recedes in my mind of further conflict. Well then the Shiaruled between the Shia's and the Sunni's and so on. The certain fundamental questionsthat need to be asked can these two main communities, the Shia's and the Sunni's theArab's, they are both Arab's. Can they coexist in the context of Iraq? We now know Ithink that the clots have opted out of any other identity apart from their own nationalidentity. So to get to think them in Iraqi context you may have to coach them over a longperiod of time to do that. Can the Arabs of the region, especially the Sunni Arab powerslike Saudi Arabia, Turkey to some extent, its not a non Arab country, can they adjust tothe changed realities inside Iraq. Can Iran which has been in part undoubtedly has seenthis part and influence expand as a result of the overflow of the regime. And as the resultof the reweaving of the nexus of this relationship with the Shia of Iraq, can the Iran'spower be somehow contained accommodated or in somewhere or another adjusted, andhow does US fit into all of this. I mean ultimately we have to ask ourselves what thisUnited States want from Iraq after this terribly expensive investment. Terribly expensiveinvestment in money and not let alone that blood that has been shed.We are talking about nearly probably a trillion dollars would be spend by the UnitedStates after this exercises is over. What do you get out of that and what do you want fromIraq after that? I mean if you take the entirety of Iraq's oil production for free for the next50 years and probably would not compensate for the trillion dollars that would be spenton this war. We have to ask ourselves what this, what are realistic goals that the UnitedStates expects in Iraq. And how the imbalances inside Iraq partly created by the UnitedStates, partly created by the failure of the Iraqi political class. How are these going to beaccommodated and adjusted and a new order that would ensure stability inside thecountry and that would give the region, regional powers some element of concern, someelement of safety about their concerns.All of these I think are issues that are enlarged by the reductionism that comes fromtalking about whether the surge will succeed or fail or whether the United States shouldkeep or pull out it's troops. These are obviously very important and maybe the onlyimportant issues for the United States as of today. But from the Iraqi point of view, I askmyself when and if United States decides what it does decide, does it take into accountwhat it had done, the consequences of what it has done and how the region and the Iraqipeople going to adjust to that. Without really knowing how all this is going to fittogether, I think this reductions argument will really yield a very little results from anIraqi perspective except more insecurity and more instability. Thank you.