PAFI President Sheikh Jamal al-Dhari announced that next month in Paris, PAFI would bring together leading Iraqis, from all communities, in a major national reconciliation conference. This Reconciliation Conference will draw all parties not currently in the government structures – to discuss and convene a peace and reconciliation plan for Iraq.
Sheikh Jamal spoke at a high level conference in Rome, Italy of the real desire for peace among all Iraqis – Shia, Sunni, Kurdish, Turkmen, Christian, and Yazidi alike. Government incompetence and corruption, militia and Daesh atrocities, and a culture of unaccountability have enraged the people of Iraq to a point where they are ready to come together in a spirit of negotiation.
Al-Dhari noted that leaders from both the Shia and Sunni communities recognize the need for an elemental restructuring of the political system; the status quo has left Iraq only with violence and destruction.
For the first time in an international venue, Iraqi leaders from all communities – Sunni, Shia, Christian, Yazidi, technocrats, non-religious, and former military officers – will discuss and work towards an inclusive peace and reconciliation process.
This will be a significant step towards true peace and reconciliation in Iraq, and will also represent the first time Iraqi’s are coming together under a neutral banner of their own volition.
It was noted at the conference that all segments of Iraqi society are ready for peace. The recent developments in Iraq – politically, economically and socially, recent military action, as well as the very real concerns over the Mosul Dam, offer an opportunity for all Iraqis to set aside their difference to work for a better Iraq though a meaningful peace and reconciliation process.
The Sheikh also informed the conference that the Sunni community has come together under his leadership. In Doha last September, a meeting of numerous Sunni groups agreed to a 14-point plan for political reform and engagement. The plan includes: a new constitution, judicial reform, separation of powers, and formation of a civil state based on Iraqi national citizenship – paramount principles to a transformational renewal of Iraq. The meeting was co-chaired by Sheikh Jamal al-Dhari and then Qatari Foreign Minister H.E. Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah. Observers included Mr. Jan Kubis, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq, and representatives from the governments of: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the State of Kuwait, and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
The Rome conference was sponsored by Peace Ambassadors for Iraq (PAFI) and included security experts, foreign diplomatic officials, leading academics, and members of the European press at the Center for American Studies in Rome, Italy to discuss systemic impediments to peace in his native Iraq, and propose tangible solutions in securing a future for his people.
The Sheikh and his fellow panelists provided insight into the multidimensional aspects of conflict in Iraq, the inherent corruption, and divisiveness of the political system, serious military shortcomings, and pervasive sectarian disunity.
Each member of the panel, moderated by foreign affairs expert Paul Hamill, then offered a plan of action towards a renewal of the status quo across every level of Iraqi society. Sheikh al-Dhari concluded the panel and conference by revealing plans for an international summit in Paris to establish a peace and reconciliation plan for Iraq.
Former Italian Minister of Foreign Relations Franco Frattini began the panel by highlighting the governmental challenges facing the country. Local municipalities and tribal governments are breaking allegiance to Baghdad in favor of pursuing their own interests. Sectarian loyalty is placed far above national unity at the detriment of a meaningful governance process. Mr. Frattini said the path forward should include a wholesale transformation of government institutions from sectarianism to secularist principles. A secular national attitude in Iraq is the only way to protect all of its citizens and ensure a fair political process.
U.S Army War College Fellow Col. Mike Jason offered valuable on-the-ground military experience to the panel. During his long career in Mosul and elsewhere, he witnessed the erosion of Iraq’s most important resource: trust. Trust in the government, and in each other was diminished because of sectarian preferential policies on a military, political, and economic level. In order to combat terrorist groups like Daesh, a reformation of military policies based on national identity is essential. Col. Jason decried the international community’s poor track record and called for a serious allocation of global effort, time, and resources to train and advise Iraqi security forces.
National Security Expert Edward Powell spoke of the fundamental problems impeeding progress in Iraq today. A lack of basic services, defunct economic conditions, an uneducated workforce, sectarianism, and meddling by foreign interests have contributed to the failed state that Iraq is today. First, A restoration of competent government services will have a direct impact on the economic distortion caused, in part, by a seriously denigrated national infrastructure. Second, the massive exodus of educated leaders is due to the abysmal security situation in Iraq – two issues that need immediate remedy. Third, international meddling by countries with interests in Iraq prevent the people from determining their own future. Finally, a visionary leader is required to implement these reforms and unify the Iraqi people towards a peaceful future.
Nonresident Atlantic Council Fellow Zack Gold provided a regional perspective to put the Iraq situation in a Middle East context. Mr. Gold said that the impermanence of stability in these countries requires a long-term strategy for stability based on economic and political security. The actions of internal and external forces must evaluate their short-term achievements against their long-term policy implications. Succesful military and governmental strategies in Iraq and elsewhere require effective coordination aimed at eliminating future unanticipated mistakes. Errors in political calculus in Syria, Libya, and Iraq have led to bloody civil wars, an unprecedented migration crisis, and the rise of Daesh. It is imperative Mr. Gold notes, for the West to offer assistance to Iraq and the Middle East, but that ultimately the onus of national empowerment is on the people of those countries.
The Peace and Reconciliation Conference will serve as an inclusive forum for all segments of the Iraqi population to come together under neutral terms to reach a lasting peace settlement. It will aim to achieve a universally beneficial political agreement that ensures a genuinely representative decision-making process in Baghdad. With the support of the international community and the hope of the Iraqi people, PAFI will facilitate an unprecedented meeting of the country’s leaders in Paris to negotiate a national vision for the future based on citizenship and the rule of law.