Iraqi prime minister: My country needs more help from the U.S.
An Iraqi soldier inspects a destroyed building that was used by the Islamic state in Mosul. (Ahmed Jalil/European Pressphoto Agency)
Two weeks ago, I visited Iraqi troops in western Mosul as they prepared to liberate the last terrorist-controlled neighborhoods in the city. By any standard, they are heroes. I did not ask their religious, regional or ethnic origins. I saw them for what they were: Iraqis standing together against the cruelest killers on Earth.
Some of the soldiers I met may have fallen since then in house-to-house fighting. With their sacrifices, our troops have helped to deal a death blow to ISIS, and the terrorist organization is losing its largest stronghold in Iraq and the aura of invincibility it once claimed.
Having spilled our blood together with the United States to win this war, we want to work together to win the peace.
On Monday, I visited President Trump at his invitation and also this week attended the conference of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS. President Trump and I discussed how to build upon the Strategic Framework Agreement our two countries signed in 2008. We ask the United States to join us in urging the international community to fulfill its funding pledges to secure and stabilize our communities and prevent ISIS and al-Qaeda from reemerging. We also need U.S. know-how and investment as we revive our economy and renew our democracy. In the spirit of our 2008 agreement, we want to engage in a partnership that involves political, diplomatic, defense, security, educational and cultural cooperation.
Over the past few years, military advisers from the United States and other coalition countries have helped Iraqis turn around our armed forces so that we can fight and win our battles ourselves. Now, we ask Americans to assist us as we restore our infrastructure and diversity and partially privatize our economy.
We need U.S. investment to rebuild our housing, hospitals, schools, sanitation facilities, roads, highways and bridges. We can also benefit from Americans’ technical expertise as we improve and expand our telecommunications, information technology and health-care sectors. Iraq needs U.S. financiers and corporate partners to help us develop agriculture, petrochemicals and other industries.
As Iraqis wind down the war and rebuild our communities and our economy, our challenges can be Americans’ opportunities. But, ultimately, we ourselves will write a new chapter in our history.
For more than half a century, we have endured a tyrannical dictatorship, international isolation, three wars and ceaseless, senseless violence. When Saddam Hussein was overthrown, Iraqis resolved never to allow one man, one political party or one segment of society to dominate our diverse nation. Now we have the opportunity to build an Iraq worthy of what we are: a pluralist people, steeped in history, striving to build one nation in peace and mutual respect.
As prime minister, I have seen that most Iraqis want Iraq to succeed. First, we must finish the job of defeating ISIS militarily. With more than 200,000 Mosul residents displaced, along with more than 3 million other Iraqis, we must restore public services and rebuild our infrastructure. We must reconcile our society across sectarian and ethnic lines. Houses of worship must be safe and sanctified. When all our citizens know that their voices are heard, their dignity is respected and their needs are recognized, then we can be sure that they will not turn to violence.
In a region whose sectarian divisions our own society strives to resist, Iraq must maintain friendly relations with all our neighbors, while preserving our sovereignty and ensuring that no neighbor exercises outsize influence within our country. That is why we welcome the United States’ continued engagement, consistent with the Strategic Framework Agreement, as well as strengthened ties with our neighbors, as exemplified by the recent visit to Baghdad by leaders and diplomats from throughout the Middle East.
We cannot stop senseless violence without the rule of law and security forces that represent and respect every segment of society. Our government strives to create an independent and impartial judiciary that applies the law without bias or favoritism. And we are incorporating into our security forces all Iraqis who have taken up arms to defend their families and communities.
But for our citizens to fight for the government, they need a government worth fighting for. In the midst of the war against ISIS, we have also waged war on corruption in civil and military institutions. Now that our nation is returning to peacetime, we need to resume the work of reducing the bloated bureaucracy, eliminating ethnic quotas and ceremonial positions, recruiting qualified professionals, and devolving decision-making and the delivery of services to local communities, where people can raise their voices and get results.
As we right-size government, we need to grow and diversify our economy, encouraging entrepreneurship and foreign investment, privatizing state-owned enterprises and reducing our reliance on oil. Earning a living peacefully is the best alternative to taking others’ lives violently.
Iraqis don’t want to kill each other, to get blown up when they walk outside their doors or to be taught to hate their neighbors because of who they are or how they worship. Instead, we want what most of the world takes for granted: the opportunity to live in dignity and build better lives for our children.
Together with our international partners, we are working to build a new Iraq advancing this age-old dream. Americans have built that kind of country. With your help and goodwill, so will we.
(c) The Washington Post 2017