SPIEGEL Interview with Iraq's Ayad Allawi 'Every Corner in the Region Is Frightened'
Part 2: 'We Have a Constitutional Problem in Iraq'
SPIEGEL: Iraqis do not blame al-Maliki alone for this misery, however. They do blame politicians in general, yourself included. Some voters have risked their lives by participating in the elections, but even after nearly five months of negotiations, you haven't yet succeeded in forming a government.
Allawi: This is democracy. And because of the fact that electoral alliances are formed in Iraq even after the election, and the fact that al-Maliki's list succeeded in pushing for a recount of the votes, we lost three precious months of time.
SPIEGEL: America is now pushing for a power-sharing agreement between your list and al-Maliki's list and for important cabinet posts to be split between the two.
Allawi: It is not the Americans who are pushing. It was me who convinced the US and the United Nations to move forward through a devolution of power.
SPIEGEL: What does that mean? You will become prime minister and al-Maliki will be president? Or vice-versa?
Allawi: No. We have a constitutional problem in Iraq. All the power is focused in the office of the prime minister, no matter whether that person is me or al-Maliki. My list has suggested splitting this power. The idea is to set up a modus according to which I can accept a position, not necessarily that of prime minister, and he can accept a position, not necessarily that of prime minister, because both of us will be part of the decision-making process and hold the important keys in our hands.
SPIEGEL: But three years ago you told us that Iraq needs a strong leader. You said this country cannot even be governed otherwise.
Allawi: Yes, and I stand by this even today. But the results of the election were so close that we cannot practically adhere to this. We have not yet transitioned to democracy. Even in 2007 we thought that we had progressed further than we actually have today. We have reached a point now where nobody trusts anybody and where the future of the country and the entire region is at stake.
SPIEGEL: And at this critical point of time you decided to break off talks with al-Maliki because he called your group a "Sunni" one? Is this responsible behavior?
Allawi: Absolutely, yes. If we hadn't objected to this lie we would have lost our constituency. Our voters, the still-strong group of secular people in Iraq, are steadfast on the issue of sectarianism. A Sunni in our group doesn't want to be seen as a Sunni, a Shia doesn't want to be seen as a Shia.
SPIEGEL: Why is the political class that returned from exile with the help of American tanks, yourself included, so extremely incapable of finding even minimal compromises?
Allawi: Because the political process we have witnessed over the past seven years has been deeply corrupted and riddled by terror and violence. This process has not grown from Iraqi sources. It was a process guarded, even guaranteed by America. After such a process, where should compromise and stability come from? We should have linked our Status of Forces Agreement with the US to political reform.
SPIEGEL: You made headlines when you recently met with the Shia firebrand and former militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, a man whose supporters tried to kill you in December 2005 in Najaf.
Allawi: This meeting happened, almost accidentally, in Damascus. I have always been against militias and will never change this attitude. To tell you the truth, I found this guy very honest, straightforward and uncomplicated. We have known his family of learned men for generations, so I asked him: None of your relatives has ever advocated sectarianism -- how come you have become part of a sectarian set-up? He answered: I am full-heartedly against sectarianism. I am all for an Iraqi solution for our problems, not a Shiite one.
SPIEGEL: Some experts see his mysterious retreat as the real reason behind Iraq's improvement in 2008. He was considered by many Iraqis and Americans to be "the most dangerous man in Iraq."
Allawi: If this was the case then all of us are dangerous. This man has 40 seats in parliament and has a grassroots movement in this country.
SPIEGEL: Do you expect him to return to Iraq and to politics?
Allawi: He should. It would be good for Iraq and his own people.
SPIEGEL: Which foreign power currently wields the most influence in Iraqi politics?
SPIEGEL: Can you elaborate?
SPIEGEL: Why not? Many countries are currently worried about Iran because of its nuclear program.
Allawi: For me, Iran's influence is not positive. I am certainly not an advocate of Iranian policies. I am even sure that they have a red line and a veto on me. But I think the world should engage and talk with Iran and try to see and feel where the fears of Iran lie. The Iranians are logical people. We should try to convince them that proliferation does not serve their purpose in the end.
SPIEGEL: You travel from one Arab capital to the other, you know all the Arab leaders and you also know that they are arming themselves.
Allawi: Everybody is frightened. Every corner of the region is frightened. Even America is frightened, even Iran is frightened. We are heading towards a situation which almost compares to the Cuban crisis in 1962. There is an umbrella of fear spreading above us. Everybody should do his utmost to prevent tensions. I am calling for an international conference on the issue of proliferation.
SPIEGEL: Can Iraq live with a nuclear Iran?
Allawi: I don't think so.
SPIEGEL: Do you think that war will break out over Iran's nuclear program?
Allawi: It is a very high possibility.
Interview conducted by Bernhard Zand
- Part 1: 'Every Corner in the Region Is Frightened'
- Part 2: 'We Have a Constitutional Problem in Iraq'