[Mahmoud al-Mash'hadani is the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament. He was interviewed by Jawdat Kadhem. Gilbert Achcar translated this excerpt of the interview from Al-Hayat, Feb. 11, 2007. Mash'hadani is a prominent member of the Arab Sunni "Iraqi Accord Front." See also a previous statement by Mash'hadani translated by Achcar.]
Q. What is the problem in Iraq according to you, as speaker of the parliament: is it the system of [sectarian and ethnic] distribution of posts, or the government, or sectarianism, or terrorism, or the occupation?
Mahmoud al-Mash’hadani. The flaw lies in every aspect of Iraqi life. It began when the Americans came to Iraq without an international cover. The first source of our problem is the weakness of international action toward the Iraqi crisis beforehand, and then the American army came and overthrew the previous regime by military means although it was possible to overthrow it by other means. Thus, the other flaw comes from the forces that pretended that they wanted to liberate Iraq. Then we saw the deadly error of dismantling the state and this showed that the plan is not in the interest of Iraq, as its goal was not only regime change, but to split the country up socially and geographically.
There is no doubt that the performance of the government is weak, but if we look into the weak spots, we will find that the occupier and the multinational forces are responsible for the flaw. Why didn’t they form a new Iraqi army that is cohesive, trained, equipped and purged of corrupt elements? Why did they carry on all these years, while seeing the flaw?
The Iraqi soldier carries a gun sent back by Poland: the Poles stole Iraqi equipment from Hilla and took it to their country, painted it and sent it back to us at the cost of 2000 [US] dollars per gun, whereas it does not cost more than 50 dollars in Iraq. Thus was the size of the conspiracy against the Iraqi army and thus were those who collaborated with the invaders at the beginning of the occupation — a bunch of thieves and agents and mercenaries. When we woke up from this pain and dolor, we found ourselves with no clear mechanism and no means and we thus reached our present state.
We have a parliament than can say yes or no: it is the only institution in Iraq that holds its own power of decision, but there are many forces wanting to weaken this parliament.
When [Nancy] Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, visited Iraq recently, she did not bother to visit the Iraqi parliament — she who pretends to be the leader of the Democrats and wants us to build a democratic state in Iraq. She limited her visit to meeting a number of military chiefs and unknown politicians, after her meeting with the Iraqi prime minister.
We even believe that this sectarian trump card pitting Sunnis against Shiites and others was set up by hands serving the occupation.
Gilbert Achcar grew up in Lebanon. He is the author of, among other works, The Clash of Barbarisms, now out in a second expanded edition, Eastern Cauldron (2004), and a book of dialogues with Noam Chomsky on the Middle East, Perilous Power. He has recently been interviewed on “The Iraqi Debacle.”