National Platform for Iraqi Women

With parliamentary elections approaching, Iraqi women are looking for ways to ensure that their voices and concerns are not excluded from the political debate. For the past several years, the ability of Iraqi women to contribute to policy debates has been constrained by security concerns, political instability and corruption. Though Iraqi women are slowly increasing their involvement in government, political parties and civil society organizations, they are still largely absent from decision-making positions within those bodies.
The National Democratic Institute has published this useful report.

Iraqi President writes in the Observer

The Observer carries this comment by President Talabani in which he says that Iraqis have a great regard for and affection towards the British and we are seeking deep, broad and long-term relationships with your politicians, academics, sporting groups and businesses.
We are proud to be your friends
Iraq’s president shares his thoughts about the old regime and his hopes for the future
The Iraqi people now have the right to build their own freedom and are deeply grateful to British prime ministers Sir John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, for their assistance.
At the time, I and other leaders of the Iraqi opposition asked Mr Blair’s government to help the Iraqi people get rid of the dictatorship. And we praise the bravery and sacrifice of British troops.
We suffered under Saddam Hussein in ways that too many in the international community seem to have forgotten. His regime was a republic of fear, which slaughtered Iraqis on an industrial scale and attacked our neighbours. We are fortunate he has gone and that we have a chance to rebuild our society.
Iraq is one of the historical founts of modern civilisation. Our tragedy is that Saddam pillaged our potential for his own purposes.
Now that he is gone we have a great opportunity to overcome our isolation from decades of modernity and to rebuild our links with the international community. Our second parliamentary elections, on 7 March, will provide an opportunity to consolidate our growing democracy and further isolate those who use the bomb and the gun against the will of our own people.
We, as a people, have a great regard for and affection towards the British and we are seeking deep, broad and long-term relationships with your politicians, academics, sporting groups and businesses.
We are a potentially rich country but our legacy is a poor one. We value the ability of British business to unlock our resources through increased investment and by trading with us. Iraq is becoming increasingly open to commerce, which is a means of giving our people the better way of life that they seek and deserve.
It would also be in Britain’s interest to continue its relationship with us. We are proud to be your friends and hope that you will always be our friends, working together for the common good of humanity.
The author is the first non-Arab president of Iraq and founder of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan

Comment on the Inquiry

LFIQ Director Gary Kent has commented on the Inquiry session with Tony Blair at Progress
Too many people have forgotten just how vile and vicious was the regime of Saddam Hussein. A million or more people died as a result of his policies. Saddam personally executed some of his opponents. It was the Republic of Fear. In these circumstances it is probable that even senior figures in the regime would have thought it unwise to tell Saddam that there were no longer any weapons of mass destruction, which he most definitely had had and had used. If the intelligence were drawn from conversations between senior military figures, given their probable reluctance to tell the truth to each other let alone the world, it wouldn’t be surprising if a false picture were built up. In the end, there were no WMD found but this mistake is not a lie.
The inquiry is also examining the aftermath of the intervention and should examine and learn from the initial abysmal failure to plan and implement post war reconstruction.
This allowed a diehard minority of insurgents a fresh and undeserved boost and took many years and wasted lives to overcome.
I also hope that the Chilcot inquiry recognises that Iraqi security and political and economic prospects are steadily improving. Iraqis now have the freedom to build freedom. I have seen in six visits over four years major and growing change for the better. This is particularly the case in the Kurdistan region where political violence has been minute and which could be a magnet for international trade and investment and a gateway to the rest of Iraq in due course.
The priority for us as an organisation that unites supporters and opponents of intervention is to do much more to help Iraqi unions and others.
We should also persuade the UK government to increase its efforts to overcome Iraq’s isolation through trade investment and a whole host of cultural exchanges

Debate on Kurdistan in Parliament

See here for the text of an Adjournment Debate on 12 January on government policy towards Kurdistan in which LFIQ supporter Meg Munn MP referred to the recent APPG visit to the Region.
She said that The year 2003 brought liberation for the people of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, who made up the only Iraqi force that fought alongside British and American forces. However, I believe that the UK has overlooked Kurdistan, the most secure and successful region of Iraq, undermining the whole country’s renewal and hindering British commercial and political objectives.
Politicians and businesspeople whom I met were mystified and disappointed by the British Government’s behaviour since liberation. As the Prime Minister said to me, Kurdistan is the success of UK policy, yet the policy has not involved equal treatment for all the people of Iraq. The UK has been reluctant to develop our relationship with the Kurdish region for fear of causing problems with the majority Arab population, and its continuing improvement and success in the development of democracy and the security of the people is not being embraced as a model for the wider region. Instead, the British Government’s failure to update their understanding of the security situation in the region has damaged British interests.
Trade must be a greater priority in Iraqi Kurdistan. Companies investing there can later expand their operations to the south. For many British and other companies, Kurdistan is now the only part of Iraq that is truly open for business; the rest is only partially open, although I hope that it will catch up with Kurdistan as soon as possible. Kurdistan’s political, civic and business leaders have long appealed for such links. They appreciate the quality and expertise of British companies and institutions and wish to be our political and security ally.

A brief comment on the Inquiry

I have made this brief comment at Progress Online
Gary Kent
Most people have settled views on the military intervention and won’t budge.
We should be clear about what happened and learn lessons – I am particularly concerned about the evident failure of post-war planning. Hubris and short-sightedness as well as a major underestimation of the physical and psychological impact of decades of a fascistic dictatorship caused great damage and bloodshed in which too many Iraqis and allied soldiers needlessly died.
We could focus on that and other issues to the exclusion of everything else but we would also be missing a vital part of the picture – the state of Iraq today and the needs of its people, democratic process and economic reconstruction.
I have had the privilege of visiting Iraq six times since 2006 and have seen fairly rapid change for the better. The second parliamentary elections in Iraq in March will be vital in consolidating politics and isolating terror.
I have mostly stayed in the Kurdistan region which deeply and widely talks of 2003 as a liberation. Some may not like to hear that but it’s the truth of how they see things and it isn’t surprising given that Saddam wanted to wipe the Kurds off the earth with WMD.
I have just returned from a week there meeting the president, prime minister and other senior political and business figures as well as Christian leaders, unions and women’s rights activists. They have made large strides, are seeking to overcome deeply embedded problems and are clearly asking for greater UK and international ties, commerce, investment and cultural exchanges. They rate Britain and its institutions – over half their MPs turned out for seminars by me and Meg Munn on how our system works (or doesn’t). Yet so much of the debate around the Chilcot inquiry ignores all this.
People who take different positions on the intervention or the inquiry can and should work together to support Iraqis who are trying to build a decent and democratic society.
I think it’s particularly important that the labour movement here does a lot more to support the labour movement there. Unions were nearly liquidated by Saddam and have re-emerged as a force, but are still stymied by illiberal laws and practices. International solidarity is vital to them as it is to the rest of their compatriots.

Appeal in Guardian for engagement with Iraq

Colin Bower (Letters, 23 December) makes an important point about Iraqi support for the removal of Saddam. This is certainly the case in Kurdistan where WMD were used as part of a genocidal campaign in the late 80s. But it is also clear that the terrible failure of postwar reconstruction alienated many Iraqis and needlessly fuelled the insurgency against the federal, democratic and pluralist settlement which, we hope, will be consolidated in the parliamentary elections in March. Opinions here remain deeply polarised on the merits of the intervention. But we urge those who express solidarity with the people of Iraq to support Iraqis who are asking for increased UK trade, investment and other exchanges to rebuild their shattered economy and society.
Cllr Clive Furness (Newham) Chair
Gary Kent Director
Labour Friends of Iraq
This letter appeared in the Guardian on 4 January.