Davos07: Iraq

I am at a Davos session on the future of Iraq. Live-blogging….

Richard Haass, ex of the State Department, asks whether there is something in the Iraqi culture that made the violence inevitable or whether it was the result of mistakes.

Ali Abd Al-Mahdi, vice-president of Iraq says that the Iraqi government and American government made mistakes. “Some people say that we are in a civil war. I don’t agree with that. We are in a war against civilians, a war that really targets the whole society and it started as such. Terrorism took place in Iraq and then the insurgency took place…. And then later on… sectarian violence took place….”

Well, what’s worse: civil war or three wars?

Haass asks Adnan Pachachi, former president of Iraq, whether Iraqis see themselves as Iraqi. He replies: “We have inherited from the previous regime a really terrible legacy: the culture of violence, the culture of corruption, and also the culture of dependence on the government…. When I went back to Baghdad in 2003 everyone is telling me we want a government that will tell us what to do.” He says the years of sanctions destroyed the middle class and the social fabric of the country. He says that most Iraqis have an allegiance to Iraq.

“If because of domestic pressures in the United States and they cannot continue taking on this burden,” Pachaci says, then they should consider internationalizing the effort with the U.N.

Haass asked Abd Al-Mahdi whether the U.S. troop surge is welcomed by the Iraqi government. He says they believe they need more Iraqi forces in Baghdad. “So it’s up to the international forces to decide whether we need more troops or not. This is, to me, a technical question.” Well, not to those troops.

He says they are “reasonably optimistic” about their latest security plan for Baghdad because “it has some new features.” Later, asked why the latest addition to troops should have any different results from prior additions, he talks about how access to Baghdad will be restricted, how there is a commander for this effort, how neighborhoods will be cleared of insurgents and then patrolled. “I don’t think we will end violence but I think we can change some of the course of events, we can have a more peaceful capital, which is our goal.”

Haass says to the vice-president that people have lost confidence in the Iraqi government and that it is more sectarian than truly national. Words saying nothing follow: “Anyone can say what’s right or what’s wrong and what we need in Iraq…. About the government being sectarian, he says, that the prior regime was imbalanced and so “deprived people” now come to the fore to get involved and to others this may look imbalanced.

It’s striking what a politician he is, saying nothing at all.

Haass asks Pachachi about the execution of Saddam. He replies that he is against the death penalty: “This is a barbarous relic of dark ages.” He adds that the trial was flawed. But he says the event will be forgotten.

On democracy, he says it is about more than governing the nation but is about protecting the rights of minorities. He says that there are some ministries that are restricted to one ethnic group. “There is no democracy without adequate protection of the political minorities.”