A Leader in Waiting

Adnan Pachachi, a senior Iraqi exile figure, tells Arabian Business that the country needs the equivalent of a second Marshall Plan if it is to stand a chance and wants the UN to play an active role in the rebuilding Iraq.

  • E-Mail
By  Massoud Derhally Published  March 30, 2003

|~||~||~|At 80 years old, you may want to reflect on the life you have lived and the decisions you have made. That is not exactly how Adnan Pachachi, a former Iraqi foreign minister and now secretary general of the opposition Democratic Centrist Tendency sees it. Pachachi is one of four men (Ahmed Chalabi, Nizar Al-Khazraji and Najib Salihi are the others) tipped to play a key role in post- war Iraq. Parts of the US media have gone a step further by predicting that he will be a future leader of Iraq.

Those who know him well say Pachachi is a simple but charismatic man. He served in the Iraqi government just before the Baathist party came to power and while he does not have a major following in Iraq, he is highly respected and is said to be Iraq’s route to a democratic future. Pachachi, they say, has a good track record. He helped draft the UAE constitution and has worked as a representative of the Emirati president, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, for 20 years.

Emphasising the significant role Pachachi may play, a relative of Iraq’s first prime minister, Jaffar Al Askari (1887 - 1936), told Arabian Business, “I don’t think he will be symbolic at all. He is not like the old King of Afghanistan who suddenly came back from exile. I think out of all the people that are outside the country at the moment, he is the most respected.”

On the eve of the war in Iraq, Arabian Business spoke to Adnan Pachachi. In the following interview, Pachachi stresses that the future of the country rests on a secular constitution that will be drawn up by an elected parliament and put to the Iraqi people in a referendum. He hints that Iraq might seek permission from OPEC to exceed its oil output quotas and he underscores the need for international donor support. Finally, Pachachi addresses the role that Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein, the self proclaimed heir to the Iraqi throne, will play in post-war Iraq, as well as relations with Kuwait and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

AB: What will the situation in Iraq be after the demise of the current regime?

AP: As far as what will happen after the change of regime, we have advocated a transitional period, during which an Iraqi civil administration will be chosen after extensive consultations conducted by a representative of the secretary general of the United Nations. That civil administration will be composed of highly qualified technocrats with experience in government and a small political body to oversee the transition period.

AB: What role will the new civil administration play in post-war Iraq?

AP: This Iraqi civil administration will have the following tasks: firstly, to maintain law and order in the country; secondly, to protect Iraq from any possible incursions from outside; thirdly, to provide the essential services to the people in this transition period and fourthly, and most importantly, to prepare the country for elections by enacting an election law based on universal adult suffrage. This will provide the opportunity for the Iraqi people to engage freely in normal political activities such as the formation of parties, the guarantee of the right of assembly, free speech and press and so on, so that elections can be held under international supervision for a constituent assembly.

AB: What will be the assembly’s role?

AP: It will draft a constitution containing irrevocable guarantees for human rights and ensuring that there will be a peaceful transfer of power through periodic elections and to make absolutely certain that the military shall be subordinate to the elected civilian authority. When this constitution is ready it will be submitted to the Iraqi people in a referendum and after that elections will be held in accordance with the provisions of that constitution.
Thereby, you will have the first genuine Iraqi democratic government, which will have its legitimacy derived from the consent of the governed and from the freely expressed wishes of the Iraqi people. This is our programme and we are convening a conference in London on the 29th of this month [March] to which Iraqis of all political persuasions will be invited.

AB: Who will attend the conference?

AP: Mainly there will be liberal, democratic, secular Iraqis because this is what the majority of Iraqis are. We reject the idea of dividing Iraqis into ethnic, sectarian or religious divisions. With the Kurds, of course, it is another matter because we have recognised the distinct Kurdish national identity from the beginning of the Iraqi state. As far as the rest of Iraq is concerned — and this includes the Kurds — the main emphasis will be on Iraqi identity, irrespective of what their ethnic origins are or religious affiliation. We believe Iraqis should not be divided into sects and religions. Because among the Shiites, among the Sunnis, among the Kurds and the Christians you have people of all political persuasions: communists, liberals, socialists, capitalists, religious fundamentalists, secularists, nationalists. You have everything. What differentiates Iraqi people really is not their ethnic origin or religious affiliation, but rather their political beliefs and aspirations.

AB: Do you think the constitution should be secular or will it have a religious base?

AP: The Iraqi people in their majority are secular in outlook. The religious forces really represent a minority of Iraqis, so it will be a liberal, democratic constitution.

AB: Do you think the international community will support Iraq or do you think it will be left in the lurch, as some say Afghanistan has been?

AP: We hope the international community will support Iraq, but anyway Iraqis can handle the job themselves. Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, is a wealthy country. It has a large number of highly educated well-qualified professional in all fields and therefore Iraqis can manage their own affairs without difficulty. They need time and peace and they need peace and stability.

AB: How much power will the military will have in post-war Iraq?

AP: As I said, in any democracy the military is subordinate to the elected civil government, but of course they will have a role to defend the country and see that its borders are not violated by outside powers. During the transition period, the Iraqi army will be an important instrument for the maintenance of peace and order in the country, until we are able to reorganise our resources to maintain order in the country. The army will then revert to the task for which it was created, mainly to defend the country against outside aggression.

AB: In your opinion, if the current regime in Iraq falls, what are the immediate challenges for the transitional government?

AP: There should be the immediate involvement of the United Nations. We hope that the Security Council will authorise the Secretary General to appoint a special representative in Iraq who will conduct extensive consultations with Iraqis in and outside Iraq. As a result of his consultations, he will be able to appoint an interim administration of technocrats and a political body to oversee everything. But this will only be during the transition period, which hopefully will not exceed two years. This is our hope.

AB: Do you have an estimate as to how much post-war reconstruction of Iraq will cost?

AP: The first thing will be to maintain peace and order and then to revive the economy. You have to raise the purchasing power of the currency of Iraq and provide the central bank with foreign currency reserves to maintain a decent level for the currency. We’ll have to get all the frozen Iraqi assets released and given to the civil administration of Iraq. We have to ask OPEC to release us from the quotas so that we can export as much oil as we can during the immediate period after the war. Most importantly, we need massive infusion of capital from outside, some kind of a Marshall Plan, in which various countries of the world, including Arab countries and industrialised countries like Japan, Germany and the US, contribute. We need US $80 billion in the first year or so.

AB: What role will Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein [who heads the Constitutional Monarchy Movement and is one of the major opposition figures] play?

AP: Unfortunately, the Hashemite family are divided among themselves on this issue, as to who is the legitimate heir to the late king of Iraq. They are not agreed on any particular person. Secondly, Sharif Ali has been very active. I happened to know his father very well. He was a very close and dear friend of mine. I hope he’ll be able to play a role during the transition period, but, of course, the decision of whether to revert to the monarchy or keep a republican system will be made by the constituents of the assembly, which will be elected by the people, and then the matter will be submitted to the people of Iraq to decide.

AB: Have you been approached to play a senior role in post-war Iraq and what role would you be playing?

AP: Well, yes, I have been approached by a lot of Iraqis and non-Iraqis. But you see, I feel that a role has to be absolutely clear. I would not take part in a transitional government until I know exactly what are its powers and to what extent it will be able to act freely. Of course, if it’s the desire of a substantial number of Iraqis for me to play a role, I would not hesitate.

AB: Do you think the new Iraq will recognise Kuwait as an independent country?

AP: Of course. Iraq has recognised Kuwait since 1963, forty years now. Iraq has recognised Kuwait and it has maintained normal diplomatic relations with Kuwait and there are no problems any more between Kuwait and Iraq. Even the frontier question was settled, Iraq agreed to it and the UN sanctioned it. So, there is absolutely no reason not to have normal relations between Kuwait and Iraq because after all they are neighbours and there are so many historical and family relations.

AB: What are the chances of Iraq establishing ties with Israel?

AP: My point of view is that only after they have come to some agreement with the Palestinians under which a viable independent Palestinian state is established in Gaza and the West Bank, and the Palestinians are able to exercise their right to self determination and live side by side with Israel, then and only then will we be able to have normal relations with Israel. We are involved in the Palestine issue out of sympathy and support for the Palestinians and it is up to the Palestinians to decide what they want and then we will follow.

AB: So you are hopeful that a modern and prosperous Iraq will emerge?

AP: I am very optimistic. After three wars and twelve years of sanctions, I think the Iraqi people have learned the virtue of tolerance and, as I said, since most of them are secular and liberal in outlook and with the spread of education I think they have learned a lesson — that they can’t afford to fight each other and try to gain advantage at the expense of others. I am optimistic, but only time will tell.

Interview: Massoud A. Derhally||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code