Mokhtar Lamani, the former representative of the Arab League in Iraq, resigned from his post last week, protesting against the absence of an Arab will, vision, and plan to help Iraqis out of their ordeal.
Lamani: The situation in Iraq is far more
serious than what the media shows
The Moroccan diplomat, 56, was the only Arab ambassador based in Baghdad. The others tackle their duties from the Jordanian capital, Amman.
He said in his letter of resignation that it is nearly impossible to achieve anything in the troubled country.
Al Jazeera.net spoke to him about his experience in Iraq.
Al Jazeera.net: How bad is the sectarian strife in Iraq, and do you classify it as a civil war?
In terms of violence, the situation in Iraq is far more serious than what the media shows, simply because media cover only the main incidents. On the ground there are many tragedies that go untouched by the media.
However, I cannot say that it is a civil war. The people of Iraq are fine with each other, they love each other. I have met people who were forced out of their houses; they are still hoping to go back; they realise that their ordinary fellow citizens have nothing to do with it, it is all about some extremists who claim themselves as representatives of their respective sects and/or ethnicities. Iraqi people realise that. It is not a civil war because ordinary people are still keeping themselves away from it.
Do you not think the Arab countries stood short of supporting your mission in Iraq because the legitimacy of the current Iraqi government is still questioned?
Maybe, but here the question is why the members of the Arab League approved the opening of an Arab League office there if they do not believe in the political process in Iraq?
|I believe that Iraqis should move as soon as possible from arguing to negotiation, where a plan must be agreed and applied on the ground to save the country.|
What is the support that your mission should have received?
First of all, Arab countries dealt with the opening of the Arab League's office in Baghdad as an objective, while in fact it was just a start. They considered it an achievement, but I think it was the first step of a journey through a long, dark tunnel, and they were required to do much more to see the light at the end of it.
After the US mid-term elections, there have been several changes inside the US, and those changes left their marks on the Iraqi situation and on the regional situation in the Middle East.
Arabs should have called for an extraordinary summit that would seriously treat the situation in Iraq. I would like to emphasise that I requested a serious summit come up with executable resolutions, not a summit ending with a useless communique of sympathy. This did not happen during my service in Iraq, and I cannot see it happening.
During my mission in Iraq, I was left alone. Arab countries did not help much. For example, I did not succeed in having an armoured car, which is necessary for everyone in Iraq nowadays. Most of the time I used to have President [Jalal] Talabani's armoured car, or sometimes it is borrowed from one of the ministers.
That was about Arabs, what about Iraqis. How do you see them helping themselves?
Definitely the solution should come from inside Iraq in the first place. I can say that the comprehensive and nationalistic political programme in Iraq has not been achieved yet, and it is unlikely to come in the near future. Factional duels are still controlling the Iraqi political scene.
I believe that Iraqis should move as soon as possible from arguing to negotiation, where a plan must be agreed and applied on the ground to save the country.
How serious is the Iran influence in Iraq?
I can say it is definitely there. Its influence is clear on all aspects of life. We received many indications that even Italaat [Iranian intelligence] is working in Iraq.
|Lamani says he received indications of |
Iranian presence in Iraq
Is it true that Iraqi Shia are loyal to Iran?
I have seen, heard and read much about this, but I never felt it in my one-year mission in Iraq. Actually, I received delegations from many Arab Shia tribes, some of them live in the most powerful Shia strongholds of Najaf and Karbala; all of them stressed the fact that they are loyal to their country, and they are proud of being part of the Arab world.
Did you discuss the death squads with Iraqi officials?
We did raise the issue several times with the Iraqi officials. They seemed fully aware of the problem, in terms of sectarian killing, crime, and forced relocation of citizens. They promised to work on it. I really cannot judge if they are going to handle this or not.
Obviously the Palestinians have been facing a hard time in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003. Did you raise this issue with Iraqis?
The most important detail on this issue is that no Palestinian ever came to me while in Baghdad asking for protection in order to continue living in Iraq. In fact, all of them came to me asking for the league's help to get them out of Iraq to any Arab country. The reason for that is they [Palestinians] hold travel documents not passports. Most countries do not recognise this type of documents and require a proper passport to grant an individual a visa.
We did raise the issue with Iraqi officials, they told us that everybody in Iraq is a target, not only the Palestinians.
If you are asked to go back to Iraq, what would you request?
First of all, seriousness. If I am promised an urgent Arab summit that would study the Iraqi situation in detail and come up with crucial recommendations and techniques to implement them, believe me I would go back.