It is very important to bear in mind, when talking about the future of Iraq, the heritage we inherited from the previous regime. [That] determines where the needs are, politically, security, socially and economically.
The former regime, through its one-party system and policy of division, has contributed to the creation of divisions within Iraqi society. [This has turned]Iraq from a very important regional power to a marginal state. It also contributed to its citizens losing faith in the stability and security within their own country.
We have to put an end to sectarianism and inner fighting. Sectarianism is a very new concept in Iraq – it is very unusual for an Iraqi to kill another Iraqi based on his religious background. The government has to step in and put an end to all this. without showing any bias to any group in [our] society.
With every step we take, the situation is getting clearer. Civil, economic and political liberties are now within the framework of Iraq. These freedoms. were not possible three decades ago. Iraqis had their human rights and dignity violated, and now for the first time we have a Ministry of Human Rights in the country.
Now Iraqis can have discussions about their political leaders. and for the first time can talk publicly about political differences.
Elections have developed in Iraq. In the beginning, yes, they were based on political and religious machinations and background, but now, thanks to government policies, elections are based on programmes where people can actually examine the programmes before they vote. The recent provincial elections will pave the way for parliamentary elections to take place later this year.
On international relations
We have to mend fences with neighbouring Arab countries and the international community. We have. addressed the problems in the past of interference in others’ affairs. The constitution makes clear mention of this, and this will not happen again. The Iraqi army is now a professional army that is apolitical and which does not interfere in the internal affairs of neighbouring countries. By the same token, Iraq will neither be a venue for, nor a passage to, other organisations, particularly terrorist ones.
With the new policies that we have adopted in dealing with neighbouring countries, new embassies are now being opened in Baghdad. and more countries are willing to cooperate with Iraq.
[However], national sovereignty is a big issue and with all respect to neighbouring countries. Iraq comes first. The sovereignty of Iraq is something we all respect within the country.
On US forces in Iraq
Recently, we renegotiated with the coalition forces [their] presence in our country. We have reviewed the presence of the coalition forces and put in place a timetable for their withdrawal.
[Some say] the withdrawal of the American forces. in accordance with the security agreement, will [provide the opportunity] for terrorism to come back again. I say this will not happen because the police and the army and the whole community in Iraq are all united to stop this and not to allow terrorism to [return].
To compensate Iraqis for the pain and suffering of the previous regime’s ill-conceived policies and military adventures, and to reconstruct the country, we have to make the investment environment suitable.
And with the new investment environment and Iraq now enjoying higher levels of security and stability, now Iraq receives far more businessmen and investors than military and security experts. We have just enacted a new investment law that actually guarantees not only the prerequisites for investment, but also the foreign capital that comes into the country, and encourages investors and businesses to come to Iraq.
Success after success has brought the country together and we are now all of one mind that we must turn all of our attention to the reconstruction effort.
Unfortunately, we have to rely on only one source to finance the reconstruction efforts. oil. However, we are using the revenue from this. to finance other revenue-yielding sources, such as agriculture and energy.
My visits to Australia and the visits members of my government make to other countries are designed to. open doors for investment that will help Iraq embark on this reconstruction effort.
Edited extracts from Prime Minister Maliki’s Lowy Institute address