The prime minister of Iraq gets a column in today’s Times.
Here he dismisses the widely-held view that democracy and Islam are incompatible:
I am not only the first democratically elected leader of an Arab country. I am also the first prime minister in the Middle East to come from a religious, Islamic opposition movement — at the head of a diverse ethnic and political alliance. Embracing diversity within human society is not just a political necessity, it is rooted in my faith. Islam teaches that there is no compulsion in religion and that freedom of choice is divinely granted; it is dictators who need to cater to fanatics in order to stay in power.
He also considers two potential futures Iraq could embark on and comes down on the side of international co-operation before remembering the helping hand the Allies offered to Germany after World War Two.
The Middle East, including Iraq, is as much of a neighbour to Europe as Germany is to Britain. The Middle East has as much strategic significance as Europe in 1945, and has potential both for exporting violence and terror to the West or, alternatively, developing its human and natural resources to the point where it can imitate Europe’s economic success.
Marshall said: “Our policy is not directed against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos.” Today is the time for a new international Marshall plan towards Iraq and the broader Middle East — directed not for or against any policy but against ignorance, tyranny, hatred and anarchy.
Marshall repaired the decaying infrastructure of Germany after six years of war and 12 years of Nazi rule. In Iraq we have had nearly 40 years of fascist rule and have been in practice at war for half that time. I have seen throughout Iraq the marks of economic collapse and depredation this has left. Iraq today has few English speakers, it has hundreds of thousands of ex-soldiers trained for nothing but war, and its universities — which once enjoyed a worldwide reputation — now lag behind those in the rest of the region. It has debts totalling hundreds of billions of dollars and there has been no investment in its infrastructure for more than 20 years.
It’s a bitter legacy all right, but with the solidarity of the developed world it’s a legacy that can and will be overcome.