The future of the beleaguered country was once more under scrutiny during a panel discussion between the Iraqi speaker of Parliament Salim Al Jabouri and former KRG prime minister Barham Salih at the 2015 MERI conference on Wednesday.
Recognizing the importance of the KRG in attracting foreign investment and its role in sheltering an estimated 1.5 million internally displaced people (IDPs), Jabouri appealed for the KRG to consider their mutual interests and remain committed to a federal Iraq.
Despite describing a political process that had recently proceeded by “one step forward and two steps back,” Jabouri insisted that Iraq remains a viable state.
“If Kurdistan region gets weaker, this weakens Iraq as a whole,” he said. “From this perspective we ask the KRG leaders to overcome their differences and consider our common interests. Overcoming ISIS doesn't depend just on military aspects, but political too.”
Reform requires a spirit of solidarity, Jabouri said, in which all parties of Iraq thrive. In this regard, the Iraqi constitution remained an important document to steer such reform. “We cannot just improvise,” he said.
Salih questioned the ongoing relevance of the constitution, however. “It has become a document that creates disputes rather than resolving them,” he said.
More than a decade after the fall of former dictator Saddam Hussein, the average Iraqi citizen remains deeply frustrated, Salim noted. What was needed was real dialogue and a new vision for the country.
Whether the Kurdistan region would remain within Iraq was a “purely Kurdish decision,” he said. He added, however, that independence should not be played as a card to pass Kurdish problems along to Baghdad.
Regardless of whether the Kurds remain within Iraq or decide to separate, the two regions would remain close neighbours.
“If we want to co-exist we need to identify our mutual commitments,” he said. “Iraq needs a new establishing vision.”
Such a vision was within reach, Jabouri insisted. “We're not the first country to face this kind of challenge and we won't be the last. There is a desire to reform and there are the requisite economic resources, which, if used properly, will allow us to overcome these difficulties.