Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi would like to emulate the Japanese model of economic development after World War II to create the jobs desperately needed in his war-torn nation.
Abadi, who was in Tokyo to attend an international conference on reconstructing his country, gave an interview to The Asahi Shimbun on April 5.
One of the issues on which agreement was reached between Japan and Iraq in the conference was a program to encourage Iraqis to turn in their weapons in exchange for vocational training. That would not only possibly lead to greater job creation, but would also contribute to improved law and order.
In the interview, Abadi said, “We want to create jobs. We have seen some citizens taking loans to establish their businesses.”
He added that Japan had much to contribute to Iraq because of its “successful economy” after World War II.
“I think Japan can play a major role,” he said. “Japan started not from scratch, but from a negative level and built a very successful economy.”
Referring to the fact that the Islamic State terrorist group emerged in Iraq amid sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Abadi said that allowing for a degree of social diversity was important for the long-term future of his nation.
“We are trying to concentrate on the benefits of diversity,” he said. “I know there are many sectarian slogans calling for ethnic separation but I think the public does not accept it.”
He added that it was also important to include the Kurds under a federal state, even though there are moves for Kurdish independence.
“They wanted to separate from the country but this will lead to bloodshed,” Abadi said. “We have to keep them as part of Iraq.”
While the Iraqi government declared in December 2017 that it had defeated the Islamic State group, it still faces many hurdles related to reconstruction and the return of refugees to their communities.
The Islamic State at one time controlled about one-third of Iraqi territory. Combat between the U.S.-backed Iraqi military and the extremist group in those areas led to the destruction of most of the infrastructure in those regions, from homes, schools and hospitals to roads, power plants, water supplies and sewage systems.
The Iraqi government has estimated the cost of reconstructing the nation at $88.2 billion (about 9.4 trillion yen).
Dissatisfaction has already been expressed in Mosul, the northern major city once controlled by the Islamic State, because local residents do not feel they are receiving adequate support for reconstruction.
Moreover, about 2.6 million refugees still live in camps away from their homes.
Abadi also discussed regional issues, especially the power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the area, as the two nations strive to gain the upper hand in Syria and Yemen.
“Iraq can act as a bridge,” he said. “We are focusing on our interests, but, we are not short-sighted. We know that to achieve our interests we have to look at the interests of the other side.”
Meanwhile, Abadi also indicated that because the U.S. military deployed to Iraq mainly provided air support and intelligence for the Iraqi military as it fought the Islamic State, there would not be a need for prolonged dependence on Washington for military support.
“None of the U.S. or other troops in Iraq are fighting on the ground,” he said. “We are hoping in the next few years this will end.”
(This article was written by Tadao Onaga, chief of The Asahi Shimbun’s Middle Eastern and African General Bureau, and Rihito Karube.)
Source: THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, April 11, 2018