I just returned from Paris having been invited to participate in an international meeting of Iraqis seeking private sector initiatives, as well as government reforms, to build and foster a lasting peace and reconciliation in a troubled land.
The host of the gathering was the “International Foundation of Peace Ambassadors for Iraq” led by Sheikh Jamal al-Dhari. Sheikh Jamal summed up the challenges facing Iraq today: “Iraq is on the brink of collapse. The Iraqi people are demanding change. In order to defeat terrorism and build a strong Iraq that works for all Iraqis we need to recommit ourselves to political reform and a full, inclusive peace and reconciliation process.
"Daesh and other terror groups in Iraq must be eliminated, for this to work we need a greater military effort and more importantly a political process that creates a non-sectarian and positive future for all Iraqis.
"We need to build on the reforms already announced, and work together – Sunni, Shia, Christian, Yazidi, Kurd and all of Iraq – to bring home our brothers and sisters that are refugees, and guarantee a prosperous and peaceful Iraq. This conference is a vital part in planning for that future.”
I was heartened to hear how hopeful, optimistic, and determined the Iraqis are for a future that is peaceful and prosperous in Iraq.
I reminded the principals in attendance, and the audience, that when America declared its independence from Britain it took more than a decade to settle on a Constitution and Bill of Rights, and to form a government.
I went on to state that within a 100 years of our independence, America was nearly torn apart by a Civil War that lasted four years and killed over 500,000 Americans, injured more than a million — and devastated cities and infrastructure.
America faced a daunting challenge of reconciliation and reuniting a fractured nation. We did it and I am confident the Iraqis can do it too.
The Iraqis need a multifaceted approach in achieving their goals and objectives.
They need to seek out the best and brightest minds in academia, think tanks, NGO’s, religious leaders, business leaders, politicians, government leaders, military, media, and the investment communities inside and outside Iraq — to work together and individually with clear goals and objectives.
But, before any “normalcy” can return to Iraq a restoration of order must exist.
The world must act to help the Iraqis to defeat Daesh and other terrorists.
I was particularly taken by the thoughtful comments of His Eminence Sayyed Mohamed Ali El Husseini a highly respected Islamic scholar who called for unity throughout the Middle East and called for Iraqi Jews to come home. He spoke of tolerance and respect and the need of inclusiveness between Sunni, Shiite, Kurd, Christians, and others.
His was a message of peace not of war. He is just the type of religious figure that needs to be seen and heard.
If Iraq is able to achieve peace and reconciliation there is no doubt that will be a major accomplishment for themselves and the entire Middle East. A stable, secure, and prosperous Iraq will not happen overnight but it is worth the effort.
The alternative is unacceptable.
Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of politics and public policy at Georgetown University and a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion. Read more reports from Bradley Blakeman — Click Here Now.
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