No to War … No to Tyranny… There is Another Human Alternative Recommendations by the Civil Society to the Arab Summit on the Iraqi Question

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First: We completely refuse and denounce all plans of launching a war against Iraq, the result of which would lead to a U.S. exercise of dominion over the region that will inevitably subject the region’s resources and political and social destiny to U.S. global interests. Furthermore, the war will lead to a humanitarian disaster that will exacerbate the sufferings of the Iraqi people. We reject the American threat to forcibly change the Iraqi regime, an act which will set a dangerous precedent in international relations.

Second: We call upon the Arab League to take the initiative in sparing the Iraqi people from war. It should host a meeting to which all Iraqi political powers, whether inside or outside of the ruling elite, or from within or outside of Iraq, are invited to set the required basis and essential guarantees that could clear the way for national reconciliation and for free and fair elections. The envisioned process of fair elections would proceed under the direct supervision of the United Nations and with the participation of the Arab League and the European Union. The ultimate and evident aim of these elections is to enable the Iraqi people to freely choose their own ruler.

Civil society organizations express their readiness to draft this meeting’s working paper and to undertake an active role in preparing and conducting the meeting.

We recognize the suffering of the Iraqi people, their plight under three decades of tyranny, and the huge sacrifices made by millions of Iraqis who were forced into two international, as well as other internal, wars. Such wars have exhausted Iraq’s finances and natural and human resources, and have paved the way for the harshest sanctions in all of history. This must be considered along side the heavy price paid by large sectors of the Iraqi population struggling for freedom and political participation in the face of exclusivism, the denial of pluralism, and gross violations of fundamental rights and freedoms.

The prevention of US foreign intervention by military means in Iraq’s affairs, her self-determination, and her future requires, above all else, giving paramount consideration to the interests and rights of the Iraqi people. However, the fulfillment of the Iraqi people’s aspirations for freedom must not be pursued in contradiction with the requirements of maintaining Iraq’s stability and political integrity or with that of Iraqi national, as well as Arab regional, security. It is, after all, in accordance with these aspirations for freedom that such requirements become sanctified.

We stress that ignoring this suffering, under any consideration, would reinforce justifications for foreign intervention and would encourage a proclivity for resorting to foreign powers to counter internal violations. We assert that the salvation of the Iraqi people on the one hand, and obstructing the accelerating US war vehicle on the other, requires that the Iraqi regime promptly adopt a serious program for radical political reform. This reform would launch a new political dynamic and would facilitate the strict and effective implementation of the consistently silenced UN Security Council resolution no. 688 on safeguarding respect for human rights in Iraq.

This reform requires abolishing overly restrictive laws, invalidating laws that encompass aggravated penalties against opponents, providing for freedom of expression, the right to association and membership in political parties, and recognizing the right to participate freely in public affairs. The above is the first step towards peaceful internal change. It requires abandonment of the monopolization of political and trade union work and of policies of isolation and exclusion. It also requires a respect for plurality, the safeguarding of the national legitimate rights of Kurds, and the rejecting of political sectarianism. This comes in addition to accelerating the establishment of the rule of law and of principles of equity and justice that reflect the reality of political, racial, cultural and religious diversity. This reform, furthermore, must enable local, Arab and international human rights monitors to work freely in observing the human rights situation in Iraq.

Third: We affirm that the elimination of weapons of mass destruction should be governed by a single, uniform criterion applied to all states without discrimination. Hence the international community must be called upon to redouble efforts that oblige all states, including Israel, to ratify the Agreement on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and be subject to international inspection on the part of the United Nations. However, avoiding an attack on Iraq requires the highest degree of cooperation, on the part of the Iraqi government, with the international inspectors and to bridge the contested gaps referred to in previous weapons inspection reports. In this regard, it is necessary to support the French-German endeavors aimed at expanding the scope of weapons inspections work at all levels and of providing an adequate timeframe for the fulfillment of that work.

Fourth: The movement of the global civil society, the February 15 demonstrations in particular, has managed to create a temporary counter-balance to the US push towards war. Nevertheless, supporting a world-wide popular protest against a US-led war on Iraq requires allowing the peoples of the Arab world to express their position. Hence, we call upon Arab States to lift all restrictions that hinder a person’s right to express him or her self freely in fields not limited only to the expression of solidarity with the Palestinian and Iraqi peoples. It is outright shameful that our Arab world represents the weakest link in the global civil movement against war and US hegemony. The Arab world is the only region on earth in which people are deprived of their right to demonstrate their collective support for the Iraqi people. Meanwhile, the movement against war on Iraq, and of U.S. hegemony over the region, undertaken by nations world wide, including the United States and Great Britain, enjoys real freedom and possesses independent organizational tools enabling it to resist U.S. plans.

Fifth: The Arab regional system is threatened by total collapse unless all parties transcend, at this critical historic moment, traditional Arab-Arab historical tensions. They must, instead, shoulder their historical responsibilities towards the Iraqi people (in the framework of the aforementioned second recommendation) and unite in their commitment to deny the use of facilities located on Arab land for forces planning an invasion of Iraq. It is necessary to recall the failure of the Arab League to assert its role, during the second gulf crisis and after, in subjugating Arab-Arab sensitivities, and having, as a result, severely undermined the interests of the Arab people, including those of Iraq and Kuwait. This failure has also marginalized and weakened more the Arab League.

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