Iraq has started to reap the benefits of the status of forces agreement with the United States. The United Nations Security Council voted to set the ground for relieving Iraq from the restrictions of Chapter Seven of the UN Charter. In fact, the remaining effects of previous resolutions will from now on serve only to protect Iraq’s assets from claims by other parties, not to impose anything on the people of Iraq. Sovereignty, which was lost two decades ago under Saddam Hussein’s capricious and belligerent reign, is being restored to the nation.
The Security Council resolution 1859 states, among other things, that Iraq is no longer a threat to its neighbors, region, or the world. The United States has succeeded in transforming a bellicose, autocratic state into a friendly one that is making steady progress towards becoming a self-sustaining democracy — the international community is finally coming to recognize this transformation.
This resolution is bound to make a positive impact on the domestic and regional levels. First and foremost it is a testimony to the United States’ true desire to help Iraq get on its feet and relieve it from restrictions that belong to a past era — the United States is indisputably a friendly protector of Iraq, not an occupier as many like to claim.
However, this achievement did not receive as much attention in the Arab media as did the shoes of a disturbed young journalist — not surprisingly, since the resolution strengthens the credibility of the United States, which the dictators in the region always love to attack.
The headlines, as expected, were reserved for the resignation of the speaker of Iraq’s parliament. It was an attempt to highlight political contests in Iraq that ironically ignores two important facts. First is the fact that pluralistic parliaments tend to look “messy”; second, that other parliaments in the region enjoy fake stability only because they exist under the rule of one man, one party, or one family.
Domestically, the resolution is a blow dealt to all those nostalgic for the totalitarian past. Those people had exhausted their lungs screaming and rallying against a security agreement with the United States. The voice that prevailed at the end was that of Iraq’s elected parliament in choosing to open a new era of cooperation and mutual respect between Iraq and the nation that liberated it from tyranny, and continues to protect its interests as we speak.
Whereas Arab nationalists and Islamist extremists ended up with a pair of shoes, Iraqis ended up with their sovereignty, democracy, and friendship with the United States. Those hypocrites did not lift a finger to help Iraq at a time of hardship. On the contrary, they used all the means they could muster to bring democratization in Iraq and the Middle East to a halt. But despite the vicious attacks, Iraq and the United States moved hand in hand to overcome the countless obstacles and present the model of reform and democracy that is taking shape with every dispute Iraqis resolve in the parliament and every new brick they lay in a new building.
The headlines for those cynics do not go beyond the throw of a shoe, whereas my headlines look into the future and speak of a new Iraq. My headlines speak of agreements with our friends in American industries who will help us have 24 hours of electricity and equip a strong army dedicated to serving and protecting the Iraqi nation. This is a future where Iraq’s billions are used in transparent contracts to build the country and improve economic ties with our true allies and friends, not in shady deals for building palaces, supporting terrorists, and procuring tools of aggression.
My headlines speak of symbols of sovereignty returned to Iraqi hands, of France forgiving Iraqi debts, and of the first Christmas festival ever in downtown Baghdad. Iraqis gathered on the beautiful street of Abu Nawas to celebrate Christmas and to honor Iraqi Christians who stood with their brethren courageously against the forces of evil.
My headlines look up to new elections in which many incumbent and new parties will compete for Iraqi votes. Whether those parties are qualified or not is something for the Iraqi voters to decide. What popular participation in elections by both voters and parties indicates is that everyone knows their part in building the country, through ballots not bullets — more and more people are adhering to the model of the future and moving away from the shadows of a dark past.
My headlines speak of universities, airports, businesses, and parks that we build with patience and hope.
My headlines say that coup rumors were, well, rumors and that all officers arrested have been released with dignity. Today in Iraq the state does not execute people on mere suspicions, as was the case in the past. Today in Iraq power is transferred by means other than coups.
When hypocrites and extremists sober up from their shoe hangover they will see a new Iraq which will not be easy for them to recognize. Even harder for them will be to contain the tides of freedom and democracy which are bound to reach their shores and shake the foundations of dictatorships and extremism.