Iraqi Ambassador: ‘We Cannot Exist with ISIS’

Ambassador Lukman Faily outlines challenges ahead of Iraq during Elliott School lecture.

February 4, 2015

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Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily at the George Washington University on Tuesday.

On the same day that ISIS released a video showing a Jordanian pilot burned alive, Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily told students at the George Washington University that despite the numerous complexities and challenges associated with Iraq, the country will continue to work with international partners to wage war against the terror organization.
He spoke to a packed audience at the Elliott School of International Affairs on Tuesday during an event sponsored by the Middle East Policy Forum. He was introduced to the university community by Professor of Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Affairs and former U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait Edward “Skip” Gnehm Jr.
Amb. Faily said that just prior to his visit to GW, he attended a State Department briefing on the American-led coalition of more than 60 countries battling extremism. The United States has a critical role to play in Iraq’s fight against ISIS, he said, calling America a “game-changer” that has the military capacity and historical knowledge to deal with “such a vicious enemy as ISIS.”
“We have made the decision that we cannot exist with ISIS. We will fight with or without U.S. support. But with U.S. support, we reduce time, we reduce causalities and make sure minorities no longer live with fear,” he said.
He added that lessons could be drawn from Americans removing troops from Iraq in 2011. Iraq is roughly the size of California, he said, but when American forces left, the country was left without one single fighter plane.
The current landscape in Iraq is further complicated by geopolitical polarization in the Middle East and in Gulf countries, Amb. Faily explained. However, no community in the Middle East is immune to the danger of ISIS, and it’s critical for Iraqis to create a space where they can have sensible discussions with Saudis, Qataris and other regional players.  
With its transitional government, Iraq is not an easy country to work with, Amb. Faily acknowledged. It is still grappling with how to define its newly found democracy to its population of myriad ethnic tribes and religious denominations. It will take some time, he said, for Iraq’s government to move from the “furthest right” of the political spectrum to somewhere more center—a difficult obstacle amid the country’s bloody battle against terrorism.
“That’s another luxury we haven’t had because we’ve been involved in a culture of violence created and imposed in a Daish [ISIS] society,” he said.
Internally, Iraq must ensure its populations coexist. Amb. Faily cited the importance of reaching out to the Kurdish population in the northern part of the country. He added that Iraqis also must pay attention to oil expenditures while financing its costly war, since 85 percent of the country’s revenue comes from oil. 
During questions from the audience, Amb. Faily addressed the importance of finding a solution in ISIS-held Syria. Stability in Iraq correlates with resolving conflicts in Syria, he told students.
He also explained that terrorism has broad implications for the entire world. Like global warming, he said, terrorism is a far-reaching issue that must be examined. 
“We should not allow non-government entities to dictate the realities of citizen around the world,” he said.