Tunisian President announces he will call constitutional referendum and elections next year

Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi’s call for national unity strikes a chord on the centenary of the Iraqi nation-state

DUBAI: Iraq was a cradle of civilization long before it became a modern nation state exactly 100 years ago, the country’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi said in a speech on Saturday at the occasion of the country’s centenary.

Addressing the Iraqi audience in a televised message, he said the special occasion was a perfect opportunity to look at the country objectively, to be proud of its achievements and to admit its mistakes.

Although the Iraqi state as we know it today was officially created by the British at the Cairo Conference in 1921, “that does not mean that Iraq was not a country a hundred years ago. Al-Kadhimi said.

A horse-drawn tram crosses a Baghdad street in this 1925 photo (AFP)

“The land on which the Iraqis stand firm was the first country known to mankind, the first law to organize human life, the first policeman whose job it was to protect people and the first military soldier to defend borders and to sacrifice himself.

“Here on the land guarded by the souls of your parents and ancestors, was the first economic organization to preserve the rights, property, sale and purchase, and the first punishments for human rights violators.

“It was the first of poetry, art and culture, the first foundation of mathematics and the first moment of revelation and prophecy.”

The young King Faisal II of Iraq was sworn in at the age of 18, in front of Parliament on May 5, 1953 in Baghdad. (Intercontinental / AFP)

Indeed, humanity owes many of its early achievements in many fields, including agriculture and astronomy, to the civilizations that flourished in ancient Mesopotamia, the land between two rivers, more than five millennia ago. .

From the Akkadians and Assyrians to the beginning of Islamic civilization, the peoples who inhabited this region created many of the world’s first known government institutions, writing and calculating systems, and epic literary works.

In his centenary speech, Al-Kadhimi said it is the responsibility of all Iraqis, regardless of their political alignment, to recognize this heritage, pass it on to future generations and protect it from those who seek to manipulate it for their own purposes.

“It is time to look at our country with objectivity, to be proud of our achievements and to admit our mistakes,” he added. “And we move forward armed with our heritage and the capabilities of our people to stand with all successful countries. “

Arab leaders sent messages of congratulations to the Iraqi people on the anniversary, including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who spoke to Al-Kadhimi by phone on Sunday, according to the Prime Minister’s media office. Iraqi minister.

In his own message of support, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi described the centenary as an important moment in the shared history of the Arab world.

A photo dated 1957 shows King Faisal II (C) with Lebanese President Camille Chamoun (R) and King Faisal Abdel Illah’s uncle during the king’s visit to Lebanon. Abdel Ilah became regent of the throne after the death of King Faisal’s father, King Ghazi, on April 6, 1938 (AFP)

“One hundred years have passed since the Cairo conference in 1921, which launched the creation of the Iraqi state as an extension of an ancient civilization rooted in the depths of history,” he said.

“One hundred years have witnessed many milestones on the path of Iraq, the Arab nation and even the whole world. On my personal behalf and on behalf of the Egyptian people, we congratulate brother Iraq on this precious occasion, wish its great and honorable people peace, security and stability, and hope that Iraq will always remain an asset to the world. Arab nation.

After gaining independence from the British Mandate established after World War I, the Kingdom of Iraq was founded in 1932 under Faisal I, a member of the Hashemite dynasty who was born in Saudi Arabia.

He ruled for 12 years, under a constitutional monarchy imposed by the British, until his death of a heart attack at the age of 48. Faisal’s son King Ghazi ascended to the throne but died six years later in a car crash in Baghdad. The title of king goes to Faisal II, who is only 3 years old, and this is how his reign begins under the regency of his uncle, the crown prince Abdallah.

Highly intelligent and at the head of a country endowed with a wealth of natural resources, Faisal seemed destined to build on the foundations laid by his father and grandfather when he ascended the throne at the age of 18 years, in 1953. Iraq at the time was prosperous; oil revenues poured in and the country experienced rapid industrialization.

But the wind would soon begin to turn against the kingdom. Iraq’s close relations with the British – a policy pursued by Faisal II – became the source of growing hostility, which was exacerbated by the Suez Crisis in 1956.

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein (2L), French Minister of Defense Yvon Bourges (3L), Bernadette Chirac (4L) the wife of the Prime Minister and the mayor of Baux-de-Provence M. Tuillier (1L) applaud during ‘a bullfight organized by the municipality in honor of the Iraqi leader on September 7, 1975 in Baux-de-Provence, in the south of France. (AFP)

On July 13, 1958, when two army brigades were ordered to travel to Jordan to help ease a crisis in Lebanon, Abdul Karim Qassim, a disgruntled officer at the head of one of the units, saw his luck and sent troops to Qasr Al-Rihab Palace. in Baghdad. Early the next morning, they surrounded the royal residence with tanks and opened fire.

Shortly after 8 a.m., King Faisal II, his uncle the Crown Prince and other members of the royal family and their staff were ordered to exit through a back entrance and were killed.

Many Iraqis still believe this was the start of a catastrophic descent for the nation. Although it lasted less than four decades, the constitutional monarchy is considered by many to be a golden period in Iraqi history. The execution of the king gave way to a tumultuous republic and ultimately the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

Undated photo of Iraqi President General Abdel Karim Kassem. Kassem overthrew King Faysal II on July 14, 1958 until he was himself deposed on February 8, 1963 by Colonel Abdul Salam Aref, who had him executed the next day. (AFP)

More than 60 years later, Iraq is still redefining itself and reaffirming its sovereignty. On Thursday, December 9, Iraqi officials announced that the United States had officially ended its combat mission in Iraq, reassigning all remaining troops to a training and advisory role. US forces had returned to Iraq at the invitation of the Baghdad government to help combat the extremist Daesh group that had seized territory in the northwest of the country and neighboring Syria in the summer of 2014.

The continued presence of foreign forces in Iraq has long been a source of political disagreement in Baghdad, with many nationalist and pro-Iranian factions demanding a total withdrawal.

“After a few days, we will witness the withdrawal of all the fighting forces of the international coalition from Iraq within the framework of the strategic agreement with the American side, and their role will be in the areas of advice, a sign of the capacity Iraqi forces in all its categories to preserve the security of Iraq, to ​​stabilize its people and to pursue its development ”, declared Al-Kadhimi.

However, the general theme of Al-Kadhimi’s centenary speech was a call to all Iraqis to recognize what unites them, rather than what divides them, for the common good of the country.

A photo dated 1976 shows former Iraqi President Ahmad Hassan Al-Bakr (right) seated with then Vice President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. Al-Bakr seized power in July 1968 after the ouster of General Abdul Rahman Aref and resigned in July 1979 for health reasons. (AFP)

“Amid the political challenges and the efforts that the last elections have organized, everyone must be reassured: we will not allow them to interfere with your security and your stability,” he said.

“Despite all the differences, political powers, new trends, independent people and elites are the sons of this country and they care about it and its security.

“The difference in points of view and in directions is blurring in the face of everyone’s conviction that Iraq is our umbrella and our home, and playing with it and its future is a red line,” he added.

“This is Iraq, your Iraq and the Iraq of all mankind. Preserving and inheriting it is our duty.

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