UPDATE: May 18, 2020
Oil & Gas Industry Expansion and Efforts to Entice More Foreign Investors
—— Last year marked the 80th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Iraq and Japan. How do you see the development of our bilateral relations?
Iraq’s relationship with Japan has been enhanced. The Japanese companies began to be active in the 1960s, mainly in the area of infrastructure, which heightened the level of Iraqi people’s trust in the Japanese technology, products, and activities. And that is why Iraq has become Japan’s No. 1 partner in the Middle East in the 70th, and the Japanese companies were committed to stay in Iraq, even during the Iraq-Iran War in the 80th, until all their projects were completed. After the change of regime in 2003, the Japanese government pledged 5 billion dollars for rebuilding Iraq; and the Self-Defense Forces were sent for humanitarian assistance activities in the areas of healthcare, engineering, and education. Also, as part of cultural exchange, Japanese teams of researchers were dispatched on the mission of cultural heritage protection, which has resulted in many Japanese museums displaying the heritage of Iraq and the Mesopotamian civilization.
—— Would you tell us about your current important challenges as Ambassador to Japan?
The relationship between Japan and Iraq has developed thanks to Japan’s willingness which was indicated by the number of delegations in education, culture, arts, and academia. The collaborative relations continue to grow despite the long geographical distance between the two countries. Also, the diplomatic relations are going well, and I see further improvement in many aspects in Japan’s understanding of Iraq’s status quo. The cultural exchange fosters a long-term strategic relationship. Iraq is a rich country, but we desperately need know-hows to accumulate the national wealth. We depend on Japan’s cooperation and support in oil and gas, healthcare, education, and many other areas.
—— Do you see any progress in national reconciliation which has been pursued by the Government?
The U.S. and allied troops invaded Iraq in 2003, which resulted in the Hussein regime’s collapse and the start of a new government. But that also created a huge burden on us. The war and economic sanctions deteriorated our infrastructure and lowered the nation’s standard of living; and Iraq was left with a large amount of debts. Reconstruction of Iraq includes many tasks. Our nation consists of 9 ethnic groups and 13 different religions. The previous regime used religious ideologies to separate people, and caused political conflicts based on religions and ethnicities. National reconciliation is a concept about the way of life. It is important to make the nation understand its national identity and overcome the religious and ethnic differences, by solving the issues such as compensation for victimization, as well as employment and wages and all other aspects of life. Although we have come a long way on the national reconciliation, and the ISIS (Islamic State) has been weakened considerably, the political, economic, and social reconstruction of our country is a long process. Today, there are demonstrations and political uprisings in 14 of the 18 governorates (prefectures), but I consider them to be part of the 16-year correctional process to cement the democratic system.
—— It seems that improvement of security requires economic development. How does Iraq address for reconstruction?
The economic development is the cornerstone for reconstructing Iraq and improving the security. Our oil & gas industry is steadily moving forward, and the national income is increasing. The government is working to improve Iraq’s environment for foreign investors and enhance the private sectors. Through the campaign of the made-in-Iraq brand including agricultural products, thousands of factories started working again in these 6 months. The pillar of the restoration is reconstructing of infrastructure and human development. We also need open political system. The international community understands Iraq’s potential and supports our reconstruction.
(Interview by Shu Tamaru, FEC Counsellor)