Photo Courtresy Tetsuo Yaguchi, Hotel Okura Tokyo
Tokyo, Japan - A team of Iraqi Parliamentarians let by Mr. Yonadam Kanna, Chair of the Reconstruction and Public Services Committee of the Iraqi National Assembly have just completed a visit to Japan.
In a series of meetings, unprecedented for a Parliamentary Delegation, the team met with the Japanese Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, key MP`s and a series of meetings with top Business Leaders.
`We are very encouraged and hopeful that Japan`s pledge of 5 Billion Dollars for Iraq will make a critical difference in moving our nation forward` said Hon. Yonadam Kanna.
`The real problem is an urgent need for implementation and verification of reconstruction in the country` he continued.
We have many projects, for example in my constituency which as an Assyrian Christian is the Nineveh Plain and Northern part of Iraq. In historic Assyria, massive amounts of funds have been allocated, but our people still live like the `Middle Ages`, without water, roads, electricity and telephone service.`
`Reconstruction aid is allocated for our areas, but unfortunately local Government is not functioning in many areas and with the security situation as it is little if any help is reaching our Assyrian Christian villages` said Kanna.
Reflecting a widely view that the real reconstruction problem in Iraq is a lack of verification on the ground and implementation of projects, the five day visit of the Iraqi MP`s renewed a historic Iraq/Japan relationship that dates back to the days of the Silk Road when much of the culture of the Middle East flowed to China and Japan.
More recently, major Japanese Corporations operated in Iraq working with the oil industry until it all ended with the previous Gulf War
`We are committed to ensuring Japan`s aid is used in the most fair and comprehensive way and are doing all we can to make sure it can be verified on the ground` said Hon. Tsukasa Uemura, former Japanese Charge de Affairs in Baghdad and now head of the Economic Assistance Bureau in Japan`s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Japan has pledged 5 Billion dollars for Iraqi reconstruction, second only to the US and the EU.
While great concern has been expressed about the upcoming writing of the Iraqi Constitution and in particular Article 7 which reads `Islam is the official religion of the State`, Kanna also one of the only non-moslem members of the Constitutional Committee expressed optimism, some would say naive that a good, secular constitution can be drawn up.
`The Constitution is being written much in the spirit of the current Transitional Administrative Law. I am confident that we will be able to achieve a secular, open and democratic Constitution that will be fair to all Iraqis. Further, I believe that this is what all Iraqis want.` he continued.
A telling sign of whether Kanna`s views will hold are the current realities in the Middle East which has seen the non-moslem population of the area go from nearly 20% to now under 2% as the radicalization of previously tolerant moslem regimes have caused massive emigration of non-moslems.
Estimates of as much as 100,000 non-moslems leaving Iraq, most of them Assyrian Christians who are the indigenous people of the country are worrying many analysts.
The Japanese Government which has a strong, secular Constitution written by the US nearly 60 years ago when it too was defeated and then occupied by the US, many believe can be a balancing influence in Iraq gently nudging for a similar situation in Iraq.
Kanna believes the Iraqi people and Government are committed to democracy, the rule of law and a secular Constitution. The facts on the ground where aid is routinely, according to a recent EU Document not provided to non-moslems and a de-facto `Ethnic Cleansing` as has happened in nearly every other moslem majority country in the world would seem to indicate otherwise.
What is not in doubt is that the future of Iraq rests, not in the hands of the Iraqis themselves, but in the International Community. In particular the major donors the United States, the EU and Japan and their ability to leverage their support for fair and verifiable reconstruction and a secular Constitution that eliminates the much reviled Article 7 which states again `Islam is the Official Religion of the State`.
Many ask a very simple, but telling question. `Was a war fought to depose Saddam Hussein only to create The Islamic Republic of Iraq against the clear wishes of the people and a Constitution that states that Islam is the official religion of the state?`
The sign of whether Iraq will succeed or not can be measured very clearly on two fronts. First, whether the Assyrian Christians, the `Canary in the Mine` of Iraq will remain and whether an Iraqi Constitution can be produced, as recommended by the previous Constitutional Committee that includes no references to religion or ideology.
Rev. Ken Joseph Jr.Ken Joseph Jr, directs Assyrianchristians.com and is completing a book about Iraq entitled `I Was Wrong`