Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein, a cousin of the last Iraqi king, would like to see the monarchy restored in the country. Currently, al-Hussein keeps a low profile in Iraq and says he wants to be an independent mediator on the political scene.
Baghdad, 1 December 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Sharif Ali bin al-Hussein believes the U.S.-led administration in Iraq is relying too much on the input of former emigrants who have little support in the country and that it is distorting political discourse by supporting sectarian parties and groups.
Al-Hussein is the first cousin of King Faisal II, who was deposed and killed in the bloody 1958 coup. He heads the Constitutional Monarchy Movement -- a member of the Iraqi National Congress -- and participated in the activities of the Iraqi opposition from London before the U.S.-led invasion of the country last March. He returned to Iraq last summer, several months after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
The 47-year old al-Hussein fled Iraq with his family in 1958 and was raised in Lebanon and Britain. He worked as an investment banker in London while participating in the Constitutional Monarchy Movement and was a strong supporter of the U.S.-led invasion.
Al-Hussein says he would like to see the reestablishment of a constitutional monarchy in Iraq. He believes such a system would first and foremost bring stability.
Al-Hussein is critical of the performance of the U.S. administration in Iraq and believes the process was flawed from the beginning. He says the majority of the problems now taking place in Iraq can be traced to the unwillingness of the U.S. to transfer power to Iraqis. He says this was one of the reasons he himself declined an invitation to join the Iraqi Governing Council.
Though a former exile himself, al-Hussein believes the U.S. is relying too much on the input of Iraqi emigrants, who have no real authority in the country.
"I think the coalition has made the mistake of bringing in exile leaders, appointing them in positions [on the Governing Council] and then watching them fail," al-Hussein said. "Our position had always been [that] they need to use Iraqis that lived all their lives in Iraq, that are community leaders, that can effect the opinion in the street, that the public opinion respects them."
Even worse, he says, the U.S. administration in Iraq, while forming the governing bodies, has not removed sectarian differences but strengthened them, setting the stage for future conflicts. He says the U.S. -- pressured by the former Iraqi exiles -- is supporting political parties created on religious foundations and giving them a say on the Governing Council and in the future of Iraq.
"If choosing people on the basis of their religion or race is so fantastic, then it should be applied in the United States," al-Hussein said. "But, of course, it [isn't]. So why should it be applied in Iraq?"
Al-Hussein says that giving major roles to former emigrants and sectarian parties is distorting the political process in Iraq and that many people are left with no opportunities for their voices to be heard. He says the coalition should change its tactics if it wants to be successful.
"I think what the Americans are continuing to do is trying to interfere in Iraq's internal politics by directly funding political parties, by appointing them to positions of power, and this policy has failed. I think the Americans should allow the Iraqi people to choose," al-Hussein said.
Al-Hussein is convinced that if given a choice, Iraqis would choose to be ruled under a constitutional monarchy.
Indeed, many Iraqis say they would like to see a return to the "good old days of the monarchy." However, it remains unclear how many of them -- if actually given the chance -- would make that choice. Al-Hussein is a Sunni, and it is unknown how many Shi'a Arabs would vote for a Sunni king to be put back into power.
It also remains unclear how the monarchists would guarantee and balance the rights of Iraq's religious and national groups. Supporters of a constitutional monarchy in Iraq say the king would act as an arbiter and that his role would be to protect the constitution, to prevent persecution, to protect individual rights, and to ensure the country's unity. They say the king would act as a guardian for all groups within Iraqi society.
Asked if he thinks the U.S. would agree to the restoration of the monarchy in Iraq, al-Hussein avoids a direct answer, saying that, eventually, "the Americans will leave and the Iraqi people will be free to make their choice."
Al-Hussein says he welcomes the current U.S. plan to transfer authority to Iraqis by the end of June. But he says it might be too late now to elect provisional bodies because the security situation in the country is deteriorating.
"Unfortunately, it may well be too late in the short term because the policies of the failed Governing Council and the coalition have led to the deterioration in the security situation in Iraq, and it may not be possible to hold elections in the near term," al-Hussein said.
Al-Hussein says the overall situation for Iraqis has not significantly improved, eight months after their liberation from Hussein's rule. He says the standard of living is worse now than it was under Hussein and that the security situation is poor. In addition, he says, there hasn't been any progress made on the political front.
He says the coalition should take full responsibility for things getting worse after Hussein's ouster.
Al-Hussein says the increase in the activity of anticoalition insurgents is mainly due to the policies of the coalition. Those policies, he says, have been insensitive to the needs of Iraq's many different communities and have contributed to the marginalization and disenfranchisement of many people.
"The dissolution of government institutions has left millions of people out on the streets and is giving a core basis of support to those who have chosen the military route to fight the occupation," al-Hussein said. "This was entirely unnecessary."