Iraq faces challenges but also signs of hope, says Iraqi President

Iraq faces severe challenges but there exists a hope to overcome difficulties, Iraqi President Barham Salih said on Sunday in an interview with publisher Haitham El-Zobaidi and writer Ibrahim Zobeidi for the Arab Weekly.

Iraq has been ravaged in recent years by cycles of warfare, an internally displaced persons crisis, sectarianism and a three-year campaign to drive Islamic State from a third of the country it controlled.

Salih acknowledged the challenges, like the political, sectarian, and ethnic conflicts, that come with Iraq’s geographical location, but he sees in that an opportunity.

“This is the geographical and historical fate of Iraq and the locus of its interests and those of its people,” he said.

According to the Iraqi president, the sectarian, ethnic and national diversity is Iraq’s advantage and sectarian and ethnic conflicts that fuelled the spread of extremism and its entanglement in regional rivalries are fading away.

"The sectarian or ethnic slogans no longer have any currency with our people. Things have changed and there is greater awareness."

Iraqis have made some progress in building their government, approving a new constitution and holding successive elections for parliament and provincial governments. And the country is moving gradually towards restoring civil society.

"We’re seeking to restore the well-being of Iraqi society and the return of Baghdad and Iraq as a centre for human creativity in art, culture and the sciences,” Salih said.