Division is no solution

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By : Hassan Barari

Barring an inclusive political solution in Iraq, the country will most likely descend into a civil war and perhaps fall apart. Just a few days ago, the President of Iraq Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, made it perfectly clear that the multi-ethnic and contested city of Kirkuk would remain in Kurdish hands forever.
If this position is to last, then a major clash with the central government in Baghdad will be inevitable.
As the fight has been raging for about two weeks and as large swaths of Iraqi territories are now not under the central government’s control, a new situation has emerged. The Sunni revolt has demonstrated the intractable nature of Iraq’s political dilemmas. Amid this new environment, the Kurds are stepping up their demands to have a bigger share of the Iraqi pie. Indeed, the de facto partition of the country into Sunni, Kurdish and Shiite cantons cannot be more obvious.

And yet, Iraq’s potential fragmentation along sectarian lines has not yet pushed Iraqi leaders to act differently. The embattled Al-Maliki is still in denial. While many Iraq politicians called on him to step down and allow the formation for a more inclusive government, Al-Maliki is still acting at the behest of Tehran and therefore his is unlikely to budge. Unlike his opponents, Al-Maliki believes in the utility of the security approach to the conflict without necessarily stepping down or changing his sectarian agendas

Against this backdrop, President Obama’s request to Iraqi politicians of different sects to reorder their house and come together is most likely to fall on deaf ears. As long as Al-Maliki is adopting a winner-take-all politics and as long as Tehran is backing him, a political reconciliation in Iraq is far from being possible.

In last September, President Obama outlined four critical issues that would urge the United States to use force in the Middle East. Securing oil lines, supporting allies, weapons of mass destruction and combating terrorism. Some of these problems are at play in Iraq in the wake of the Sunni revolt and the emergence of ISIL as the key player.

But, the American administration will continue to make the same mistakes if it continues to define the problem in Iraq as one of terrorism only. Obviously the context in Iraq is rather different from the past. First, the emergence of ISIL in Iraq should be understood against the backdrop of the American inaction in Syria over the last few years. Had the American administration supported the Syrian revolution from the get-go, radical groups would not have come to the surface in the first place. Second, it is just about time to pay attention to the emerging sectarian hatred that has come to dominate this part of the world. Perhaps, the last thing the United States need at this point is to be seen as taking side with Shiites against Sunnis. If this to happen, it will only fuel the gravity of the problem.

Also, Iran has not been a constructive player in Iraq. Its continuous meddling in Iraq and its sectarian agenda has only alienated the Sunnis from their state in Iraq. It this continues unchecked, then the Sunnis will have no choice but to opt for the idea of dividing Iraq. This idea is far from being new. In 2006, Joseph Biden, then a senator, suggested the division of Iraq. But to many analysts, division of Iraq is a fait accompli.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that it might be too late for reversing the situation. Even if Iran helps change Al-Maliki, it will make sure that his successor is equally loyal to Tehran. This will only further enrage and indeed radicalize Sunni Arabs within and without Iraq.

Moreover, the division of Iraq is hardly a solution. The problem according to Peter Harling, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, is “the divisive and autocratic and corrupt way power is practiced, not the borders.” Even among the Shiites, there are a lot of complain against Al-Maliki’s exclusive and autocratic mode of ruling. For Iraq to be stable again, a political process and a genuine reconciliation should be on the front burner. Equally important, Iraqis should put their house together away from Iran.

Email: hbarari@gmail.com

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