Saturday 28 June 2014

Can Iraq shape its own destiny?

There are thousands of brand new rifles and machine guns for sale never been used, still under guarantee, and they have only 'dropped' once. It sounds like an ad for E-bay, but such is the state of the Iraqi army its reputation has taken a beating.  The Army will somehow need to live this down to stand any chance in regaining its self-respect if only among its people.  Such was the exodus of a supposedly highly trained fully equipped army that fell apart in farcical disarray in the face of a religiously impassioned but well organised Sunni fundamentalist ISIS forces.  That said, the latest news is Iraqi forces have been unable to launch any strategic counter-offensives against ISIS insurgency.  Moreover, sympathies for ISIS controlled Sunni Iraq most probably growing out of frustration has further complicated the political landscape.

Emboldened by the recent popular vote Prime Minister Maliki, rejected the idea for the government of reconciliation or as ex-Prime Minister Ayad Allawi calls a Government of “national salvation” in response to such rising tide of Sunni-supported jihadist’s forces.  Enjoying the limelight of democracy, according to Maliki, allowing such concessions would be tantamount to a coup in the constitution, which would greatly demean the seat of his government. That democratic mechanism of one man one vote that brought him to power has proved a blunt instrument: ironically working against its intended national audience.  By and large, it allowed the Shia majority to cultivate fertile grounds sanctioning Maliki’s sectarian rule. It also consolidated his influence among Iraqi Shia to centre stage with little regard for what happens to the Sunni and Kurdish parts of the country.  Such will be the unavoidable divide despite appeals for concessions to accommodate minority rights towards an equal society a product that produced the Sunni political underclass.  While Iraq burns Maliki twiddles his fingers mistakenly believing his ideas of democracy does not engender fractious policies.  He has clearly abandoned tolerance and wisdom that normally fledgling Democracies desperately needs. Such divisive approach created two vital and pivoting obstructions. One it encouraged a fertile ground for the Sunni Jihadist still in Iraq, a legacy of American confrontations, for increased radicalism and hostilities to the regime. Two it encouraged a coalescing among these separate jihadists weakening the overall desire of rapprochement as well as further distancing the parties; a result of such government polarising policies.

As in Syria ISIS will prove, aside from its military might and disinterest in overreach, it has power to consolidate and sustain itself for the long term. It is now self-financing with a staying power that is   hope  that without clearly defined border intentions, ISIS remains aimless, eventually exhausting its expanding power if not its fire power. Conversely, it is recognised, that for now at least, ISIS will be engaged in strengthening its central command considering that today it controls bigger territories and sphere of influence than many countries.  ISIS has enough to build a new Islamic state or Emirate that would mainly subscribe to Wahhabi Sunni Muslims advocating radical interpretation of Islam poised at the gates of Shia heartland.  Judging from recent events it stands ready to destroy Najaf and Karbala as easily as the Taliban’s destruction of Bamiyan statues.
generally accepted, in new won territories. With continued alleged help from the Sunni Saudi cash cow, a source economically and financially immensely more powerful than Shia Iran, it can afford a long drawn out aggressive spread of ideologically inspired control of the region. Controversially, America’s non-interference in the meantime might be seen to let such a scenario burn itself out in the  the

So, what now Maliki or better still what options remain for a stable Iraq? Since nothing was left even for contingency, the stark reality is that there a very few to choose from an almost barren landscape and they are all bad and complicated. In the event one can only pick the least bad from the truly awful.  Any choice would be obfuscated with contradictions which may yet include options that ISIS, led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, may want to exercise resting on valid ideas that success breeds legitimacy. In amongst all that we need to look at the Syrian options as well as the Iranian options and of courses how all that relates to what people for now increasingly consider the Kurdish trump card.  It is Time to consult the Oracle!

Option one: Maliki must go but then who is there to replace him? Especially when this proposed transition is considered at this late stage as efforts to unify the country.  As far as I can see there are three main candidates: Adel Abdul Mahdi is one of the favourite but a Franco-file for over 30 years, although a secularist by reputation is one who supports Maoist economics is I find hard to favour. There is of course Hussein Al-Shahristani, a man who spent 10 years in solitary confinement under Saddam Hussein's government must know a thing or two about suffering.  We cannot rule him out of contention although he has repeatedly voiced his opposition to Prime Ministerial office.  Lastly and in my opinion favourite is Ayad Allawi, the previous Prime Minister who must be the favourite by the Americans. He can tick most of the squares authentically attesting to all ‘western’ credentials.  Whether he can be enticed to return to the job and leave his beloved Kingston on Thames in England is another matter. On the other hand he is the one individual who is secularist enough and has the diplomatic skills to work with both Washington and Tehran, despite the lingering tensions between the United States and Iran.

Option two: is for Kurdish realignment embodying into a one new Iraq Nation. Having recently grabbed oil rich Kirkuk, would the Kurds respond to American efforts for their aggrandisement and join in a new United Iraq? Wishful thinking at best as there are far too many self-interest centrifugal forces pulling to disband such ideas.  John Kerry, United States Secretary of State, recently visited the Kurdish leadership trying to entice them towards a united new Iraq unfortunately found lukewarm response. The Kurds would drive a hard bargain to win further concession from the Iraqi authorities as well as positive concessions in exercising their polar moment from Iran as well as on behalf of the Kurdish Turks who have for centuries been under the yolk of Turkish domination. For now at least apparently the head of the Kurdish regional government was decidedly non- committal describing the situation in Iraq, it is "facing a new reality and a new Iraq".

Option three: is the disintegration of Iraq into three separate Kurdish, Sunni and Shia regions. Faced with internal and external threats added to internal upheaval and in efforts of avoiding a civil war I increasingly advocate dismembering as a solution.  Historical precedents justifying such ideas are there in abundance.  Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of WWI and more recently some would recall the former Yugoslavia after years of internal struggle ‘collapsed’ into several Balkan states. The resulting smaller states proved the ideal solution for peace among different nationalist and religious allegiances.  As for population displacement we can also look into historical chapters that concern India and Pakistan partitions in 1947 at the time of India’s independence or post Ottoman Turkey and Greece in 1923.  Kurdish, Shia and Sunnis may have ethnic as well as religious differences but I believe eventually they will be able to put aside those differences for the sake of trade and other economic common interests ultimately establishing full cooperation. It is high time to restore New Iraq into an Organic state to firmly establish it along agreed and real borders that can sustain validity in the notions of tolerance to disengage from entrenched self-defeatist ideas and to live in peace with one’s neighbours. 
These points and more are very complex and any political leader who does not respect their complexity is asking for trouble.  It will, however, be difficult for any impartially minded secular leader to unite those who believe in faith over reason.  As a rule, such beliefs have habits of incessantly encapsulating the spiritual nuclei that often enough dismisses or at best marginalises the rational thought. Casting such ideas aside, the answer must be yes, Iraq can shape its own destiny.

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