May 04,2016 – JORDAN TIMES – MICHAEL JANSEN
It is hardly surprising that Iraqis stormed the Green Zone at the heart of Baghdad, entered the parliament building and confronted legislators blocking reforms proposed by Prime Minister Haidar Al Abadi.
Iraqis of all sects and stations in life were among those who poured into the Green Zone, demanding water and electricity ahead of the long hot summer and an end to corruption and the ethno-sectarian regime.
This dysfunctional model was imposed by the US viceroy L. Paul Bremer III in May 2003 when he established the “governing council”, a powerless body composed of men chosen on the basis of their religious or ethnic background.
This model of governance has led to domination by powerful, Iran-allied Shiite fundamentalist parties — Dawa and its offshoots — which have ignored the requirement of power- sharing.
Under the pretext of de-Baathification, they dismissed experienced Sunni administrators from the civil service. Additionally, they corrupted and politicised the army, enriched their members, alienated the Kurds, and abused and imprisoned Sunnis.
Appointed in September 2014, Abadi has failed to deliver basic services, deal with rampant graft, appease the Kurds, and reconcile with Sunnis and bring them to the circle of power.
A weak chief minister, Abadi has been stymied by legislators unwilling to lose their privileges and perks, their money-making sidelines, and their comfortable life styles.
Iraqis took advantage of the “open house” provided by the brave souls who breached the defences of the Green Zone and roamed the area, marvelling at playing fountains, grass, the tidy, well appointed city within their dusty, deprived capital.
Families took picnics and spread blankets on the grass, youths jumped into ornamental pools.
Those who stood beneath the Crossed Swords arch erected by Saddam Hussein to celebrate Iraq’s “victory” in the 1980-88 war with Iran felt they had been deprived of their recent history.
They accuse their rulers of hiding behind barriers and caring nothing for the millions who live in the “Red Zone”, where bombs slay innocent peoples daily, kidnappers roam, and each and every official application has to be accompanied by a fat bribe.
Abadi’s predecessor, Nuri Al Maliki — the Dawa figure chosen by the US to be prime minister in 2006 — is to blame for abusing the ethno-sectarian regime created by Washington.
He established Shiite death squads to eliminate Iraqis resisting the US occupation and when Sunnis formed “Awakening” squads to fight Al Qaeda, Maliki refused to pay them or recruit them into the army or civil service, honouring promises made to them by the US.
He swept up Sunni critics and dissidents and put them in prison. He allowed corruption to flourish in the administration and the armed forces, where commissions were sold and officers claimed “ghost” soldiers who did not exist to secure funds for their food and accommodation.
Maliki is, naturally, one of the legislators opposing Abadi’s efforts to reform the system, fight corruption and appoint technocrats as ministers.
Maliki’s exploitation of the ethno-sectarian model must be held responsible for the return of Al Qaeda, after its containment by US and Awakening forces in 2007-08, and its creation of Jabhat Al Nusra, its Syrian branch, and Daesh, two major threats to the existence of Iraq and Syria and the stability of this region.
Instead of focusing on the destructive US model, Western politicians and “experts” are now reviving the contention that Iraqis are incapable of living together in a unified nation state and the state created after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire a century ago should be partitioned.
This option was put forward by US Vice-President Joe Biden in 2006 and more recently by Ali Khedery, a US citizen of Iraqi origin who advised US officials and generals during the occupation.
Writing in The New York Times, the paper’s former Baghdad bureau chief Tim Arango quoted Khedery who said, correctly, that Iraq is “ungovernable under the current construct”, which he helped fashion.
He did not, however, blame the construct and propose throwing it out, but joined Biden in advocating partition or the creation of a confederacy.
He argued that Iraq “is a violent, dysfunctional marriage [of] fractious communities”. He did not take into consideration the fact that Iraqis coexisted and Iraq functioned as a country until 2003.
For the country’s current troubles, Arango wrongly blames Saddam Hussein, rather than the US occupation and the ethno-sectarian model it imposed on Iraq.
He was certainly a dictator and a tyrant, but he brutally suppressed the Kurds and Shiites only when they revolted, their revolts being instigated and supported by Western powers.
Western “experts” and commentators generally adopt the false notion that Saddam’s regime was Sunni: it was, indeed, heavily populated with members of his family and clan, who happened to be Sunnis, but the ministers of oil, foreign affairs, defence industry and information were often Shiites.
These “experts” and commentators hold that Shiites and Kurds excluded Sunnis from the magic circle of power to punish them for oppression under Saddam.
Fundamentalist Shiites and secessionist Kurds marginalised the Sunnis because this suits their different agendas.
Partition or loosening the bonds that tie Iraq’s provinces to the centre would be the worst possible option.
While the Kurds already have an autonomous region, partition of Iraq’s Arab-majority provinces into sectarian regions would be a recipe for disaster.
Partition would split tribes that have Sunni and Shiite members, divide clans and families.
Partition would result in war for territory, oil and other resources, sectarian cleansing, mass murder, and the flight of millions of Iraqis from their hometowns and homeland.
Iraq would be fractured into multiple warring fiefdoms ruled by local warlords, including those from Daesh and Nusra.
The only solution for Iraq is to revert to a secular system of governance defined by a new constitution that bans political parties based on religion, sect or ethnicity.
The post-US war political elite would have to be sidelined, those involved in corruption prosecuted and billions of dollars in embezzled funds returned to the state.