Iraq’s internal crises is a failure of the political system

Many Western and Middle East experts blame Iraqi leaders for the internal disputes and crises. Iraq’s political leaders are one of the reasons, but they are not the main cause. The crucial cause is the new political system, which has failed to address critical questions and key problems.

Most of Iraq’s internal problems relate back to the birth of the country, which the colonial powers created after WWI. The Kurds were the biggest losers, as their land was annexed to Iraq to suit the colonial powers’ interests. British forces quelled the Kurdish struggle for independence, and Kurds became an oppressed minority inside Iraq. In addition, the British colonialists gave power to Sunni Arabs and marginalized the majority Shi’a Arabs. Therefore, since the birth of Iraq the internal problems have been: historical injustices, internal security dilemmas, weak state identity, unequal wealth and power distribution, territorial border issues, demographic changes and bias, exclusionary ideas and exclusionist elites, discrimination and marginalization of targeted groups, group favoring policy, and secession tendencies.

During the whole of Iraq’s history, the Kurds, Sunnis and Shi’a have yet to experience a positive peace. The Arab governments did not believe in Kurdish political and cultural rights and they marginalized the Shia’s, thus they could not solve the internal problems and create a peaceful Iraq. Under Saddam Hussein, the oppression escalated to a large-scale ethnic cleansing policy and crimes of genocide against the Kurds.

The USA gathered the Iraqi opposition to develop a plan for the country and with its allies toppled Saddam Hussein in April 2003. They aimed to create a better Iraq, based on representative democracy where the Shi’a, Sunnis and Kurds could share power, and with equal distribution of wealth, a multiple party system, neutralization of extreme leaders, individual and minority rights, equality before the law, and separation of the executive, judicial, and court authorities. Rebuilding the state had a basis in instrumentalist and constructivist ideas.

A new constitution is now written, but there remains disagreement on several important points and the rights written into the constitution suffer due to the discrepancy between democratic and Islamic principles. The equality of minorities and the individual’s rights have never become a reality. Iraqi groups claimed the creation of a federal system, but the true and complete federal system has never been established. A solution to the disputed border areas between Arabs and Kurds was written into the constitution, but implementation has never started. A fair distribution of wealth has never reached a reliable compromise, while Iraqi identity remains less important than local ethnic identities. Most of the leaders are corrupt power seekers due to their private interests and mistrust of others; nepotism is widespread and Iraq is one of the most corrupt states in the world. Security and safety has never been achieved, terror attacks and insurgency is ongoing, and more than 100,000 people have been killed.

Why all these problems and failures? First, Iraq was created on the wrong fundamentals due to the long historical conflict between Shi’a and Sunni Arabs and the Arabs and Kurds; it was based on colonial interests with no consideration of the people’s wishes and interests. What the rebuilding program did was to create a new political system on the same misguided foundations of the 1920s. The Americans and their Iraqi allies did not consider the key negative factures of the past and imposed a political system on the Iraqis without offering the right to choose alternatives.

The transitional period ignored serious critical points, such as: the Sunni Arabs’ refusal of the new system; an unclear and problematic constitution; the lack of a full federal system; a vague and optimistic solution for internal border disputes; and imposing Iraq on the Kurds again without a constitutional solution for their self-determination and rights. The gap between the three main ethnic groups is widening and there is no trust between them. Using classic short-term tactics, some political parties and ethnic groups are trying to use the vacuum and make allies in the fight against the others. Numerous accusations are being made, with the Kurds and Sunni Arabs accusing Nowri al-Maliki of power construction and dictatorship, and the Shi’a Arabs counter-accusing the others of using the same ethnically biased steps.

Many Western and Middle East experts blame Iraqi leaders for the internal disputes and crises. Iraq’s political leaders are one of the reasons, but they are not the main cause. The crucial cause is the new political system, which has failed to address critical questions and key problems. Reconstruction of the state was imposed on the ethnic groups by outside powers and Iraqi elites, which in any case carries a real risk of undermining any claimed attempts at coexistence. The situation is worse if the groups have a history of long-term conflict, which is the case in Iraq.

Many questions are relevant here: Why not look back at the problems Iraq has suffered since its inception? Why the passivity and silence toward the colonial powers’ negative legacy of the 1920s? Why ignore the interests of the people when rebuilding the state is of most concern to them? Why was the state not rebuilt based on the people’s interest and aspirations? Why not take the ethnic and national minority demands as just questions and give them what they deserve? Why it is a taboo to let the people decide their own political destiny?

The huge number of victims is already a manmade catastrophe, and the Iraqi internal crises have the potential to lead to further serious consequences. Short-term solutions and avoidance of the core longstanding negative factures will not lead to peace and stability.

The failure of the new political system is the failure of the American and Iraqi leaders. Iraqi leaders have to face up to reality and find a solution that matches the interests and aspirations of the people, especially the main ethnic groups. The priority must be a long-term solution based on the interests of all Iraqi ethnic groups, not on the wishes of the regional states or the majority group. Shi’a and Sunni Arabs and Kurds have the right to choose their own political destiny, and to legitimize their political decisions through a referendum, without being reliant on decisions made by corrupt political leaders behind closed doors. The international community must contribute to a reliable solution, protect the people’s decisions and promote peaceful development in the region.

By Shakhawan Shorash

26 march 2012