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Deaths, Deaths & More Deaths - Iraq Today
In my previous article How Important a Terrorist? of 13 th June that was published in the pullulating pages of SOMA , I suggested that the death of Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi did not necessarily denote a rapid end to the insurgency.

11 June   |   2006   |   Subject  Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

Indeed, according to recent statistics, the central morgue in Baghdad received last month alone almost 1600 Iraqi cadavers - the highest number since the bombing on 22 nd February of the Shi'ite Golden Mosque in Samarra that sparked a wave of sectarian killings. Such figures validate the viewpoint that the levels of death have increased since the killing of al-Zarqawi on 7 th June, a fact confirmed also recently by the US ambassador in Iraq. To date, the national reconciliation plan pursued by the newly-installed Prime Minister Nuri al-Malki has not yet borne much fruit either.

So bad has the violence become in some parts of Iraq that many pundits have begun to float the idea that America should consider dividing Iraq into three ethno-religious entities, adding that this would not only stem the insurgency but also allow a significant draw-down of American troops. However, I believe that those who advocate this policy are seriously mistaken, since they misread the history and geopolitics of Iraq and do not realise that fracturing this once-fertile country would neither serve any global or regional interests, nor render life for average Iraqis any better.

There are many reasons for my resistance to division. One is that Iraq does not have a clear set of ethnic dividing lines. No meaningful census has taken place in the country to show exactly how its Arab Sunnis, Arab Shi'ites, Kurds and other minorities are distributed demographically across the whole land. In fact, the two elections since the toppling of former president Saddam Hussein have evinced that the eighteen governorates all have significant minorities.

Besides, a division of Iraq would also set off further conflicts over control of oil. More than 90% of the Iraqi government revenues come from oil exports. The Sunni Arab west has no developed oil fields and no oil revenues. The Kurds want the northern oil fields, but have no soundproof legitimate claim to them and no real way to export the oil anyway since they are surrounded by neighbours who are not particularly kurdophile in their foreign or domestic policies.

This is why the EU-Iraq: a new chapter initiative of 7 th June by the European Union acquires additional significance. In it, the EU Commission examined how it could step up its engagement with Iraq and focus on consolidating democracy and building the economy. The proposed strategy, which is meant to strengthen the EU partnership with the Iraqi leadership and its engagement with all its citizens, identifies five objectives for EU support in the next few years:

  • Overcoming divisions within Iraq and building democracy, by supporting the forthcoming review of the constitution, in collaboration with the UN, and backing plans to counter sectarian violence;
  • Promoting the rule of law and human rights, through activities such as training for the police and building the capacity of Iraq to monitor compliance with human rights;
  • Supporting the Iraqi authorities in the delivery of basic services (such as water and education) and the creation of more jobs;
  • Supporting reform of the public administration;
  • Promoting economic reforms, particularly in Iraq's energy sector and investment regime.

In 2006, these objectives will be matched with €200 million already earmarked to continue supporting the reconstruction of the country. Work this year will focus on improving the quality of life of Iraqis (€110 million), furthering democracy (€40 million), and promoting good governance (€40 million). A reserve fund to ensure flexibility in order to adjust to new government priorities and the situation on the ground, has also been foreseen for the amount of €10 million. Indeed, and with the future nomination of a Head of Delegation for Baghdad, the EU Commission has emphasised its role as one of the   most significant actors / donors supporting Iraqi political transition as well as the reconstruction of the country.

However, at the end of the day, in order for the morbid numbers of deaths in morgues to dwindle, Iraqis should realise that sectarian violence, let alone civil unrest and murderous squads meting out their rough brand of polarised justice, are not the catalysts for cohesion, development and betterment. From the Kurds in the north, to the Sunnis and Shi'ites in the central and southern regions, including all minorities who are often victimised in the process of "reconstruction", every Iraqi should realise that the future lies in co-operation and partnership, not in murder and mayhem in the name of God, mammon, ideology, bigotry, domination, vengeance or a myriad other lurching "justifications". True, the invasion and occupation of Iraq have been arrogantly disastrous, but it is high time to start looking forward, not solely backward.

Otherwise, deaths, deaths and more deaths will be a mantra we all will be ululating in the months and years ahead.

© Dr Harry Hagopian   |   2006   |   11 June


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