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The Way Forward in Iraq!
As my SOMA readers might well recall, I had already surmised the outcome of both the presidential and parliamentary elections in my previous article almost a week before Iraqi Kurds went to the polls. And it seems I was not far off at all.

4 August   |   2009   |   Subject  Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

Indeed, with the regional elections in Kurdistan now done and dusted, the recently-formed coalition of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party won again a majority of the popular votes. In fact, such has been the case since Kurdistan acquired a sort of de facto independence in 1991, with those two parties being regularly voted into power - first separately, and now collectively - that they have almost established a sense of predictable complacency.

>However, the major change that took place last month is that a real opposition emerged at long last and garnered overall 24% of the votes for the parliamentary seats - in fact reaching almost 51% in the important powerbase of Suleimaniya. The party that managed this breakthrough is Gorran, or Change, that was formed only three months ago. It ran on a platform pledging to abolish backroom dealing and autocracy that together had become a trademark of regional politics. Moreover, it stood for transparency and accountability. Mind you, Gorran, headed by Nawshirwan Mustafa, sprang out of the PUK and is rumoured to enjoy the backing of Baghdad. Regardless, it could still become the fresh impetus - the political spark as it were - that would open up the region towards more democracy and establish it as a model for the whole of Iraq.

However, what is the model the country ought to seek now that the regional elections are past? After all, as evidenced by the recent visits of PM Nouri Al-Malki to the USA and then to Iraqi Kurdistan, it seems to me that the US Administration is already turning impatient with its different Iraqi allies and is nudging them testily toward compromise. It is also clear to me that this model can only be political, not military, whereby Iraqi Arabs and Kurds unfreeze the five leadership committees in Baghdad and learn to compromise on a solution that includes a division or sharing of power, resources and territory.

Such a series of deals should focus on a federal hydrocarbons law, a settlement over Kirkuk and other disputed territories, and agreement over the division of powers that would pave the way toward consensus on amending the constitution. But this should occur now, not after the Iraqi legislative elections in January 2010, and the biggest conflict remains Kirkuk, with Arabs, Kurds and Turkomans, where everyone is fighting everyone else over untold reserves of oil and gas.

All political actors have a role in tailoring solutions to outstanding issues, or at least in facilitating those solutions. Perhaps one key catalyst would be the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) whose report on disputed internal boundaries of April 2009 offers an important draft for negotiations. An overarching strategy would then focus on power versus resources, and UNAMI is quite well-placed to facilitate a deal since it is the least partial international body in Iraq.

For me, though, the real problem is not necessarily one of impossible solutions but rather of impossible problems. After all, many global conflicts could be resolved relatively expeditiously if only genuine goodwill were present in those negotiating rooms! Instead, conflicts simmer endlessly and usually lapse into gory violence. In the Iraqi case, all parties, both Kurdish and Arab, should stop believing that they could win outright against their opponents and then impose willy-nilly their own political and military will. As I read the geo-political map of the whole region, let alone the loose federation of alliances supporting different Iraqi factions, I know that there is no possible knockout or checkmate available here. The sole answer - and in that sense, the sole litmus test - is whether there will be sufficient determination, persistence and follow-through.

If we look at the history of Iraq, at least its contemporary chapter spanning the past few decades, one can surely realise that common sense and joint action might take this rich country to impressive heights of prosperity whereas bellicose actions - whether coming from Baghdad or Erbil - would plunge it into further mayhem and instability. This is the most difficult part of the equation, a realisation by all and sundry that since there are no friends in politics, only interests, it is not useful for any Iraqi party to allow one group overrunning the other. If this were taken as a truism, even a paradigm to build upon, then any political shift-shaping becomes not only redundant but also counter-productive to the interest of all Iraqis.

After all, is it not this sense of placid cronyism and political corruptibility that hinder progress and oppress people? And is it not this short-sightedness marketed as political interest which pushes extremists and radicals into prominence? Treat your people with equality, and deal with your people democratically, and the dividends become manifold. Do it with contempt, or apply other powers’ agendas, and you, your people and your country, would be the ultimate losers. This rule applies almost to the whole world, and I pray that Iraq in the months ahead would prove an exception to this regrettable two-way traffic

© Dr Harry Hagopian   |   2009   |   4 August


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