Restoring the Iraqi Equation

Restoring the Iraqi Equation

Monday, 4 June, 2018 - 08:30
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper
A long list of difficult files awaits the new Iraqi government, whose birth seems challenging. An example of these complex problems is the deterioration of the water crisis after Turkey began operating the Ilisu dam on the Tigris River, which is now shyly flowing in Baghdad.

What is happening “is a dangerous indicator of a future war on water, which requires the Iraqi government to move regionally and internationally and engage in serious negotiations with the Turks,” Ahmad al-Jubouri, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Iraqi parliament, told Asharq Al Awsat.

Another problem awaits the new Iraqi government. The withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear agreement with Iran and the decision of President Donald Trump to exert unprecedented economic pressure on Tehran open the door to a difficult new round of US-Iranian conflict. It is clear that Iraq may be one of the arenas for such confrontation, although the Syrian theater provides a greater opportunity for heated action.

One should not also forget the major, well-known problems. First and foremost the reconstruction of cities and towns that were destroyed or damaged by the wars launched by ISIS and the war that led to the terrorist organization’s defeat.

This is important as it relates to the return of displaced persons. The failure to accelerate this reconstruction will lead to the return of feelings of frustration and anger among the sons of the Sunni component, the feelings that facilitated the infiltration of extremists, who had committed costly bloody adventures, during which the sons of this community were the first victims. In addition, the new government is called upon to address the deteriorating economic situation, high unemployment rates, poverty and the fight against corruption, which has led to the largest looting of the state since the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Not surprisingly, the Iraqi parliamentary elections were followed by a storm of accusations of fraud and violations. One must remember that the actual electoral practice in Iraq, which remained for decades in the custody of one party, was accompanied by a series of exhausting wars at home and abroad.

It is obvious that democratic practice requires multiple trials an errors in a country that has experienced a difficult occupation followed by bloody confrontations between its components. In addition, the stability of the democratic experience in a society depends on a number of economic, social and cultural measures.

Iraqis have said their word in the elections and this word must be respected. They gave the first position to the “Sairoun alliance” led by Moqtada al-Sadr. The second position went to the “Fateh” coalition. The “Victory” coalition led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi reached the third position, while the “State of Law” coalition of former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki dropped to the fourth place.

The election results were also striking in Kurdish areas. Some predicted that the Kurds would send a message of resentment or anger to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Massoud Barzani in response to the latter’s assumption of the leadership of the call for an independence referendum and the subsequent Kurdish losses of gains made by the Kurdish engagement in the war against ISIS.

The message contradicted these expectations as the results gave Barzani the first position among the Kurdish blocs, which may give him a prominent role in the game of alliances to resolve the battle to form the largest bloc in parliament. Competing Shiite blocs rushed to gain the sympathy of Kurdish blocs, in particular, the largest ones.

Iraq cannot face the next stage with its regional and international rivalries unless the country seriously embarks on the process of nation-building. Problems and challenges cannot be met by the logic of factions and components and the influence of arms and intimidation.

There must be a return to the logic of the state. The Constitution must be respected because that would open the door to the restoration of the Iraqi equation and the reform of the national fabric, which is suffering from the policy of dictation, discontentment and the tendency towards divorce.

It is necessary to restore Shiite-Sunni relations, not on the basis of distribution of gains, gifts and bribes, but on the basis of genuine national partnership and equal rights and duties under the institutions and the rule of law. The correction of Shiite-Sunni relations will weaken the extremists’ voices in the two camps and will close the window to the possibility of a new modified version of ISIS.

This restoration process gives the whole country immunity to all external interventions and puts an end to the ambitions of managing Iraq from abroad and considering it a mere arena of conflicts.

In parallel, Arab-Kurdish relations must be repaired based on the Constitution and the results of the elections. The policy of intimidating the Kurds and cutting salaries in the region has shown its failure. The Kurds must be returned as partners in Baghdad through a president who knows Iraq, the region and the world.

Restoring the Iraqi equation reinstates Iraq as a natural and active member of the Arab family and reestablishes its position within the international community.

There are lessons to be learned from the difficult experiences of post-Saddam Iraq. The first is that the absence of the state weakens the victory of the winner and multiplies the losses of the loser, depriving Baghdad of its right to assume self-decision making.

The second lesson is that over-breaking the internal equation doubles the vulnerability and keeps the door of surprises wide open. The experience of the fall of Mosul in the hands of ISIS is still fresh.

The third lesson is that a self-reconciling Iraq can reconcile with the region and the world and can be a balancing element controlling Iranian and Turkish appetites.

Lebanon is also waiting for a post-election government. The government is called upon to revive the relations between the Lebanese and restore the idea of the state after it has been widely abandoned and violated. It is no secret that the Lebanese are currently hugely disappointed and deceived with the horses on which they have bet.

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