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The Crisis of Governance in Iraq, Sectarian Power Sharing or Iranian Hegemony?

The Crisis of Governance in Iraq, Sectarian Power Sharing or Iranian Hegemony?

Friday, 21 February, 2020 - 13:15
Women protest against Iranian hegemony. AAWSAT AR
Dr. Mohamed Ezzelarab

The current crisis of governance in Iraq reflects a deeper one revolving around the question of Iraq’s ability to return to the country it was before the US and Iranian invasions. Iran’s hegemony is being challenged as protests continue to rock in different Iraqi cities, including Shiite-majority cities that the Iranians had considered to be under their control.

The current crisis is a natural consequence of the original crisis. On one hand, we have the parties and individuals loyal to Iran and on the the other hand, we have the majority who reject Iran’s hegemony and are calling for Iraq to get its sovereignty back and want to put an end to the ethno-sectarian quota system. The main question posed by analysts since the eruption of the popular protests movement last October is whether Iraq’s central problem is the quota system, part of the constitution since 2005, or the Iranian hegemony, which gradually replaced US influence after the invasion. 

The first group sees the country’s constitution and the Baathist purge as the main problem. The state was purged of Baathists, who were banned from ever holding government positions again, isolating many of these with the experience and skills needed to run the state. The constitution was “de-Arabized” and sectarianized, while it also gave precedence to Shiite and Shiism over other communities. 

The first group, though they do not believe that the sectarian system is necessarily toxic, believe that without certain requisites, which were absent in Iraq, it can be catastrophic. This system, which allocates the presidency to Kurds, the speakership of parliament to Sunnis and the prime ministership to Shiite, was compared to Lebanon's “muhassasa system.” This comes with fears that it would lead to war in Iraq as it had in Lebanon before, in light of the absence of requisites, especially experience with democratic governance and peaceful sharing of power. A system blamed to be behind the eruption of the civil war. 

The second group, while they see sectarianism as a major problem, believes that Iraq’s major problem is Iran’s exploitation of sectarianism for its strategic benefit. With time US occupation turned into Iranian occupation, which took several forms and allowed Iran to control culture, economy, and politics as well as security. The Iranians created a weak and dependent system that is easy to exploit. The governments of this system, especially that of Nour al-Maliki, marginalized Sunnis and further reinforced this “state within a state” structure. This legitimization of militias is epitomized by the so-called Popular Mobilization Units, mostly Shiite militias that was incorporated in the state to fight ISIS.  

It is obvious that the Iranian hegemony and the sectarian system both contributed to Iraq’s arrival to where it is today.

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