Iraq and the Failed Sectarian Experiences in the Region

  • 30 March 2006

It is a proverbial principle of political negotiations to first hold talks on  "easy" issues first, which are less likely to provoke disagreements and can be resolved within a short time. Such an approach develops a suitable opening for the more difficult or disputable issues ahead, which if presented at the beginning might either abort the negotiations process, or at least aggravate its complexities. This rule, however, seems to have been overlooked by Iraqi leaders, who are still engaged in difficult negotiations to reach an agreement over the formation of a new Iraqi government, after over three months of parliamentary elections. Instead of holding off sensitive disputable issues and concentrating on matters that could restore confidence among contending parties, the spotlight has been fixed on complicated and sensitive issues that create doubts, fears and skepticism and perpetuate the stalemate that plagues the political process. A striking example of this is the oft-repeated demand to establish a separate region in the south and parts of central Iraq by some Shiite personalities, such as Abdel-Aziz Hakeem, chairman of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). His call has come at a critical moment when there is a need to address points of agreement rather than disagreements. Reiteration of the call to establish a separate Shiite region in south and certain central regions of Iraq was made in the backdrop of increasing sectarian tensions. This has prompted certain circles to warn against the situation descending to the level of a devastating civil war. Sectarianism has shown its ugly face, which reflects nothing but animosities and hatred of the past, cruelty of the present and darkness of the future.

The Arab region has had painful experiences of failed 'solutions' in handling sectarian problems in various countries. Sectarian models and arrangements have failed to secure a stable and sound relation among various people of various sects and groups. The failure of these 'solutions' have led to the outbreak of bloody and devastating conflicts. For their part, Iraqis have failed the first test. This fact should provide an important lesson for them, while they are trying to re-establish their country. Iraqi nationalism should take precedence over other considerations. Iraqi leaders, after having witnessed all these experiences, have no excuse for falling in the same quagmire into which others in the region have fallen, unless they have decided not to benefit from the experiences of others.

The divine rule and historical facts declare that reforms essentially start from within. Several regional and international parties are trying to assist Iraqis in overcoming this crisis. However, it is for the Iraqis themselves to perform this important duty. The burden of responsibility rests on their shoulders. They should remember that if they cannot help themselves, no one else could.