Opinion | Columnists

Schism in Iraq polity

Mohammad Akef Jamal writes: The first governing council was established on religious rather than nationalist lines, where sectarian divide instead of democracy was enhanced

  • By Mohammad Akef Jamal, Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 00:01 June 19, 2011
  • Gulf News

After the fall of the Saddam Hussain's regime in 2003, the deep rift in Iraqi society was revealed. The consequent governments in Baghdad have failed in creating a national identity not based on narrow ethnic, religious or sectarian affiliations.

Moreover, the performance of some political blocs after the US invasion also showed the limited nature of their understanding of democracy.

This was evident in the constitutional set up and the election law. The wrong understanding of democracy also resulted in the absence of a political parties' law, and resulted in corruption that has infested the government at every level, making Iraq one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

The chairman of the Iraqi integrity commission has also revealed lately the amount of pressure he is under to not refer ministers, director generals and advisers charged with corruption, to the law.

Over the past few decades, Iraqis opposing the political system of the former Baathist regime had dreams and aspirations, especially those who had fled to western countries.

Their dreams were close to being romantic thoughts, because they stemmed from the personal aspects of the individual and were far removed from Iraqi political and social realities. These dreams were also closer to the status quo in western countries where these people spent many years. They truly imagined that as soon as the Baathist regime collapsed, Iraq would become a democratic country with people living in peace and harmony, exactly like in western countries.

These romanticists were truly shocked after the fall of the regime when they encountered their countrymen inside Iraq. Three decades of war, economic sanctions and living under the tyranny of a despotic government had changed many values in the country. Add to that the crumbling infrastructure.

Lebanese model

Others who had spent a long time outside the country returned with revenge on their mind. They continued feeding the bad feelings against the former regime, when they should have brought down the curtain and started a new chapter in Iraq's history. The elements who agreed with the US before Iraq's invasion, had set the foundations of the new regime according to the Lebanese model, despite its flaws.

And that is how the first governing council was established, along sectarian rather than national lines, where the sectarian divide instead of democracy was enhanced.

This is the situation in Iraq today: Iraqis live in poor condition despite the country's wealth, the country is controlled by people who had either lived under excruciating and long economic sanctions or others who came from abroad but failed to bring with them the positive aspects of democracy. The Iraqi government's crisis continues 15 months after the March 2010 elections, and the three security ministries are still without ministers.

Hence, with the existing situation, it is only natural for the people's protests to increase, and to be put down by the government apparatus.

The most recent events took place on June 10, after the 100-day timeline by the Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki to carry out reforms expired. Protesters in Baghdad's Tahrir Square were faced with unprecedented violence. The government also concentrated on toppling political elites such as Eyad Allawi, chairman of the Al Iraqiya bloc.

Allawi's reaction was direct and strong, where he made a fiery statement accusing the prime minister personally of contradicting the constitution and using the country's resources to oppress the people. Many observers considered Allawi's statement as the end of any possible rapprochement between him and the prime minister.

Iraq's crisis has reached a dangerous stage, where no initiative or pressure on either Al Maliki or Allawi will solve the problem.

We have to confess that Iraq is in a political crisis created by the invading forces, as a result of which heads of sects found an ideal chance to achieve their dreams of power and control. 

Dr Mohammad Akef Jamal is an Iraqi writer based in Dubai.

Gulf News
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