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Does Iraq need a new approach?

If the situation was normal in Iraq, which it certainly isn’t, and if all that was needed was an agreement regarding the Shia’, Sunni and Kurdish presidencies and the formation of a national consensus government, then there would be no objection to take the next step according to the constitution and hold the first session of the new parliament on July 1st. However, what is actually needed is much more than such constitutional formalities. They are certainly still required, but at a later stage, after we reach a consensus on solutions to the problems that threaten the division of Iraq and a civil war.

The problems and challenges faced by the establishment of the new Iraq are not new; they have been present since the beginning, but remained suspended until recently, after democratic mechanisms failed to solve them. As such, the 2005 and 2010 elections were not constructive; instead, what happened was that the major national issues that the political process failed to solve were put to one side and accumulated until they reached breaking point during the Sunni Arab uprising in six provinces in December 2012.

No analyst would be able to find a suitable explanation for the calling of some to rush to parliament before solving the problems that have now become very serious and dangerous, and to do so without any guarantees of a solution in the future. There is no other explanation for their calls other than their desire for status and wealth, without being insensitive to the imminent dangers facing the country. They are repeating the failed experiences of the political process deliberately, simply because they are not interested or concerned with these problems and do not want to solve them. This is a logical result from an elite that was either involved in oppression, corruption and foreign dependency or remained silent to protect their various interests. As for those of us representing the Sunni Arabs who are distraught by the injustice and ethnic cleansing, we should take firm decisions because we are now targets for the regime’s army and militias. The latter include people who follow the state doctrine and have taken up arms based on fatwas not issued for the liberation of Al-Aqsa but to cleanse the earth of Sunni Muslims.

The current crisis cannot be reduced to mere political disagreements in order to find a political solution. It is a larger and deeper problem that affects identity and existence above everything else. We have been targeted, not for our political failure or administrative inabilities, but due to our religious affiliations, nothing more. The fact that you are an Arab Sunni makes you a suspect automatically and the punishment is either the cutting off of your livelihood in accordance with the law of accountability and justice, or cutting off your head in accordance with the anti-terrorism law. I do not know how the political process can treat or solve the tendency towards hatred and animosity after it has failed in the past and when one is dependent on the other. How can we expect to succeed in doing anything within the framework of a comprehensive political process when the participants are not treating each other as equals? They are being treated like followers, which is what the dominant party wants.

In the context of the current political process and the scope of the permanent constitution, the problems in Iraq have escalated to the point of strife amongst national partners; these problems, in other words, represent the catastrophic results of a failed political process. Hence, repeating this failed process means these catastrophic results will remain present and may even be exacerbated. The logical solution is to review and adjust the experience of the past 11 years from every angle: political, social, cultural, security, economic and foreign relations. It is unacceptable to focus on a chronic phenomenon and ignore the causes of the disease. This seems to be the political elite’s goal, with a few exceptions, such as the Iraqi National List.

The priority at the moment is to put an end to the bloodshed and aggression in the provinces, and this will not be achieved without the ending of Nouri Al-Maliki’s government, the restoration of sovereignty and the prevention of Iranian intervention. We must then task a national salvation government with dealing with the unstable and turbulent situation in many provinces and prepare for new elections. During this time, representatives of the different social groupings can come to the table in order to agree on the state formation, governing system, the sharing and distribution of power and resources, etc. This will lead ultimately to a constitutional amendment and perhaps the signing a national contract by the groups which ensures coexistence and equality for all. This is what the Sunni Arabs, Turkmens, Assyrians, Christians and other minorities are missing at the moment.

This is all supposed to occur within the context of national consensus but, of course, it is not possible in light of internal conflicts and the atmosphere of mistrust. It is inevitable that Iraq will need the intervention of the international community represented by the UN Security Council.

In short, the current situation is in need of a new approach to find a solution in which the repetition of failed experiments from the past is avoided. We must act quickly.

Translated from Al-Sharq newspaper, 30 June, 2014

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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