As Iraq’s delicate sectarian make-up has been gradually ripped open and existential battles have ignited, the West has so far passed resolutions blindly. These are based on the supposed “unity” of the state and “territorial integrity” as essentials for stability and economic development.
At least, though, members of the European parliament (MEPs) met in Brussels to discuss the crisis in Iraq and decided to act on the reality of the Kurdish situation. Dellawar Ajgeiy, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) representative expressed great joy over this recognition at long last.
“We feel that the reversal means that they had to take account of the new realities,” he said. “It is very positive, because one cannot dictate to Iraqis and Kurds something that is not in their interest.”
So, although the symptomatic issues of independence are highlighted internationally, the root of the cause as well as the structure in which it swelled, persists; and so does the frail practical reality for Kurdish independence. Despite this European “realisation”, deep-seated and bloody divisions continue to erode Iraqi and Kurdish land as the US-nominated Maliki discriminates brutally against both Kurds and Iraqi Sunnis, and other minorities, leaving them vulnerable in the country’s unstable and historically corrupt political system.
Susceptible and deprived of resources, Sunni tribes and militia have been rehabilitated under the so-called Islamic State’s (IS/ISIS) extremist patronage, despite disagreeing with its mission statement of creating a Caliphate.
Last week, the Carnegie think tank held a conference on Iraq’s future. Reflecting on the history of Iraqi politics, Maria Fanatappie, Iraq researcher at the ICG (International Crisis Group) found a number of “chronic issues” of Iraqi politics causing the erosion of the state, thus enabling IS/ISIS to take over Iraq. It was a combination of historical and structural breakdown. “The state has reached a stage where it is evaporating,” Fanatappie argued.
Building the enemy
Historically, Iraq has seen a major and increasing personalisation of politics affecting not just one area of the political domain but the central government and Kurdistan. This tendency, where agencies are meant to represent citizens, has come to embody political personalities and hinges on the facts of the 2010 Iraqi collision. Along with this, such personalisation has been in alignment with the Iraqi army rather than associated with the state, but more with key political personalities, making it disintegrated and pseudo self-determining in terms of protecting civilians. In this respect, Fanatappie reasoned, it is not a nominated Iraqi army but fractured with no clear command.
Another major issue is the principle of regulating the state function by twisting the constitution to fit and justify personal political gains. “These trends of total legitimacy and control of constitutional interpretation are often combined with another trend, that of security apparatus as the only law-enforcing institution,” Fanatappie explained. The army relies on defeating its own political enemies amongst the Iraqis, by using the “security” forces. In this way, political disagreements become military issues in the blink of an eye.
At a time when Sunnis are stigmatised as “associated” terrorists, conflict has become the engine of political Iraq. A clear discourse and rhetoric to identify and build an enemy was created with, for example, the Kurd-Arab confrontation. Two years later, the enemy became the Sunnis and now we have the Islamic State (IS/ISIS).
The international community is completely frozen on the issue of Iraq; its continued support for the Iraqi government is steady because the threat of IS/ISIS would not just be towards Iraq but, potentially, the international community. This convergence of enemies has immobilised the world.
Islamic State acceptance
The Islamic State is accepted more in Syria than in Iraq as the latter does not face “chaos or IS”; the group is more resourceful and multinational than other Islamist groups, taking members from other such movements as existential battles have seen IS/ISIS gaining ground. This is making the international community passive against the group. Lina Khatib of Carnegie has just returned from a meeting with the British government, which has no intention of engaging with its violence.
For tribal groups in Iraq, with no means of forming alliances, the only possible way to liberate themselves from central government would be by opting-in with the Islamic State. They cannot be independent and they need IS/ISIS as it is militarily stronger than the tribes. They want to rely on IS/ISIS but share no ideological goals. “Their goal is to reach Baghdad, not a Maliki Baghdad, but one that has a state and not a person,” Khatib explained. In this way, the tribes start compromising whilst hoping to succeed in pressurising the Maliki administration to save Iraq from radicalisation and ensure equality between Sunnis and the Shia.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.