The Inalienable Rights of Nations and Peoples.
- the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights
The first and fundamental democratic right to fall with the invasion of Iraq, was the right of a nation to self-determination. It was this right that underpinned the legitimacy and success of the American War of Independence and which it now tramples underfoot in its Imperialist dealings with all countries in the Middle East. It lies at the root of the impasse in the current crisis in Palestine, where both the US and Israel refuse to recognize the democratically elected Hamas government and is undermining the social stability of Lebanon, where they are , likewise, trying to subvert the legitimate social and electoral for Hezbollah. Indeed, its contempt for the right of nations to self-determination pervades America's attitude to all the countries of the Middle East and is one key source of the hatred felt towards it by the Arab peoples.
Therefore, when discussing solutions for the Iraqi catastrophy, we need to always begin with the inalienable right of the Iraqi peoples to self-determination as the foundation stone of our approach. Whatever, our personal opinion of what is the best or most suitable form of government, it is for the Iraqi peoples to work out and decide their future for themselves.
Furthermore, we need to be sensitive to starting from the "inside-out" and not the "outside-in"; that is, from what the needs and aspirations of the Iraqis are for themselves, rather than our aspirations for them.
The Humpty-Dumpty Empire.
Trying to hold together the disintegrating and blood soaked pieces of former, British colonies is a thankless task. Efforts to maintain these totally artificial Frankenstein states are unusually a futile and worthless exercise. Even where people provide "solutions" to avoid their disintegration out of honest and well-meaning motivations, the internal and external forces of self-interested Imperial and sectarian participants too often shipwreck their plans.
The social calamities experienced by synthetic, British ex-colonies like Sierra Leone, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Israel, Palestine, Cyprus, and Northern Ireland is a short list of Britain's "Hall of Shame," which should speak for itself. It is a picture of millions of lives lost in civil war, insurgency, sectarianism and terrorism. All of this has resulted from the divide and rule, sectarian tactics of British Imperialism, when creating and governing these pseudo-nations for their own strategic and economic interests. Iraq is now one such country in question.
Iraq has existed for less than a hundred years. It was artificially carved from the old Ottoman Empire. The name and the state of "Iraq" didn't exist until it was under British mandate in 1920, when it was established without any concern for natural ethnic or religious boundaries. It border were just part of what Churchill contemptuously called "drawing lines in the sand." The very name Iraq is neither native nor Arabic, but a derivation from the Persian word "Erak", meaning, "lower Iran."
As they did in Ireland, India and Malaysia (to name a few) the Brits ruled Iraq by leaning on one ethnic minority against the rest, in this case the Sunnis against the Kurds and Shias. Sunni tribal leaders made up the colonial administration and a Sunni Hashimite family from Mecca took the throne. Nominal independence was gained in 1932. But since then the country has been in ongoing social flux and ethnic and religious upheaval. In its short history, it has faced 11 uprisings and 4 major wars, all related to the same issues bursting to the surface today. It was inevitable that the country would simply implode as a result of US invasion occupation.
Iraq was never a nation in the true sense, but a psuedo-nation artificially sewn together. There was never a process of a people or peoples "growing" together in one clear geographic area over hundreds of years and through collective events and experiences that finally formed a deep-rooted sense of national identity. In truth it is another "misfit" of Imperialism designed to secure foreign oil interests and play out balance of power politics. The same two concerns govern the invasion of Iraq today and its intended affect on process in the Middle East as a whole.
Trying to stabilize and keep these man-made monsters together has been one of the principle tasks and failures of British and US imperialism since the countries gained independence. And when, through internal contradictions and external influences, these Frankenstein monsters eventually fall apart, the consequences in human suffering are shocking and the task of trying to put the pieces together again, are almost insurmountable. Consequently, in searching for solution one has to determine first, if the monster can be stitched back together. If so, are the internal and external situations favourable to this being sustained and can they also provide a suitable quality of life for the people.
Therefore, before, we suggest any solutions to the Iraq dilemma, the first question to be posed is; should we try and keep this artifice together, and, secondly, should we work with important internal and foreign participants who are making efforts to achieve exactly this, but in their own, cynical self-interests.
It has already been well noted by other commentators that issues and struggles with thousand-year-old roots have resurfaced. Whatever solution is put forward, or becomes popular, one has to ask if it is only again temporarily plastering over fissures that will soon blow open again, given the current state of the nation and the influences of the regional and international environment? Will today's sticking plaster, only temporarily subdue the subterranean build up of contradictions and unresolved problems, which will only haemorrhage out even more violently, in the not so distant future.
It is not surprising, that among all those in some way involved in Iraq, from principal actors to commentators, to the Iraqi public and world public opinion, there are many contradictory views and sentiments on what should be done. Despite the artificiality of Iraq, most people sense that the break up of a larger political, social and economic unit into smaller parts is a regressive step. Thus, the most popular solutions are generally seen to be those that appear to find a compromise or bridge between the contradictory centrifugal and centripetal forces at work.
Discussions range from the need for a strong unitary state governed again by a dictator, to break-up into independent states. In the middle, and increasingly the dominant trend, is the notion of some form of federalization. This is not new and has been part of the constitutional preamble since early on, when ex-patriot parties and leaders returned to Iraq in 2003 and enshrined in the March 2004 Transitional Administrative Law, even preceding the current federalist constitution of November 2006.
Today's federalism in Iraq is a sectarian, Shiite "solution." It originated among formerly, exiled Shiite politicians and clerics and has never been an "Iraqi solution," i.e. a demand arising from among all sections of the peoples and corresponding to their common needs and aspirations. It has been supported by the Kurds, only in order to favour the maintenance of their own autonomy, but its has been consistently rejected by the Sunnis, who see it as heavily favouring the political and economic interests of the Shiites. It has not even been a popular demand stemming from the body of the Shiite population.
Despite federalism being the platform of the larger government parties, there is considerable scepticism towards it among ordinary Shiites. The reason for this is that they see first hand how parties are using it for Machiavellian purposes. Its most forthright proponent is the influential cleric and leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. His position is the most radical, calling for the merger of all the Southern governates into one Shiite "super-region." In general terms, the federalist « solution » provides for three autonomous regions in all their affairs of government with the exception of the national army and police and national defence. He is supported tentatively by Prime Minister Maliki, whose Dawa Party depends on him as the largest block in parliament.
Yet ironically, Maliki also depends on the Sadrist block of Muqtada al-Sadr, which until now has opposed federalism! Both the Sadrists and the Fadhila Party, which rules Basra, oppose federalism, more because they fear they would loose their power over local governates in the south, which, in a super-region would become politically dominated by al-Hakim's SCIRI. Muqtada al-Sadr goes so far as to call for unity between Sunnis and Shiites, while his Mehdi Army is responsible for the majority of sectarian murders and attacks on them. When it comes to political programs both al-Sadr and the Fadhila party could also easily switch positions on federalism, if it suited them. Such is the integrity of these individuals on any issues.
For the moment, who governs in the south doesn't depend on the results of the local elections, but whoever has the most powerful militia in town. Al-Hakim's Badr Brigades have power in some towns, but not the majority. The super-region "solution" basically suits the power lust of al-Hakim, who so far has found no other way to get full control over the south.
Federalism has originated from above, not from below. It is a fabrication of opportunist, sectarian politicians, who have just about managed to scrape it into the constitution against the opposition of Sunni representatives, as well as some important Shiite parties. Indeed, the balance between the pro-federalist and anti-federalist Shiite blocks is very close. After all, their physical majority already ensures that they have control over the oil in the south, even with the existing constitution.
Federalism has managed to get so far because of the failure of democracy and the lack of a clear, public end game on the part of the US. The other factor is the lack of alternatives. There is either the option of going back to dictatorship or a full-ahead course to independence. However desperate their situation, these are two are roads, which people still hesitate to take for the moment. Therefore, federalism in Iraq is not so much the exercise of self-determination, as the product of indetermination.
That said, however, it would be wrong to give the impression that there is no grass root support at all for federalism. There is certainly an important section of the Shiite population that is in favour of federalism as a way to guarantee their stranglehold over some of the country's main economic resources. Hakim did secure the highest votes for a single party in the elections. But going by voting patterns is not a clear indicator of intent. Al-Hakim wins considerable votes just due to his important religious authority. Furthermore, in the referendum, the high turnout by Shiites was secured in no small part because the country's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a Fatwah ordering people to vote
Next. Part 2 - Would Federalism Work & The Sectarianism of the United States
Stephen J. Morgan is a former member of the British Labour Party Executive Committee, a political writer and accredited Emotional Intelligence Coach. His first book was the "The Mind of a Terrorist Fundamentalist - the Cult of Al Qaeda." He has lived and worked in more than 27 different countries and including crisis situations in Northern Ireland and Yugoslavia. He is a jouranalist and columnist for thecheers.org magazine. He is a political psychologist, researcher into Chaos/Complexity Theory and lives in Brussels (Old Europe) http://morgansreview.tripod.com Contact firstname.lastname@example.org