Recent political trends in Iraq have raised serious doubts about the stability of the nation. The ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has had difficulty in meeting the needs of the Iraqi people, and has made several controversial statements that dismayed those hoping for a unified, democratic and prosperous Iraq. Armed militias, gangs and pro-Baath remnants are threatening to destroy any stability built since the fall of Saddam's regime in early 2003. In one of his speeches found today on YouTube, al Maliki was quoted saying "now we have the power and certainly nobody can take it away from us." Such divisive words led various groups, even from within his own coalition, to fear for Iraq's future.
As best demonstrated by the recent waves of attacks, the geopolitical map of Iraq seems to be heading towards new waves of conflict governed by its own factors. Such a prediction is based on a close analysis of current political and security affairs in Iraq. The attitude of the political machines that used to operate in the margin and are now leading, or trying to take the lead, is divisive and threatening to the new born democracy. Divisions over regionalism and federalism are unprecedented at least since the 1991 UN-backed autonomy of Kurdistan Iraq.
Sources from inside Iraq have stressed that forces threatening to divide the country are hitting hard from all directions. Sunni-majority provinces in the west such as Tikret and Anbar, Shiite-majority provinces in the south such as the oil-rich provinces of Basra and Thiqar, let alone the Kurds and Kirkuk in the north are all calling for "federalism." Certainly, such fragmentation could be the basis for new states within a state. Now, who is responsible for such divisive trends that could alter Iraq's very representation on the international map?
Many Iraqi analysts actually accept that conspiracies create history. They claim that there is always a plot, often either Western or Iranian, to redraw the map of the Middle East and to divide Arab countries, to divide the already divided. They even cite countries in their names to include Syria, Yemen and Iraq. Now, why would Iran and the West want to divide the Arab world? Is the current division of the Arab world to twenty-two countries and counting, with a total population of nearly that of Indonesia, not enough? Or is the current Arab solidarity strong enough to threaten the strategic and economic interests of foreign powers?
Factually, most of our problems today in Iraq are of our own making and not necessarily imposed on us. The United States, for example, is supporting the unity of Iraq, and it did not pray on the chaotic conditions to divide the country into small states. In his August 2010 visit to Iraq, Vice President Biden referenced Iraq as "this great nation" instead of the "compulsive references to Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds that characterized the public diplomacy of Iraq".
If there are tendencies for a Shiite, Sunni or Kurdish secession in Iraq, why would that be the fault of foreign powers including Iran and the United States? Submitting that there could be external forces benefiting from a chaotic Iraq, would that be the case if the Iraqi leadership showed a strong will to put its differences aside? Certainly, an internally strong and united Iraq would drive its enemies and opportunists away.
The problem of Iraq is that officials are a big part of the problem; thus they cannot really be part of the solution. Ultimately, it is the ordinary Iraqis who suffer the most from this political disunity. In order to best address their fears, the world ought to act: the United States and its allies must closely monitor suspicious activities deemed threatening to Iraq's unity and stability. Such monitoring could take the form of working closely with the Iraqi Ministry of Justice which is relatively independent, respected and has a wealth of information about the ins and outs of Iraq. Special attention must be placed on Baathists and their sympathizers, especially those who earlier fled to Syria and are now forced to return back to Iraq given Syria's security situation.
We cannot afford to return back to square one by entirely depending on the Iraqi government. In its current formation of being overwhelmingly occupied by its internal divisions, the government is not politically prepared to carry out such functions. Finally, it is worth noting that it would be very difficult for Iraqi citizens to have faith in their government when Vice President Tariq al Hisami has recently been charged by Iraq's Judicial Council with coordinating bombing attacks and running assassination squads.
Yasir Kuoti is an Iraqi freelance writer based in Washington, DC.