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Dismembering the body politic in Iraq

The US and British leaders may be getting domestic flak for their perceived mistakes in Iraq, but some observers in the Arab world see them as being quite successful - in carrying out a well-calculated plan to divide the country.

Last Modified: 22 Jun 2006 05:31 GMT
Iraqi nationalists fear the break-up of their country

The US and British leaders may be getting domestic flak for their perceived mistakes in Iraq, but some observers in the Arab world see them as being quite successful - in carrying out a well-calculated plan to divide the country.

The debate dates back to July 13, 2003, when the Iraqi Governing Council was formed under Paul Bremer, the US administrator.

Sectarianism and ethnic extremism were strengthened in that council and various laws have since encouraged an aggressive sectarianism leading to a fierce militia war.

Anis Mansour, an Egyptian editor and author, believes the US is following the historical British policy of divide and rule.

He says: "What we are seeing now is just the beginning of a scheme to split the country up into regions.

"It is not true that the US has failed. It did what it wanted to do and this will last for a long time.

"It will stay the same whether a Democratic or a Republican president is to follow [George] Bush."

Continued chaos

US and other foreign soldiers continue to be killed in Iraq, while Iranian-backed militias take revenge on Iraqi officers who participated in the Iran-Iraq war.

Drive-by shootings are a daily occurrence, and mainly Sunni fighters are maintaining the battle against US-led forces as well as the Iraqi army and security forces backed and trained by the US. 

Despite the exuberance, Iraqi
forces cannot keep law and order

The new government of Nuri al-Maliki is unlikely to succeed in curbing the violence.

More than three years since the US-led invasion, the foreign forces and the new Iraqi forces are both incapable of maintaining law and order.

Meanwhile, ordinary Iraqis are losing their sense of co-existence, in itself a dangerous characteristic of post-war Iraq.

US instigation

According to the Iraqi minister of expatriates and displaced people, sectarian violence has caused 14,000 Iraqi families to move.

Sunni families who lived in Shia majority areas have gone to Sunni majority neighbourhoods and vice versa.

The ongoing creation of ethnic and sectarian cantons worries Iraqi nationalists who fear a break up of their country.
 
The US is seen as the main instigator of sectarian sentiments, creating the right environment for the division of Iraq into sectarian and ethnic states unable to function without US protection.

Violence continues to be a part
of daily life for Iraqis

Hasan Nasr Allah, the leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon, says: "The US has driven the situation in Iraq to a state where they offer themselves to Shia as a guarantee [of protection] against Sunni, and offer themselves to Sunni as a guarantee against Shia.

"They present themselves to Arabs as a guarantee against Kurds, and present themselves to Kurds as a guarantee against Arabs.

"Their plot is doing just fine. Look at the situation in Iraq nowadays: What could possibly happen that is more appropriate for separatists to say that they have to split from Iraq to protect their community?"

Constitutional provision

Certain Iraqi politicians are also signalling that they favour a split. Masoud Barzani, the Kurdish leader who became president of Iraqi Kurdistan last year, cancelled his visit to China last May after Beijing refused to treat him as a head of state.

Barzani's move was seen as a renewed attempt to confirm the will of Kurdish politicians to secede from Iraq and form their long-desired independent Kurdish state.

"What we are seeing now is just the beginning of a scheme to split the country up into regions. It is not true that the US has failed. It did what it wanted to do and this will last for a long time"

Anis Mansour, 
Egyptian editor and author

Maintaining the integrity of Iraq was the main issue that delayed approval of the new Iraqi constitution last year.

Iraqi nationalists were alarmed by an article in the constitution that allowed any governorate, alone or with other governorates, to form a ''region".

The constitution gives regions the right to form local security forces and freedom in managing the natural resources.

Kurds were the first to use that right when they announced their Kurdistan region and elected their government and president earlier this year.

Some Iraqi politicians say such entities will not be large enough to survive without foreign support.

Foreign aid

Haroun Muhammad, a London-based Iraqi political activist, says: "In addition to the seeds of separation in the new Iraqi constitution, separatists are getting foreign support, like Kuwait which has been backing both Kurdish and Shia leaders to separate from Iraq.

"It cannot be a coincidence that Ammar al-Hakim, the son of the senior Shia leader Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, makes periodic visits to Kuwait."

The senior al-Hakim had demanded on several occasions that Iraqi Shia be given a federal state in southern Iraq, his last call being made on August 11, 2005, in Najaf as he was delivering a speech to a Shia gathering.

Muhammad says: "The reason for that is that Kuwait fears another future invasion from big Iraq. It is to their benefit to break it up into smaller parts unable to move troops south."

Saddam Hussein was not the first Iraqi leader to claim Kuwait, but he was the only one who sent troops across the border.

Abd al-Karim Qasim, the then Iraqi president, claimed Kuwait as a historical part of Iraq and moved troops to the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border, but British and Arab diplomatic efforts ended that crisis peacefully.

Shia demands

Barzani and the al-Hakim clan share the view that separate federal states for Shia and Kurds would protect them from the "suppression of the central government".

Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim (L) and
Masoud Barzani favour federalism

Iraqi and Shia political parties believe if Iraq were a federated state, Shia and Kurds would have avoided much of the suppression they suffered at the hands of Baghdad's central government in the past.

Khalid al-Atiya, a Shia member of parliament and leading member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), said in a recent interview that his sect's leaders would not give up its demands to establish a Shia federal state in central and southern Iraq.

"Shia insist on federalism because history has learned the lesson. They have suffered enough from dictatorship and central government.

"The central government will always be a reason to enrage sectarian violence. Federalism is the only way to secure Shia's rights," al-Atiya said.

Dhafir al-Ani, a Sunni member of parliament and spokesman for the Iraqi Accordance Front, told Aljazeera.net: "I regret to say that it is unlikely we will be able to prevent the partition of Iraq. I think it is going to be the way they want."

Source:
Aljazeera
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