Sunday, November 14, 2010
The Exodus Of Moderates From Iraq
By Abdul Rahman al-Rashid
This comment was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 14/11/2010
The fact that the Iraqis have ultimately agreed to resolve their government formation crisis is a historical achievement that merits praise. After months of apprehension, we can finally heave a sigh of relief. Had they not come to an agreement, Iraq might have descended into an abyss.
Despite disputing over leadership posts and cabinet quotas, Iraqi politicians have proven, through the March elections and incidents which followed, to be pragmatic, realistic and moderate, albeit to varying degrees.
However, the most moderate political bloc of all, the al-Iraqiya List, has lost its chance to form the new government. It is the bloc that most accurately represents the composition of the Iraqi people, in terms of its denominations (Sunnis and Shiites), and its ethnicities (Arabs and others). Furthermore, it was the bloc which won the most seats in the March parliamentary elections (91 seats).
We were hoping that the Iraqiya bloc would have the opportunity to rule the country, in order to reinforce the concept of a cosmopolitan Iraq, rather than a divided and partitioned one, particularly at a time when the state itself is being remoulded. Yet unfortunately, the bloc that lost the elections has managed to win the leadership posts. The Iraqis, the Americans, and regional forces with interests in Iraq's stability and future, are all to blame for this.
The Americans are to blame because they are still responsible for supporting this new Iraqi state, and they can still spare it from ‘walking in the dark’. Disappointingly, they seemed only to be concerned with settling the leadership crisis, by working out a formula without caring much about the country's future.
We heave a sigh of relief, but with a sense of unease, because the price of ending the leadership crisis is that Iraq now has a distorted government, with numerous posts, promises and powers. On the one hand, the government displays harmony, yet on the other, it harbours discord and dissension amongst its participants.
For example, the Council of Policies has been revived, to partly satisfy Dr. Ayad Allawi, who was deprived of becoming Prime Minister. Yet this new council is effectively redundant, and is in direct competition with the cabinet. Theoretically speaking, it may also rival leadership posts. This means that problems will increase, and furthermore, Allawi will not receive any actual authority. How can such a council, which cannot pass a motion unless 80 percent of its members vote for it, issue any meaningful decisions? Securing 80 percent of the overall vote is almost impossible, especially in a government which contains a multitude of parties. We have seen how Iraqi politicians failed to secure 51 percent of the electoral vote, over a period of eight months, to resolve the Prime Ministerial issue, so how will they now manage to secure an 80 percent majority?
Moreover, the enormous powers of the Iraqi Prime Minister have not been curbed, despite promises being made to that end. The Prime Minister practically governs everything in the country including security, defence, oil, finance and politics. Thus, Iraq is facing a one-man government again, despite the fact that it was originally supposed to be a broad coalition government, in a move away from single-party rule. How will Iraq be run internally? And how will it handle its relations with neighbouring countries?
When the Iraqi army and security forces were disbanded [after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein], subsequently leading to the collapse of the entire security system, former US President George W. Bush was blamed. Today, the Obama administration will be blamed for giving in, and supporting the existing status quo. The Obama administration has also abandoned its moral obligations, notably because the U.S. should have backed the moderate Iraqiya bloc, which won the most seats in the election, and had significant parties willing to support it. The biggest fear of all lies in the serious repercussions that might arise, owing to this current U.S. position. If Iraq has successfully weathered eight tough months, then it still has around forty more to endure.