Thursday, August 4, 2011

Iraq’s Sovereignty a Matter of Viewpoint!

By Abdullah Iskandar
Iraqi diplomacy is suffering from a lack of efficiency despite the personal competence and political skills of Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. The Iraqi capabilities seems quasi-obstructed, especially when it comes to the neighboring states, as no Iraqi action was noted at the level of the crisis of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the Turkish military operations in the northern part of the country, as well as at the level of Iran’s pursuit of Kurdish rebels inside Iraqi soil, its bombing of Iraqi villages, and prior to that, its entry into oil regions in the center of the country. Moreover, Baghdad was unable to speak in a unified voice with Kuwait regarding the construction of the Mubarak al-Kabir Port and the maritime border issue in general, and failed to speak in a unified voice in regard to the presence of Arab armed men – especially Gulf ones – in the Iraqi terrorist organizations. It was thus unable to draw up a diplomatic plan to deal with this matter, as it failed in a similar fashion when the complaint came from Syria. On the other hand, there are diverging positions within Baghdad over the American stay after the date of the pullout at the end of the year, and over the nature of the security capabilities that should be provided to the Iraqi armed forces.
For example, at a time when the Kurdish parties were condemning the Turkish military operations in the northern part of Iraq, the centralized government was supporting these operations, which it perceived to be a right in the context of the confrontation with the PKK terrorism. Today, these same parties are condemning the Iranian operations to track down Kurdish PJAK elements inside Iraq, but governmental voices are justifying this interference, whether by pointing to Iran’s right or to a security agreement with Iraq. And whenever Sunni sides accuse Tehran of interfering in Iraqi affairs, they are met with Shiite sides accusing Gulf states of doing the same. During the last couple of days, Sunni and Kurdish deputies called for UN interference to stop the Iranian bombing of Iraqi territories, while Iraqi officials called for that same interference against Gulf countries which they accused of dispatching funds and fighters to Iraq.
 And while the government considers that the Mubarak al-Kabir Port threatens Iraq’s vital interests and is demanding the halting of its construction, opposing sides are calling for negotiations with Kuwait to regulate the profit from this maritime zone.
In other words, the absence of Iraqi diplomatic efficiency is seen at the level of issues related to the country’s sovereignty. The governmental stand should be the one expressing higher interests and defending national sovereignty, while the Foreign Ministry should translate this stand through a diplomatic action based on national consensus. But in the Iraqi case, the governmental position is linked to that of the group affiliated with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and the Foreign Ministry’s position is linked to that of the group to which Minister Zebari belongs. As for Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujeifi, he is expressing the opinion of his own political clique.
Hence, the Iraqi positions are divided based on internal political and social divisions. This points to the fact that this division will continue to be reflected at the level of the state’s policy and will allow the prevalence of the Iraqi sides’ factional interests, rather than the joint ones.
In that sense, national sovereignty in Iraq is linked to the facets of political, regional, ethnic and sectarian divide, and is consequently a matter of political viewpoint to serve personal interests, rather than a national principle that is the object of convergence between all the forces and components.
-This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 03/08/2011
-Abdullah Iskandar is the managing editor of al-Hayat in London

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