Iraq’s implosion reflects the failure of the sectarian system | Khairallah Khairallah


Khairallah Khairallah

The internal situation in Iraq has imploded. It’s hard to predict what will happen next. But the only certainty is that the fate and the future of the country are now at stake after the failure of the system in place, which was based on sectarianism, quotas and the disruptive capacity of the actors.

In the wake of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the “Islamic Republic” created a regime that always needed Iranian intervention to stand on its feet, until Iranian actions backfired against him. Today, Tehran is no longer able to achieve reconciliation among its own men in Iraq…even those who are part of the so-called coordination framework.

Iraq has fallen terribly and now sunk to rock bottom. This is reflected in the total political deadlock since the election last October that has led to the emergence of a parliament that is not under Iranian control. There is no better measure of the acuteness of the Iraqi crisis than the abyssal choice that Iraqis have to make between Nouri al-Maliki and Moqtada al-Sadr.

For Maliki, Iraq is just an Iranian map. According to him, there is no going back to the days before 2003, when America handed Iraq over to the “Islamic Republic” on a silver platter. On the other hand, Moqtada al-Sadr’s voters don’t even know what he wants. What distinguishes these constituencies from others is their blind loyalty to a cleric who has no political, economic or civil agenda of any kind…nor any real vision for the future of Iraq.

The choice facing Iraqis is an absolute disgrace for a country that could have been a prosperous nation but has instead been in a state of relentless decline for the past 64 years. It all started when the military who overthrew the monarchy on July 14, 1958 consecrated the notion of mutual exclusion. Since then, Iraq has been in the grip of a zero-sum game where each side eliminates the other. This is exemplified by Maliki’s words of incitement against Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shiite leader whose party came out on top in recent elections. It is also the culture of the Iranian regime in place since 1979, as was the culture of the Baath Party in Syria and Iraq. If the incitement against Sadr can be explained in terms of Shia rivalries, much less easy to explain is the incitement against Sunnis and Kurds. The Kurds are represented by Massoud Barzani, who has always defended the interests of Iraq and the unity that binds all Iraqis above nationality, with a federalist perspective.

Irrespective of the policy pursued by Massoud Barzani, who at one point made the mistake of venturing into a referendum for Kurdish secession, the Kurds have no choice but to seek a special position in Iraq.

Massoud Barzani made a mistake in choosing the date of the referendum, but he is justified by Maliki’s remarks, which confirm that it is impossible to coexist with a political party that believes in putting Iraq at the service of Iran.

Maliki, whose recent audio leaks set the stage for the current political implosion, sums up Iraq’s modern history from 1958 to 2022. Iraqis haven’t seen a bright day since the bloody military coup from 1958.

There is no doubt that the efforts made by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi are exceptional. The Acting Prime Minister has shown true patriotism and great courage. This was reflected in his call to distance Iraq from all regional alliances and his insistence on this position at the Jeddah summit. But wishes are one thing, reality is another. Maliki represents the Iraqi reality with all its backwardness. This reality, from his point of view, is that Iran is still the main actor in Iraq and the option of returning the country to the pre-2003 era is unacceptable.

Where is Iraq going now? Iraq is catapulted into the unknown. The choice is limited to Maliki or Sadr, while Tehran is unable to act as a dominant force holding all Shia factions together. This reflects on Baghdad, but also on Tehran itself. Gradually, the Iraqi tragedy becomes part of the Iranian tragedy. This tragedy has been unfolding since 1979, in Iran itself and throughout the region, in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

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