Reform in Baghdad can stop dismantling of Iraq
Almost all the regional states are against the idea of the separation of any province, and therefore the secession of Kurdistan will not be easy. There is a growing concern that the central Iraqi authority, in coordination with Turkey and Iran, may launch a war against the "Kurdish State," after 92 percent of the Kurds in the Kurdistan region supported the idea of independence from their country, Iraq. Secession is a rough, long and dangerous path, which may lead to military confrontation and a painful economic blockade. At the same time, the Kurds are adamant to have their independence, and even if they retract temporarily, they will try again later. Their project is disturbing because other Iraqi regions and cities entertain separatist ideas which may finally result in the end of Iraq as we have known since 1920, and whose boundaries were drawn by the British and the French.
The political powers in Bagdad need to offer the Kurds the powers and guarantees that they are real partners in the government, not just a sham formality. The Kurds, like the other Iraqi components which form the new Iraq, have been marginalized by their partners in the government after the departure of the Americans, who were the guarantors of the political project.
Baghdad is the capital of the whole country, and it is supposed to be administered by all components of the state to reflect the governance project, which was designed by the Americans to be a collective partnership. The defect started in the era of Nouri Al-Maliki, the former Iraqi prime minister, who centralized all the powers in his office. Later on, the parties which had an armed presence in Baghdad imposed their demands. Thus, the Iraqi capital became governed by armed militias with the help of Iran, which managed to give legitimacy to the armed militias under the banner of the "Popular Mobilization Forces." Some parties also tried to impose religious authorities as political references, and thus their fatwa -religious opinion - preceded parliamentary votes and governmental decisions. What is the use of the legislative institutions of the state, like the Parliament, if they had no real authorities, if the Supreme Court knuckles under the whims of the political leadership, and if the government could not impose its decisions unless the parties which rely on the power of the gun agree to them? How can we expect the Kurds, or any other political party for that matter, to stay loyal to the state without an identity or full powers? That is why the Iraqi state, not just the government, needs to restore its prestige through supporting its legitimate institutions, respecting the constitution, committing to equal treatment to all under the law, and launching a war against any party that shows disobedience, not just against the terrorists of Daesh and the separatists of Kurdistan.
Baghdad is the capital of the whole country, and it is supposed to be administered by all components of the state to reflect the governance project, which was designed by the Americans to be a collective partnership.
During the years of the war on terror, the slogan was that the Iraqi state would not allow anyone to carry arms except its legitimate military institution, and that it would not allow any illegitimate group to administer any region or town. The war was launched under this promise, and Al Anbar, Saladin, Mosul and other areas were liberated. But in southern and central Iraq, the authorities of the state became weak, and the leader of the Popular Mobilization Forces became more important than the prime minister; Al-Maliki declared publicly his hostility toward the vice president, and thus they weakened the state. In these circumstances, the Kurds decided that their continued presence was useless, and that it was time for independence.
To stop these separatist tendencies, it is time to give the Kurds real powers. This may also stop other separatist tendencies entertained by the Sunni Arabs in Al Anbar and some Shiites in Basra, who are waiting for the battle of Kurdistan secession to start so that they can start their own battle. Unless Baghdad is for all Iraqis, the secessions will not stop.
— Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya News Channel, and former editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article is also published.
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