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Iraq; Tackling Iran or Internal Reform?

The idea that Iraq could move into a credible post conflict situation seems a remote and, for the moment, an unachievable dream.

One wonders what men of good faith in what passes for the current Iraqi administration think is the way forward in trying to create conditions where the country can emerge as a sovereign state at ease with itself, and where tribal, religious and ethnic interests are subsumed in the interests of the greater good.

In the eyes of the world, Iraq seems paralyzed by inertia, corruption and cronyism. Iran’s deep hold on many aspects of the state across the military, business, politics and energy spectrum are testament to Iraq’s vassalage to the whims of the Tehran regime.

In recent history there are examples of countries transitioning from conflict to post conflict. Bosnia, Ireland, South Africa and Colombia have all, to varying extents, undergone journeys towards stable statehood. No path is easy and each of these experiences have been fraught with problems of reaching accommodation with the day to day functioning of a steady democracy. Tribal loyalty and the ‘glamour of the gun’ are always hard to give up.  

Blatantly, Iraq has not even begun to make the journey towards a state of peace that would be comparable to the Bosnian experience. The problem is twofold.

Firstly, Iraq’s constitution makes progressive governance difficult. The system of consensual democracy prevents majority rule encourages partisanship. Last year’s appointment of two technocrats in the positions of president and prime minister seemed to offer a chance to bring wise counsel to the situation; a chance to rise above the endless talking shops, bargaining and partiality. This has not been achieved. Fundamentally Iraq is in the same position it was before the last election – that is, it is stalled on the road to progress and, once again, one wonders what men of good faith in the current administration envisage for the long term future of the country. Certainly, no amount of commemoration of the defeat of ISIS will mask the fact that the Iraqi state cannot progress unless root and branch reforms of the Iraqi state and constitution are undertaken.

For instance, countries that have gone through post conflict truth and reconciliation processes have been able, with varying success, to deal with the causes of conflict.

Iraq needs visionary leadership that will steer the country towards federation. This seems the only realistic way that the country can find stability and address the aspirations of the ethnic, and religious groups across the country. Stasis and just committing the same old mistakes again and again is no solution for Iraq’s young and desperate population.

Secondly, the looming proximity of Iran and of Iran’s reach into Iraq’s institutions must be eradicated. Holding Bosnia up to Iraq as an example is in this case unhelpful. Iraq is singularly afflicted by ongoing Iranian interference. The world is largely ignorant of the fact that the ruthless Iranian military leader General Soleimani wields considerable power over Iraqi affairs. Moreover, Iraq’s energy dependency on Iran is not only absurd (given Iraq’s oil resources), but pernicious. The presence of powerful pro-Iranian proxy militias in the country are also a vivid reminder of Tehran’s desire to retain a deep hold on Iraq.

There are no easy answers and remedies that will place Iraq in the road to a lasting peace and independence. Much depends on how Iran is affected by the current US sanctions. Cracks have begun to appear in Tehran’s Mullah Regime and, after its rampage across the region, there is a sense that Iran could very soon be on the back foot.

In any case there is a sense of chicken and egg to Iraq’s problems – Iran or reform, what will be tackled first? It is certain is that the status quo cannot endure and there must emerge a new political class in Iraq that has the sole interest of all Iraqis at heart, without loyalty to foreign powers.