Articles > > Severe Divisions

Articles - Addostour - Date: 2020-01-14
By: Oraib Al Rantawi

The project to 'provincialize' [de-centralize] Iraq is rearing its ugly head again in light of the severe divisions between the three main [Sunni/Shiite/Kurdish] demographics triggered by [Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander] Soleimani's assassination and Iran's response to the incident.
 
This project is talked about in whispers, often behind closed doors. Only in the parliamentary session held on January 5th did the secrets underlying this division come to light. All the Kurdish representatives boycotted the session and only three Sunni Arab representatives attended, and they did not agree with parliament's decision to request that PM 'Adel 'Abdelmahdi's government begin taking measures to expel U.S. forces from Iraq.
 
Iraq is not the first federal state and it will not be the last, but in its current circumstances, there is no guarantee that 'provincialization' would not be a prelude to partition, especially in light of the heightened competition in and over Iraq, the absence of a reasonable Arab project for the country, and its location between the two [Tigris and Euphrates] rivers, and between the hammer of Iranian hegemony and the anvil of U.S. military presence.
 
Iraqi Parliament Speaker Muhammad al-Halbousi has refrained from sponsoring the 'provincialization' project, as his position as the head of the legislative branch does not permit him to do otherwise. However, there have been many rumors about Iraqi Sunni Arab politicians' movements and contacts, including with influential foreign capitals, seeking support for this project, according to leaks from informed Iraqi sources confirming such movements but without revealing many details as of yet.
 
On Sunday, [Lebanese Hezbollah leader] Hassan Nasrallah notably attacked Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, describing him as a 'quivering' and 'quaking' [in fear] while tracking the ISIS jihadists' advance towards Erbil [in 2014], and giving Iran and Soleimani credit for preventing Kurdistan province from being snatched like an easy morsel into ISIS's jaw. This elicited a harsh response from the Kurdistan government using the same vocabulary and epithets. This is clearly one of the rare instances, if not the first, in which Hassan Nasrallah addresses Kurdistan in one of his speeches, perhaps because he has received information of the direction that Kurdish movements could take in the coming phase.
 
We have previously noted that there are those in Kurdistan province who are seeking revenge for their 2017 [independence] referendum's defeat and the Iraqi forces' invasion of disputed territories, imposing an air embargo and shutting down international crossings to the region. Today, amid the confrontation between Washington and Tehran, Kurdistan province is aligned with the U.S. once more, wagering that Washington will need the province to confront the prospect of exiting or being ousted from Iraq. I believe this is the main reason behind Nasrallah's attack on Barzani.
 
The 'provincialization' project will not end Iraq's security problems, and may in fact open the door to more difficult and more costly rounds of conflict between its demographics, entities, and regional and international extensions. The Shiite regions are undergoing a real revolution against the ruling political class, with the militias affiliated with Iran at the heart of it. Meanwhile, the Kurdish and Sunni provinces are spectators watching the scene from afar.
 
The Kurds are haunted by their old and now renewed dreams of seceding into an independent state that includes the disputed territories – or at least most of them. As for the Iraq's Arab Sunnis, they would most likely establish their own province over the rubble left by the war on ISIS with no serious provisions worth mentioning.
 
The road to Iraq's salvation lies in supporting the uprising that is raising the banner of reform and change in the Southern and central areas and Baghdad, and in the rest of the provinces joining it in calling for a just civil state and sovereignty for Iraq free from any foreign presence on its soil, whether U.S. or Iranian.
 
Otherwise, there can be no promising future for Iraq.