The Political Crisis in Iraq and the Best Way Out

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Seyed Hussein Mousavi

As we all know, the government of Iraq has been formed on the basis of consensus since 2005 due to the country’s ethnic and religious groupings. Meanwhile, Shia political forces have been claiming a majority in the country’s parliament.

There are few theories as to the ongoing crisis in Iraq and the best way out of the current situation which will be explained below.

The most serious, and perhaps hazardous, scenario is for both sides of the ongoing crisis to continue on the path they have taken in the past few weeks. In that case, the following outlook is predictable for Iraq’s political situation, of course, if the current crisis remains limited to political constraints and does not spill over into streets or other arenas where each side may choose to flaunt its comparative advantages. In other words, this scenario requires both sides to try to find an amicable solution after careful cost-benefit analysis of radical and uncontrollable options. The scenario is this: the vice president, Tariq al-Hashemi, remains in Iraq’s Kurdistan wherefrom he will continue to incite his supporters in order to scare the opposite site, Nouri al-Maliki, with the aim of escalating tension in the country. During recent days, verbal arguments between the two sides have reached unprecedented level which proposes possible sectarian skirmishes. Tariq al-Hashemi has told al-Jazeera that Nouri al-Maliki is trying to suppress Sunni Muslims. Fanning the flames of sectarian strife in a country which has high potentials for such conflicts can be very dangerous. Recent street protests in Sunni-dominant parts of Iraq in which demonstrators introduced al-Hashemi as their red line rang the alarms about possible flare-up of dormant sectarian differences. Perhaps, al-Hashemi aims to get the sympathy of regional players in order to enter Iraq’s power equation and put more pressure on al-Maliki’s government. This, however, may prove to be a two-edged sword because the opposite side has more conventional (like parliamentary majority) and unconventional (aligned militant groups) advantages. Putting one’s hope in regional players is not also beneficial because when American and multinational foreign forces failed during nine years of the occupation of Iraq to avail themselves of sectarian and religious differences, other regional players will not be able to even fathom the hazards of a possible sectarian strife.

The second side of the crisis is Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who has just gotten rid of the heavy burden of official presence of US troops and is willing to show off his government’s prowess in filling the security void resulting from withdrawal of foreign forces. Therefore, opening a new domestic front, which can be the case if the ongoing security crisis continues, does not seem sound to any logic. As a result, al-Maliki is apparently not looking for non-political options. However, resorting to political options, especially applying a parliamentary majority model to the government is considered an unconventional option because the reasons which prompted al-Maliki to go for a consensual government are still in place. On the other hand, the social and political structures of Iraq are still too nascent to accept a more advanced model of government based on parliamentary majority. Even from viewpoint of party interests, this option may create a negative record in terms of hasty use of parliamentary majority in order to bolster support for the government. Let’s not forget that the political structure in Iraq is still suffering from priority of ethnic, sectarian, and tribal preferences over a democratic paradigm. Even if Nouri al-Maliki decided to forego the present model of consensual government in favor of a parliamentary majority model, his government would be faced with problems arising from lobbying parliamentary factions, which would certainly seek more advantages for their respective factions. The use of a model based on parliamentary majority will only limit al-Maliki’s options which will otherwise allow him to accept or reject parliamentary efforts by various factions to gain more advantages.

On the other hand, al-Maliki cannot just remain idle and see desecration of his government and the judiciary by a former vice president. So, what is the best way out of the current predicament for all groups? It seems that the best solution for all involved sides, especially after official withdrawal of the American forces, is to leave the Iraqi judiciary alone to investigate al-Hashemi’s case with politicians staying as far from this case as possible. In this way, the Supreme Court can hand over the investigation to its main branch in the Iraqi Kurdistan. As a result, al-Maliki’s opponents will not be able to claim that al-Hashemi’s charges are politically motivated. It will also be taken as proof to rule of law and equality of all citizens before the law as a result of which even high-ranking officials can be held accountable when charges are pressed against them. Tariq al-Hashemi’s readiness to attend a court session in the Iraqi Kurdistan is a good omen that the current political crisis in the country can be solved through peaceful means. The Iraqi President Jalal Talebani can play an important role in implementing this scenario. All political sides in Iraq should be committed to tranquility in the country in order to increase the chances of successful resolution of the country’s political crises and prove efficiency of Iraq’s new rulers in managing a newly emancipated society.

Source: Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies (MERC)
Translated By: Iran Review

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