"Major Clusters of Conflict in Iraq"
Major Clusters of Conflict: The Case of Iraq Analytical and Historical Approach to the sociology of conflict.
Faleh A. Jabar (Ph. D. Political Sociology, Director of Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies- IIST)
[Draft Paper for Conflict Prevention Conference, Jordan Amman, 16 October 2011. This paper relies on the data base of the Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies, Strategic Conflict Assessments carried out by the author in 2004-5, 2006-7, and 2008-10. No reproduction or citation without previous written authorization from the author or the IIST] (Word count: 7500)
SECTION ONE CONCEPTS AND OVERVIEW
I-Introduction: Conceptual Framework
1. With the US-led invasion-occupation of Iraq coming to an end, Iraq’s transition to normalcy- meaning peaceful, legitimate institutional politics- is still threatened by the spectres of a failed state with inter- and intra-communal uncivil conflict, mafia lawlessness, and a communitarian type of Islamist fundamentalism. But there is a ray of hope for normalcy as a moderated type of communitarian democracy.
2. Iraq and the broader Middle East seem to have been embroiled in multiple conflicts, actual or dormant, involving states and sub-state actors, and verging on civil war condition. The Iraqi case may have been the most obvious example; but the cases of Lebanon, Yemen, Palestine, or Afghanistan, are further evidences. Basically, these involve a contest over the levers of power and resources, but they have multi-dimensional, national, communal, sectarian, ethnic, tribal and ideological-political character conditioned by regional and global contexts.
3. In the Iraqi as in other conflicts a plethora of actors, native, regional and global are involved. Native actors or groups are ethnic (Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrian), religious (Muslim-Christian), sectarian (Shi’i-Sunni), tribal, regional (South, West, north) or social (urban poor, middle classes, etc.) Grievances, both of the past or present, stem from several sources of political, economic, social, cultural and other factors that are, in most cases, intricately interwoven. Discourses of protest or representations of grievances are more and more expressed in the idiom of sub-national identity politics, in contradistinction to the old ideological representations of class and nation which characterised the second half of the 20th century. Actors, grievances, factors, discourses and identity politics are historical products of national histories of the past, and of national contexts of the present.
4. National history and national context revolve on nation-building and state formation. The term nation-building denotes the inclusion of various ethnic, communal and cultural groups into a unitary state; whereas the term state-formation refers to constructing/reconstructing the political system, or agencies of legitimate governance, such as the administration, the legislature, (representative institutions), the judiciary, including the constitutional court, agencies of violence, and the like.
5. Nation-building and state formation’ are intertwined in homogenuous nations; they are sundry, though intertwined, in heterogeneous nations. The differentiation between the two processes is crucial for any sound analysis of conflict in Middle Eastern contexts, and perhaps beyond. The ambiguity of using one term to denote the state as a system of governance, and the state as representative of national community, essentially stems from the fact that state formation and nation building are congruent in ethnically homogenous societies. Not so in multi-ethnic ones, where each of the two aspects has its own form, logic and structure, overlapping notwithstanding.
6. The context of conflict and violence in Iraq - past, current and potential - is complex and dynamic. The realisation of a more stable Iraq, of reconstruction, development, and democracy-building, must be based on building a sustainable peace. Understanding the drivers of conflict and how interventions may act to reduce conflicts or inadvertently exacerbate them (or both) in the transition process is crucial to this goal.
7. The prospects for transition developing along a more or less violent trajectory will be determined by the divergence or convergence of native and regional perceptions of, and interests in, equitable nation building, legitimate state formation and stabilisation.
8. The methods applied by the elected Iraqi Governments and their international civil and military backers in pursuing these outcomes will also be crucial.
9. This paper examines the forms and modalities of current conflict in Iraq, its root causes, actors, discourses within the context of Iraq’s national history and the ongoing process of nation-building ,state formation, and stabilization.
II-General View of the Conflict
1. Following the US-led invasion of Iraq and the demise of the totalitarian Ba’ath regime in April 2003, a plethora of social, political, institutional and cultural forces was unleashed, some unpredictable and uncontrollable. They sought and continue to seek to reshape the political order and redefine national integration mechanisms, to redress actual or conceived grievances or retrieve past privileges.
2. Post-conflict transition was envisaged by the CPA along a liberal model of market-embedded democracy with consociational, decentralised and federal structures. While this has opened up a historical opportunity to restructure Iraqi polity, both in its capacity as system of governance and as a nation-state, it has also laid bare the pre-existing fracture lines and freed all active and dormant forces of conflict, and invigorated drivers of conflict.
3. The CPA phase (May 2003-June 2004) was characterised by a bitter sense of Iraqi disempowerment, absence of sovereignty, and gradual loss of faith in the CPA to deliver essential public goods (security and services).
4. Iraq has emerged from half a century of authoritarian-military and totalitarian rule, inheriting a thorny legacy from devastating wars, crippling sanctions, misrule, mismanagement and all-pervasive nepotism and corruption. This condition drained much of the nation’s rich resources, destroyed its once vibrant civil society, personalised institutions of power, and left the national community in a state of hyper-segmentation and crisis of identity.
5. Iraqization and legitimating of the new polity overseen by the US-led coalition, proceeded as mid-course corrections of US blunders: transfer of sovereignty from the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) under Ambassador Paul Bremer (May 2003-June 2004), to an interim Iraqi government under Prime Minister Iyad Alawi, and the interim president Gjhazi Yawir. The electoral process in January 2005 ushered Iraq into the first elected government under PM Ibrahim Ja’fari. The constitutional process followed, culminating in national referendum. Constitution was endorsed despite strong opposition in predominantly Sunni provinces against a basic law written mainly, but not exclusively by Kurdish nationalists and Shi’i Islamic groups. A second general election, with broader participation, ended with the inception of a new cabinet under Nuri Maliki (Da’wa party), and a consociational three-member presidential that wields veto powers. Despite the eruption of sectarian civil war between 2006-8, the law and order drive, initiated by the US and complemented by the Maliki cabinet, largely weakened both Sunni and Shii flanks of communal insurgency. The 2009 local elections, and 2010 general elections resulted in two antagonistic blocs, the Iraqiya versus the State of Law. The trinity of Shiis, Arab Sunnis and Kurds, remained generally in place but with string symptoms of internal fragmentation. The drivers of conflict did not but was now more and more embedded in institutional politics.
6. Conflict overshadowed the process of Iraqization and legitimisation of the newly-forming polity as pursued by the US-led coalition. While the bulk of society was (and continues to be) more inclined towards peaceful, institutional or street politics, violent segments continued their actions, shifting the borders between the two inclinations as a result of MNF(I) blunders or insurgency successes.
7. Prior to the US-led invasion, ethno-communal, social, economic and political grievances were reactions against the state as the main actor, and regulator and owner of the bulk of social wealth (oil). Subsequently, these grievances were shifted against the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). With the creation of the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) in July 2003, the transfer of sovereignty in June 2004, and the inception of elected governments in 2005 and 2010, grievances gradually took on a more direct inter and intra ethno-communal character, involving both conflict between communities as within them. Grievances were also directed against the Multi-National Forces Iraq (MNF(I)) which is conceived by some native actors as a decisive agency of change, or as an obstacle to their agendas and hence as a key actor to influence positively or negatively. It is notable that the majority of these native forces are competing to get into rather than get out of the political system through peaceful institutional or ‘street’-politics.
8. By contrast, institutional forces of the old state, ex-Ba’th, and Sunni fundamentalist groups (native and alien), conceive of change as a zero-sum game. Militarised violence conducted by these two major groups is a major challenge to stabilization and transition. Criminal violence is also widespread, heavily armed, and overlaps with the militarised political violence through contracted crime.
9. In addition, Shi’i militias of Mahdi Army (Jaish al-Mahdi led by Muqtada al-Sadr) Badr Corp (a proxy of the Majlis al-Islami al-‘Ala fil ‘Iraq of Aziz al-Hakim), and other Shi’i messianic (Mahdawiya) armed groups, disrupted security and played different roles in challenging the US-led coalition forces, the elected governments, in Shi’i-Sunni armed conflict, or in Shi’i-Shi’i inter-fight. These forces have one foot in peaceful institutional, another in violent extra-institutional politics.
10. At the heart of conflict is a defense of or protest against the new distribution of political, economic and social power cast in large communal blocs: Shi’is, Sunnis and Kurds; at the heart of it is also a contest over supremacy within each community.
SECTION TWO LEGACY OF THE PAST
I- Political Background of Conflict
1. Historically, Iraq was a territorial state in search for nation-hood of an agrarian society fragmented by multi-ethnicity and multi-religious society. Under the monarchy (1921-1958) the state was run by two main native forces: firstly, the diverse landlord class which enhanced the national integration of all the agrarian segments of society; and, secondly, the military-bureaucratic elite who were mostly drawn from the Sunni Ottoman institutions. Both landlords and military-bureaucrats developed common interests and blended under the monarchy. This class was multi-ethnic and multicultural, and as such served all-inclusive nation-building.
2. Revolutionary, middle class-military regimes (1958-68), by contrast, improved representation of modern urban classes, but disrupted national integration institutions, creating disparities between regions and ethno-cultural communities. Ba’th (1968-2003) rule destroyed mechanisms of inclusion and participation. All post-monarchy regimes reproduced a centralist monopoly in favour of northern/western provinces led by provincial-rural lower middle class groups and leaders, at the expense of old upper classes and wealthy Aghas and Sheikhs in central, northern (Kurdish) and southern (Shi’i) ones, as well as the broader upper and middle classes.
3. Under the ancient Ba’th regime (1968-2003), the single party system and mono-ideology rendered large swaths of the Kurds and the Shi’is politically marginalised or alienated. There was no meaningful representation of either group in political institutions: the old Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) was a predominantly Ba’th-Sunni body, so were the Ba’th cabinets and the four controlled national assemblies (parliaments). Inclusion was limited, selective and totally controlled by the ruling elite. This triggered sub-national identity politics and a crisis of national identity.
4. An estimated 80% of the officer corps was Sunni, whereas more than 80% of the soldiery was Shi’i. Only Arabized Kurds were admitted to the military. Parts, but not all, civil administration were perhaps the only outlets of broader, trans-communal (ethnic and religious) inclusion throughout the Ba’th period (1968-2003).
5. Secular Ba’th ideological hegemony targeted and weakened the Shi’i informal and autonomous religious institution; Shi’i rituals and religious taxes came under particular pressure, exacerbating a sense of religious-sectarian oppression. Kurdish Sufi orders were politically co-opted and manipulated (the Qadiriya) or weakened (pro-Barzani Naqshabandiya).
6. As a rentier state with command economy, political exclusion produced economic disparities between regions, groups and communities, and exacerbated grievance couched in the sectarian and ethnic conceptions and idiom. Disparities between regions and communities are more dangerous than class inequalities, if not similar in strength.
7. All in all, political, economic, social and cultural participatory and inclusive mechanisms and spaces were dominated by a state agency bent on total hegemony, with a ruling elite relying on a very narrow social base of kin and comrade. The pretence of national unity was shattered in 1991, following the south-north uprisings. The following era of sanction revealed this reality; and the ruling elite sensed its exposure, and tried hard to revitalize new social forces: religion and tribalism, thus further damaging national identitiy and rendering it deformed beyond recognition.
II-Rise and Fragmentation of Identity Politics
1. The dynamics of identity politics in post-conflict transition in Iraq has been and continues to be crucial in motivating and forming the multi-layered conflicts that shape the new political order of the state in both aspects of state formation and nation-building.
2. Iraq’s particular strands of identity politics is best grasped in a comparative outlook with the nature of other identity politics elsewhere. For example, in the Ex-Soviet Union and ex-Yugoslavia the official and declining socialist and internationalist ideologies were gradually replaced by the promotion of nationalism that soon caged power struggle into ethnic infighting, once the central authority and central command economy melted down. In Iraq by contrast, failure of socialist-nationalism had a different trajectory. Throughout 1990s up to 2003, religion and tribalism were socio-politically revitalized, and their networks and informal institutions rehabilitated by state patronage. In the Diaspora, Shi’i Islamist parties have been developing their own strand of sectarian-fundamentalist version of identity since the Iranian Islamic revolution of 1979. Once the single-party system and the command-rentier economy collapsed, tribe and religion emerged across the Arabic parts of Iraq.
3. In the Kurdish region, Kurdish ethnic identity politics, embedded in a de facto local statelet since 1991, invited responsive identity politics on the part of the Assyrians-Chaldeans and Turkmen, thus spreading new forms of social and political action anchored in sub-national idnetitites.
4. Thus in the early phases of post-conflict transition in 2003, grand communal identity politics among Shiites and Sunnis began to crystallize catching up with the previous grand ethnic identities of Kurds, Turkmen and Chaldo-Assyrians that had taken shape in 1990s.
5. The rise of identity politics created novel and complex dynamics that overshadowed post-war transition. While the Kurdish identity was as old as the inception of the Iraqi nation-state, Shiite and Sunni identity politics are fairly new. Communal cultural differences among Sunnis and Shiis have in existence for centuries on end, but politicization began in the mid 1970s, grew under the impact of the 1979 Iranian revolution, and expanded throughout the sanctions year (1991-2003), but was militarized after 2004.
6. Identity politics is not fission free. Holisitic communities are as imagined as class, nation or any other large group. They cannot and will not have holistic political blocs, based on identity, simply because these sustain a measure of disunity and schisms of every possible kind (Sunnis and Shi’is are divided, and Kurds are not an exception). These fissions are caused by particularistic group interests of tribe, clan, class, city, ideology and other fracture lines. Thus new actors emerged and patterns of voting and alliances also modified, with continued polarization of communal/sectarian, ethnic, tribal and class mobilization, and fragmentation of sectarian, communal/ethnic tribal and class blocs at one and the same time.
7. Communal identities and sub-identities created pluralistic socio-political chaos of unique pattern of hyper segmentation involving a Hobbsian ‘war of all against all’ in political, cultural, and at least, electoral terms.
DRIVERS OF CONFLICT FOCALIZED AND DRAFTED CLUSTERS OF CONFLICT DRIVERS DEFINED, REFINED AND EXCENTUATED
Varieties of Conflict
Conflicts can be violent or non-violent. They have the potential to be destructive and constructive at one and the same time. Even short-term ‘localised’ violent conflict, while destructive in its own right, has the potential to allow for the venting of frustrations. A narrow focus on short-term security stabilization may risk storing-up greater long-term inter- and intra-communal violent conflict.
Accompanying the underlying structural dimensions of conflict, there are eight major native drivers of conflict intertwined with regional and global drivers, which will affect, reshape, perhaps derail, or even reverse, the shaky transitional process. These drivers developed and crystallized throughout the January 2005 constitutional elections, the constitutional process of 2005 that followed it, the constitutional referendum, the Shi’i-Sunni civil war of 2006-7, and the ‘law and order’ campaign launched by the US (the Surge) and, consequently continued by the Maliki cabinet. As will be clear further below, conflict was more and more woven into the fabric nascent state institutions.
Transition, restructuring and legitimazation reached the point of civil war during 2006-8; the situation was aggravated by the disintegration of large communal blocs, in particualr the Shi’is and the Sunnis, the rise of tribal actors (Sahwa and others on the Sunni side, Majalis al-Isnad on the Shi’i side). The US Surge in 2007-8, and the Law and Order campaign by Maliki’s cabinet ended the supremacy of the Shii mlitias in the south (Mahid army and Badr Corp), and reduced the capacity of the Sunni insurgency elsewhere. These changes brought social and political actors to define, refine and excentuate their sundry interests that may well be categorized in ramified clusters, as follows:
Cluster One: Politics of Participation and Inclusion:Majortiarianism versus consociational and federal power sharing
Cluster one is contest over the nature of poltical order that is not yet final. Conflict is lingering on:
Simple majoritarian rule (the Shi’i position) versus consociational rule (basically Sunnis but also Kurds and mainorities). The conscoiational three-man presiednetial council with veto power was terminated by the end of the first term of the parliament (January 2010) and conflict over the structure of power is hightened. The removal of the presidential veto power has paradoxically detroyed a major source of institutional conflict over seats, but it removed a major instruments for checks and balances in the system. The only exisiting checks and balances pertain to the system of voting in the parliament: simple majority (for most laws), absolute majority (for certain laws), two third majority (the election of president and endorsement of the cabinet), and 75% for constitutional amendment. With the inherent weakness of Constitutional Court and the yet-to-be introduced Federal Council (the second chamber envisaged in the basic law), dispaly of power in day to day practice has become an alarmingly a single man, single-party show, that of Maliki and his Da’wa party. This drive is seen by the de facto abolition of the autonomy of the bulk of independetn institutions ( article 100 of the constitution), by bringing them under the jurisdiction of the executive authority. Attempts to control the Independent Higher Electoral Commission or the Integrity Commision are a case in point. In similar vain, the autonomy of the Central Bank is under threat. The wide range of unchecked power of the PM has been used to appoint a dozen or so of military commanders, few dozens of cabinet undersecretaries, and hold two cabinet portfolios vacant (the defence and the interior) withoput any reference to the parliament, a flagrant breach of constitutional norms. Conflict over binding by-laws to regulate the power sharing in the cabinet and curb the random power of the PM is tense indeed.
Federalism(Kurds) versus centralism (Arabs, Turkmen and part of the Assyrians).
While the principle of Kurdish federalism is enshrined into the constitution and the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government) is formally and firmly in place, the federalist demands of Kurds assumed a more terrirtorial characater not only over Kirkuk, but also over the so-called ‘disputed territories’ in Mosul (Ninewa province) and Khanaqin (Diyala province); the role of Peshmerga (Kurdish gureeila fighters turned into military units), the final status of Kirkuk, and the hydrocarbon law (distribution of oil and gas resources). Tension between PM Maliki and both presdients Talibani and Barzani have been growing and may be carried over to the new government emerging from the coming general elections. Unless workable consensus is reached, the federal-central polarization may cause a deep split in the Iraqi armed forces and spell omen to the progress achieved thus far in the security area.
Centralized versus decentralized governance. This polarization involves segments of all social and political groups, including entrenched bureaucratic vested interests of the cnetral service-providing minsitries. While politics have assumed a great measure of local character as a result of the rise of local social actors across the national gamut, cnetralization tendencies are still strong in Baghdad. The 2008 Law of Provinces marked a set-back for local, decentralized governance compared to the power granted for provincial entitites in TAL (Transitional Administrative Law of Bremer). Recent provincial elections (January 2009) brought a great success to PM Maliki’s list, and his lot hold 11 out of 14 posts of governors. The conflict, however, has structural and constitutional roots that favour centralization and curtail the scope of decentralization. This applies to the economy as well, as the ruling elite is jealously guarding its control over central economic assets, blocking any menaingful chance to develop market economy, which may reduce authoritarian tendencies.
Lastly, institutional inclusion versus monopolization. A fair and balanced inclusion of different communities (however defined) into the administration, the army and police, the intelligence service, and independent commissions, a major source of griecvances past and present, is again actually and/or conceivably disrupted. A part from favouratism benefiting next of kin, proteges and party ‘comrades’, discrimination assumed manifold guises: exclusion on political ethnic, -sectarian, regional and ideological bias. This monopoly turned ministries into communal, ethnic or partisan fiefdoms, jeoperdizing the very functioning of these agencies, and threatening perilous divisions within security forces. Due to weak market economy, government employment is a major source of distribution of social wealth among some 5 million state employees and pensioners against a population of 30 million (compared to 1.2 milliom functionaries against 20 million a decade earleir). This is mostly felt in Sunni provinces, and a segment of exs-Ba’th Shii groups have also been victims of such discrimination.
Cluster Two: Socio-Economic Conflict Over Distribution of resources, Rehabilitation, Reformation and Public Goods
Command Economy vis Market Economy, Distributionism versus Monopolization .
Cluster Two involves a a number of interrelated, conflictual issues that stem from the nature of Iraq’s rentier-command economy, i.e. its over, in fact mono, reliance on oil production and revenues (some 95% of government revenues), the central role the state plays in providing employment, subsidies, services, and the urgent need to reahbilitate the economy and thouroughly reform the legal and institutional structure inherited from the old command economy.
1. Economics of distirbution may involve conflict between social classes, communities (again however defined) and regions. Conflict is aggravated in rentier economies, as deprivation is exacerbated by higher expectations; it is even further aggravted in a command economy by dint of monopoly over resources. With iodentity politics in operation, disparities and the contests flowing from them deepen ethno-communal and regional conflicts. Oill revenues are controlled at present by the central government, and the national assembly decides the shares allocated to the KRG and the local governments in the provinces. Hence conflict is embedded in parlaimentary and institutional politics but has the potential to spill over.
2. Services and Subsidies: The Iraqi public is reliant on centrally-provided social services, such as electricity, water, education, health, and public transport. Since 2003, services have been fully retrieved in education and health, but not in other areas. Electricity, pure water and fuel shortages have become the subject of widespread public discontent. Protests could well be ignited by the wholesale de-subsidising of prices.
With gradual liberalisation presumably ahead, readjustment and restructuring might have some short-term negative effects (such as inflation), which have become intertwined with the effects of shortages. A sound fiscal and monetary policy might be compromised, leading to further economic hardships. Another factor is uncertainty surrounding oil revenues: their recent rise was a source of timely additional funds; a crash in oil prices could have devastating effects.
3. Unemployment and Income Disparities: Unemployment fell tangibly from an estimated national average of 48-50% in 2003 to 18%; still ratio of ememployment among the youth (40% of the population are under 14) is still as high as 30% or even higher. Per capita income also rose by tenfolds from some $300 to more than $3000, but is still lagging behind regional levels (except averages in Ghaza and the West bank). Measured against high expectations of quick improvement, this feeds into the politics of extremeism. With unmet expectations in the areas of social services, welfare, and economic improvement, grievances are likely to be strong drivers of popular discontent, which are likely to be manipulated by those espousing violence and those engaged in radical protest politics.
4. Market versus command economy: A wholesale privatisation programme is unlikely to be implemented in the coming period however, not only because there is recognition that it would cause widespread grievances, involving 200 State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) with 380,000 staff, but also for lack of proper legal framework. Even in the longer term, there is likely to be a continued commitment to public services, although this may be in the context of some form of partnership and risk-sharing strategy with the private sector. A ‘quick fix’ model of liberalization, democratization and ‘market-ization’ is not an immediate but rather a long-term conflict reduction and stabilization strategy, and indeed, in the short-term even cautious moves in this direction may intensify violent conflict. There must therefore be recognition that the transitional/development process itself risks being a major factor in causing future conflict, as well as in reducing it.
5. Legal framework for investment requires state reform and enhancement of transparency and legality in order to provide a more conducive framework for foreign investment to occur. These questions relate to issues of the nature, timing and content of state reform as well as the development of a market economy, and the relative weakness of the private sector. The question of building a civil and commercial legal system and institutional capacity remains crucial to the short-term, as the issue of ‘timing’ (of liberalisation, deregulation, privatisation) is crucial to the issue of future conflict reduction.
6. Oil Nationalism: There are particularly sensitive questions around the issue of foreign ownership of the oil industry. Investment laws allow foreign capital in all sectors save oil and minerals. Foreign investments, however, are necessary for the renewal of the outdated infrastructure of oil industry and the development of new fields (estimated cost: $20 b.). Oil nationalism, triggered by the recent contracts signed with foreign companies, remains a strong, but thus far, potential driver of conflict. A central-federal conflict is nevertheless looming between Baghdad and Erbil over development of oil fields in Kurdistan.
7. Over-Reliance on oil is extremely hazardous. At present, oil constitutes 90% of foreign exchange earnings, 95% of government revenues, and perhaps some 75% of the Iraqi GDP. Windfall increases in 2007-9 generated vast revenues and higher expectations; subsequent fall caused drastic cuts in government budget. The much needed investment component was drastically downsized, and the bulk of annual budget covers operational cost. This hampers developmental future plans. Any future down tilt in oil prices will defneitely cripple the government’s palns of employment and development.
8. Aid is not a central influence on the conflict dynamics, but it can play a role in sustaining and exacerbating rather than addressing grievances underlying much of the conflict. Clearly there is a need for reform of the state apparatus, which under the ancient regime was inefficient, top-down and over-centralised, but the way in which reform will occur is crucial. These factors also relate to the fact that the post-conflict period, and reconstruction programmes, enhanced expectations among the Iraqi population, which generally have not been met, which in turn has helped to feed into conflict.
9. Corruption has become so pervasive in Iraq that hardly any sphere of political, economic, and social life is spared. It was already in-built in the logic and practice of the regime of Saddam Hussein. As corruption assumes systemic levels, it not only hampers reconstruction efforts, but presents a serious security risk resulting from the defence of strong vested interests in the continuation of lawlessness, and the possible collaboration between corrupt police elements and armed groups. It threatens also the political process by weakening the authority and credibility of the government.
10. Iraq’s industiral, agricultural, service, and financial sectors are either weak or in shambles. Despite the relative growth of the business classes, thanks largely to foreign aid and investments that favour partnership with the local enterpreneurs, the bulk of busienss was government contracts accorded to proteges, involving nepotism, and corruption. As foreign aid is limited, government budgetary constraints are growing, and foreign investment are limited, future development is hardly sustainable. This involves a major strategic risk.
Cluster Three: Reconciliation versus Confrontation
1. Reconciliation, particularly between the dominant Shi’i-Kurdish alliance and the Sunni opposition and insurgency, is a political pre-condition for restoring normalcy. A staggered approach with workable phased agendas and clear timelines has never been worked out properly, despite countless initiatives, meetings, conferences, and negotiations sponsored by the US-UK and a host of European countries and international bodies. The ministry of national dialogue’ has become, like the ministry of local governance, an empty shell. And the reconciliation committee entrusted until 2010 to vice-president Adil Abdul Mahdi) may have benefited from his pragmatist approach but is actually constrained by his limited jurisdiction and his own party politics, al-Majlis al-Islami al-‘Ala ( The Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq (SICI), which strongly opposes re-inclusion of ex-Ba’thist. General principles, such as the mechanisms for organized and sustained dialogue, the discussion over resource- and power-sharing formulas, and the eventual inclusion in government, are forsaken in an atmosphere of mistrust, scepticism and fomenting fears of an allegedly pending ‘ Ba’th coup de etate’, or a ‘restoration’ of Ba’th rule.
2. Reconciliation: One consistent approach for reconciliation is required in order to build a national consensus regarding the principles of inclusivity and an end to violent conflict and extremism.
3. Dialogue: A process of national dialogue needs to begin as soon as possible; it can begin with a sub-set of groups but must grow quickly. The pro-Syrian Iraqi Ba’th which had been part of the opposition to Saddam Husain’s regime is one such example. Among the insurgency, nationalists, ex-Ba’th and national-Islamists are differentiated and approachable. A number of smaller marginal groups also exist. If the process works and inclusion proves effective and appealing, the larger groups can influence or neutralize the smaller ones.
4. Amnesty: The Iraqi government has not yet developed the necessary terminology, sophistication and legal groundwork to effectively use the tool of amnesty. The word amnesty itself is too harsh from the perspective of the armed groups, but too lenient from the perspective of Shi’i leaders. A new terminology could and should be developed: this could be something like ‘dropping of charges’, ‘suspension of legal procedures’, or ‘closure of indictment cases’, etc., in return for ‘apologies’ or ‘denunciation of past atrocities’. It is not at all clear, nor has it been adequately discussed, how, to whom, and under what conditions would amnesty be offered. Nor has there been serious discussion of a Truth and Reconciliation process such as was used in South Africa or, more recently, in Morocco. These are important strategies of post-conflict reconciliation that require concerted attention and effort.
5. De-Ba’thification: dialogue and amnesty should culminate in or be part of a pact to amend old and new de-Ba’thification statutes toward a legal common ground targeting only top leaders indicted for crimes against humanity and genocide. The judicial branch, which should be in charge of the vetting process for this, is also itself in need of strengthening and more transparency in order to increase its credibility and reinforce its role in this respect. Almost all political and armed groups on both sides of the communal divide, including the Mahdi Army and Majlis, have admitted ex-Ba’thists in their ranks, showing self-serving pragmatism; and it is this pragmatic principle that could well be writ larger on a national scale.
6. Participation: A broad-based national unity government based on electoral merit is hypothetically the results of such national reconciliation process. It needs to be perceived as fair empowering and representative coalition for nation-building. This inclusive coalitional approach can also then be reflected in the make-up of the Constitutional Court and the yet-to-be-established Union Assembly.
Cluster Four: Minorities: Ethnocentrism versus Pluralism
Ethnocentrism is manifolds: Arabs versus Kurds, and Kurds versus ethnic minorities in the KRG territory, and Arab-Muslims versus minorities in the Arabic part of Iraq. As federalism resolves the first problem, ethnocentrism exists and minorities need to enjoy:
1-Proper Protection to protect life and property;
2- Proper representation in the legislative assembly (at present Christians have only 5 seat although they form 3% of the populace, which resuires around 10 seats, and other minorities have only one seat each).
3-Proper represnetation in the local governments, incluidng local police ( especially in Kirkuk and Arbil, among other provinces).
4-Cutural rights yet require the implementation of articles 119-121 to ensure that minorities enjoy their constitutional rights within their provinces.
Minorities fear that such cultural and other rights and liberties are contingent on a yet-to-be-enacted laws (Articles 119 and 121) over whose formulation they may have little influence.
Cluster Five: Overdue Constitutional and Law Enactment
1-The current constitution has failed to secure national consensus. Not only Sunni, but also Shi’i factions and Iraqi centrist nationalists have had serious objections. Major contentious issues revolve around the distribution of power, land, resources, unity and territorial integrity of Iraq, the distribution of resources and fear of marginalization. Constitutional amendments are long overdue, and extremely difficult because of the high legislative quorum they require (75%).
2- These concerns are aggravated by the institutional and legislative void; more than sixty laws are pending legislation, and such institutions as the Union Assembly, among many others, are yet to be established.
Cluster Six: Islamism versus moderation and Pluralism Socio-cultural aspects
Islamization (Shii Islamism, sunni fundamentalism) versus moderation, secularism and pluralism ( middle classes across the religio-communal spectrum, non-Muslim communities).
Islamization has taken on different constitutional, institutional and macabre social forms.
1- Constitutionally, Islamization has partly coloured the text of the basic law providing grounds for imposing rigid morality (Islamists of all types) on civil freedoms of women, secular or modernist groups and non-Muslims: code of dress, closure of bars, closure of female hairdressing salons, of internet cafes, and, in certain cases, of music shops, forcibly disrupting pluralism of value-systems variety of life styles. Islamization has virtually abolished the secular family law and degraded women’s status, tirggering cultural and social conflicts.
Insitutionally, religious endowments that have been divided into three departments (Shii, Sunni and Christian) ended authoritarian control over religious endowments, but it also triggered the ‘war of mosques’ between Shii and Sunni militias, and fed into the larger sectarian conflict.
Extra-institutionally, Islamization fomented and exacerbated religious and sectarian enimositiy. Attacks on ritual processions, on worshiping venues (mosques and churches), on clerics, and on individuals at large, created a precarious and threatening environment for believers across the nation. Most vulnurable have been religious minorities, above all Chrisitians, Shii Turkmen, and Kurdish Shabak.
CLUSTER SIX: NEW POLARIZATION AND CONSEQUENCES
By early 2009 state formation processes made tangible and concrete steps forward. The army, the police and the intelligence service (however infiltrated by militias, and mafia), and the bureaucracy (yet segmented by partisan gangs and sectarian fiefdoms), are not only functioning more or less properly, but have grown in capacity and numbers. Central institutions of the parliament, cabinet, presidential council, and regional (KRG) and local governments, as well as the federal court are in place- as weak as they are or may seem to be.
This is clearly seen in the tangible improvement in security and relative political stability in 2008-9 that followed both the US-led surge and the ‘Law and Order Campaign’ of PM Nuri al-Maliki, despite sensational car bomb attacks now and then.
On the nation-building side of transition, the political context is dramatically changing.
Less and less Shi’i radical forces are inclined to extra-institutional and militia-type of politics. On the Sunni side, more and more social and political groups and factions are inclined to inclusive, institutional politics. In both ‘communities’ the unifying tendencies of identity politics, together with their ‘communal drivers of armed sectarian conflict, seem to have largely waned. The fragmantative proclivities, active or dormant, within communal identity blocs have reached a high energetic level. The grand communal blocs have collapsed, and new actors have also emerged. This involved the transformation of fundamentalist-sectarian mind-set of influential Islamist groups into rational positions anchored in the idiom and practice of law and order and, to some extent, Iraqi patriotism. It also involved disunity at both local and national levels, not only of Shiite and Sunni fronts, but also of the Kurds as well, where a new reform front siphoned some 26 seat of the 111 seat Kurdish parliament in the July 2009 elections.
The increase in the number of actors on all ethno-communal fronts may well have sundry effects. On the one hand, it will be more difficult to reach out for workable agendas if more actors are involved. On the other hand, this all-pervasive pluralism has rendered sectarian politics weaker, and the potential for the pursuance of institutional national politics stronger.
State institutions took shape under conditions of fierce, bloody competition between communities defined by ethnic, sectarian and religious identity politics. And they are still tainted by these effects. The deepening cleavages in these identity spaces, however, may require restructuring and reforming, which have the potential to disruptively modify, or, in the worst case scenario, perhaps undo, the nascent power structures necessary to stable governance in the election year 2010 and beyond.