Iraq needs new non-sectarian blood

Sunday 23/07/2017

Minutes after the celebrations of the victory over the Islamic State (ISIS) in Mosul, signs of sectarian manipu­lations in Iraq crept in. There were reports of inhumane treatment of Iraqi prisoners suspected of belonging to ISIS as well as calls for a settlement between Shia and Sunni politicians.
For years, these same politicians did nothing but carry out their own sectarian political agendas and projects. They squabbled over their shares of power and loot in total disregard for the interests and the rights of the Iraqi people, be they those who have suffered dislocation and killings at the hands of ISIS or the rest of the population, which continues to endure the absence of basic services of electricity, water, health, education and security.
There is total confusion in Iraq today. With weapons available everywhere and out of official control, political and sectarian polarisation among the traditional political parties will likely lead to the creation of armed sectarian factions. This unsuccessful political class has made it part of its agenda to maintain instability and sectar­ian stoking in the country because, otherwise, its members would lose their privileges. Sectarian politics is based on continuously generating crises, confusion and splits.
The sectarian forces want to hi­jack the Iraqi military victory, strip it of its national character, turn it into a sectarian victory and use it to reinforce the dominance of political Islam in both its Shia and Sunni versions.
They are determined to perpetu­ate the conditions that produced ISIS through the many failing meas­ures and policies that piled up since 2003. These policies were based on sectarian division, political mar­ginalisation, spreading hatred and vengeance and refusing any serious attempts to bring back the spirit of belonging to a single Iraqi national­ity. We must be ready at the highest political levels in the country to courageously and seriously thwart those plans of robbing the country of a national victory over ISIS.
A military victory alone is not suf­ficient to put an end to the forces of terror and extremism in Iraq. What we need is for a team of elite politi­cal figures — Shias and Sunnis from inside and outside the existing Iraqi political circles — to lay the founda­tions for political victory. The team could be led by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Its creation would not necessitate any new laws or constitutional amendments.
This team must have a clear nationalistic vision and a new po­litical programme to do away with the fundamental causes behind the rise of ISIS and its quick occupation of Iraq. This team must be able to deliver what is needed for the new era, namely many urgent admin­istrative and political measures capable of lifting the spirit of vic­tory to slam the door on all projects for renewing sectarian division. By leading such a mission, Abadi could bravely finish his national mission.
The new measures must begin with irreversibly relinquishing nefarious sectarian policies. They were real and not just slogans. The non-sectarian team must be armed with the existing and significant popular support waiting for new political blood. It is time to put an end to the looting and disastrous policies of the previous era. It is time to give the helm to responsible Iraqis with clean hands and clean minds.
A team of capable, unbiased and virtuous figures armed with a national programme would be able to pressure the existing parties from all sides to give up their petty politicking, which is taking shape in sectarian congresses, projects for political settlements and attempts by certain sects to take full credit for liberating Mosul.
We have in Abadi’s decision to have the central government supervise clean-up operations in Mosul a good example of construc­tive steps towards instilling Iraqi nationalism. All through the battle for Mosul, Abadi stuck by his own slogan — “protecting citizens.”
A series of measures were taken and it is indicative of the desired transition. In Mosul, the central government is overseeing opera­tions to identify ISIS members and their supporters and separate them from civilians. It is also the central government that is responsible for bringing perpetrators of human rights violations to justice and for making sure that this new situation is not exploited for stirring sectar­ian divisions.
Abadi and his team of non-sectarian politicians, be they Shias or Sunnis, cannot afford to fail in their new mission because, if they do, Iraq will plunge into even more severe and violent sectarian strife. Such an outcome surely serves the purposes of those projects aimed at keeping Iraq disunited and weak to divide the region.