The Iraqi Confederation Project: A story of greed and betrayal
In 1994, opposition leaders in Iraq, those backed by America as well as those backed by Iran or Syria, began selling the Iraqi Confederation project. The Kurds and their Islamist allies plus Ahmed Chalabi and his companions envisioned a confederation between two territories — one Arab and one Kurdish — on the basis of one country.
Independent Iraqi intellectuals looked at the project and turned it down. They said they found it dubious, misleading and doomed to fail. They warned that if it came to pass, the Iraqi people would have to pay a painful and bloody price for it.
In August 1994, I published in the Lebanese daily Al-Hayat an article in which I reiterated the broad lines of the arguments against the confederation project, highlighted the weak and dubious points in it and proposed an alternative project. I was certain that the pro-confederation minions, along with their US and Iranian backers, were going to loathe the alternative and condemn its authors to hell.
Our beef against the confederation project centred on three points:
• The project was a sealed partnership between two teams of politicians whose allegiance to Iraq as a nation was doubtful; they actually had the gall to boast about their ethnic and sectarian extremism.
• The project prepared the ground for a premeditated secession of the Kurdish region. This was because it was de facto independent and had no need for anyone’s blessing unless of course it had been the intention of Kurdish politicians all along to bleed the Iraqi state in stages and take advantage of its military and civilian means to lay the foundations for a Kurdish state that would be exclusively under the heel of their parties.
• It could be told from the project proponents’ behaviour, speeches, writings and reactions to the independent Iraqi opposition that they had no intention of sharing power, except among themselves. They planned to impose their authority on the Iraqi people through money, military force and foreign backing. Their evil entente with Islamists was clear. The latter would close their eyes on the evil intentions and doings of both Kurdish parties and the Kurds would keep quiet about the Islamists’ spoliation of the Iraqi people and would not oppose placing Iraq under the power umbrella of the supreme leader in Iran.
We proposed an alternative confederation model between administratively independent districts made up of the following:
• Kurdistan District, including
Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Dohuk and parts of Mosul and Kirkuk governorates.
• Kirkuk and Diyala District.
• Mosul District, including Saladin governorate.
• Baghdad District.
• Anbar District.
• Holy Sites District (Karbala and Najaf Al Ashraf).
• Hillah and Qadisiyyah District.
• Wasit and Maysan District.
• Dhi Qar and Muthanna District.
• Basra District.
Of course, all the sermonisers in the two Kurdish parties, Dawa Party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Al Hakim and the Chalabi gang immediately tore our proposal apart. They accused us of doubting the Iraqi opposition’s “patriotism” and of belittling the confederation project, so vital for Iraq, and of deforming its essence.
Since the end of the dictatorship in 2003 and up to September 25, 2017, all Iraqis, regardless of their sect, religion or ethnicity had endured the worst days of their lives under the “democratic federal” regime put in place by the seven main leaders of the ex-Iraqi opposition. That form of regime had been sold to the Iraqi people as the best way to ensure the end of dictatorship, racism, sectarian tension, cronyism and corruption in Iraq.
Fourteen years later, the Iraqis are longing for the bygone days of the dictatorship. Under it, they had enjoyed better security, less injustice and more transparency than under the democracy of those false democrats.
Then it was time for Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani to unveil his hidden plan. He accused his Islamist partners of betraying him and insisted on having an independent Kurdistan. Consequently, the confederation pact was dead and the region was thrown in turmoil.
Barzani’s move opened a Pandora’s box and pitted the Kurds and the Iraqis against each other. The former partners are on the verge of starting a war against each other. The Kurds insist on their right to self-rule and the Islamists are invoking national unity and the constitution. The truth, however, is that neither of the belligerents is sincere. The Barzani camp has never been loyal to the Kurdish people, and Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani’s fans never cared for Iraq’s national dignity and integrity.
The overwhelming “yes” vote in the Kurdish referendum was to show the world that the Kurds believe no less strongly in their right to independence than Barzani does but most of them voted for the dream of an independent state and not for secession, at least not in the foreseeable future.
They understand that imposing a small Kurdish state in northern Iraq despite Iraq’s opposition to the project and amid regional and international condemnation and with Israeli support can only mean endless and unnecessary wars.
In the end, we wonder how Iraq would have turned out if the naysayers of the opposition had accepted our alternative. That, however, is a moot question because none of them was willing to give up power, wealth and militias.