The need for national reconciliation in Iraq

Friday 10/07/2015
Iraqi political and religious leaders during a reconciliation meeting in 2013

The cause behind the deterioration of the security and political situations in Iraq is definitely not some­thing that could be clarified in one article. It is very complicated and involves many factors; it would probably take an entire book to explain.
With this in mind, there is still one way out — a way for Iraq to restart the process. But for that to happen, one would need Alad­din’s magic lamp and a few dozen genies.
Unfortunately, those do-good genies have all emigrated to more peaceful lands.
Still, the magic term is “national reconciliation” in which participa­tion from all political parties, no matter how big or small, is pre­sent. (It would be nice to be able to add “except for the ones who have Iraqi blood on their hands” but that would exclude far too many facets of Iraqi society).
The real problem in the coun­try is the vast and continuously growing gap between the Shia and Sunni communities. Even Baghdad, which used to be a melting pot for every ethnic and religious group that the cradle of civilisation produced, became a city covered in black and white. Now, every little area has its own identity and no one dares to cross that line.
The concept of national rec­onciliation is not new. After the fall of the Ba’ath regime in 2003, specific parties raised the issue, especially after the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and the formation of the De-Ba’athification Com­mission (making the Sunnis feel targeted by the Shia-controlled government).
Day after day, the gap grew wider and Iraqi citizens now have to pay the price (with interest) for the mistrust between political rivals.
Political leaders could not take into account the dark and danger­ous circumstances people face on a daily basis: the bombings, the killings, the kidnappings, the ar­rests, the executions and so forth.
During Nuri al-Maliki’s run, a committee was formed in the prime minister’s office to follow up on the initiative and to push it forward. The government even allocated a large budget for the campaign.
However, this committee is highly dysfunctional (as it has al­ways been) despite the fact Maliki is no longer in control.
One of the obstacles is the head of the committee, a committed member of Dawa Party, which makes him an essential part of the problem: He can never be neutral.
This committee is lacking in many areas, including the re­quired strategies, the necessary relations, a true clear vision and the ability or desire to achieve a genuine reconciliation. Even the United Nations failed in the mis­sion, despite the fact that it was working closely with the com­mittee for a long duration. It was clear that the United Nations was helping create the right mechani­cal approach to implement the initiative.
For many Iraqi politicians, this international organisation holds no credibility whatsoever. Hence, any help from the United Nations would be a total waste of time and effort because there is no real trust among the people (let alone the political parties).
The solution should come from the Iraqis themselves; not even the Arab governments could help — for obvious reasons.
What is required is a rude awak­ening for all sides without a single exception, or it will be too late.
Before a page can be turned and before Iraq can move forward, it needs to start by granting a gen­eral amnesty. Tens of thousands of innocent people are held in Iraqi prisons, incarcerated for undeter­mined charges under Section 4 of the terrorism law. This needs to be reconsidered and dealt with.
Injustice, oppression, unfairness and extortion will only push the country farther into a dark tunnel with no light at the end. This will lead to yet another devastating war. If you like what the Islamic State (ISIS) is doing to the region, wait till the current crisis starts to boil over and a few more ISIS-type groups emerge from the wood­work.
And when all is said and done, not one Iraqi will be better off.