Will 2021 usher in the end of Iraq as we know it?

Under Biden, who has always considered Kurdistan as the base for the American vital sphere, the partition scenario will become more attractive and realistic.
Tuesday 05/01/2021
An Iraqi street vendor displays clothes next to graffiti in Arabic that reads, “Baghdad is free and Iran out,” in Tahrir Square, Baghdad. (AP)
An Iraqi street vendor displays clothes next to graffiti in Arabic that reads, “Baghdad is free and Iran out,” in Tahrir Square, Baghdad. (AP)

On January 7, 2002,  I published an article in the London newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat under the title “Will Iraq Remain in 2002?” in which I commented on predictions made ten years before by US intelligence adviser and researcher Graham Fuller.

Fuller had predicted that Iraq would disappear by 2002, but I rebutted his views and defended Iraq’s survival and unity. I did that not only because I was an Iraqi defending my homeland, but to refute the sectarian theory that politicians within the US Democratic party shared then and still share today with the rulers of the Tehran regime, despite their mutual political hostility towards each other.

Fuller, like other American political decision-making experts, publishes such articles and statements in isolation from field intelligence reports and political trends related to strategies, which are often unaffected by partisan changes at the White House.

American think tanks, however, continue to look at the existence of Iraq and the countries of the region from a sectarian angle, and their role in shaping the White House’s foreign policy may expand with one president and wane with the next.

Back in 2007, current US President-elect Joe Biden based his project to divide Iraq, which was approved by Congress, on these right-wing ideas, despite progressive pushback within his Democratic party.

This project is still standing and plays an important role for US administrations today and in the future. This means that America leans towards ending Iraq as a political entity and replacing it with another.

The idea of ​​the end of Iraq in the year determined by political experts within their intelligence systems may be shocking, due to the ambiguity of its motives, to the general Iraqi sentiment and the minds of those keen on recovering their kidnapped country and who are not swayed by deceptive slogans claiming to preserve Iraq.

Historically, the theory that modern Iraq did not exist but was put together from different components is not American, but British. It originated when Winston Churchill combined the Ottoman provinces of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra into one entity after the occupation of Iraq by British forces and the expulsion of the Ottomans in 1918. Churchill brought Prince Faisal bin Hussein from Hijaz and installed him as king of the new Iraq in 1920, despite the rejection of the new state by the Shia leaders of Najaf. This is why the revolt of 1920 was explained within a sectarian framework as a rejection of the establishment of the Iraqi state rather than an armed struggle against British occupation, which later became a backer and sponsor of those Shia leaders.

It can be said then that the idea of ​​working on ending the existence of Iraq as a political entity is a century old now and is activated now and then according to political need and greed.

And it is not just the United States that champions this idea; Iran is also very much interested by it and wants to work it in its current expansionist sectarian system, not only because Iraq is an oil-producing country, but because of its geopolitical position in the region.

This is why we find the idea of a fragmented Iraq being promoted by Iran’s local Shia proxies whether in the opposition or in power.

What the US occupation authority did in Iraq after April 2003, by building a political system in Baghdad based on sectarianism, meaning essentially “the rule of the Shia,” is the embodiment of this idea of a fragmented Iraq, an idea which was built in the country’s 2005 constitution, and whose purpose is to end Iraq as an entity and an identity, even if it preserves its outer shell, including its name, flag, currency and formal map, while in practice it does not exist.

The real partition project remains ready for implementation. Its idea is promoted by Shia leaders whenever they feel the serious risk of losing their control of the Arab parts of the country. After all, they have no jurisdiction over the Kurdistan region, and the media defence of the name of Iraq is mere sloganeering.

The Shia in power in Baghdad do not believe in the existence of an Iraq outside the framework of their “eternal” authority and as long as the authority of the Velayat-e faqih is still in place in Tehran. When the latter disappears as a result of the struggle of the real people of Iran, the remaining days of the power of the Shia parties in Baghdad will be numbered. That’s when the Iraq of Iran and its Shia will end, and the people of Iraq will reclaim their homeland. Wasn’t “We want a homeland” a slogan of the youth of the October Revolution?

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi spoke of the country’s upcoming collapse because he did not belong to the sectarian cave. What he meant was the collapse of the current political system, and his message may be directed at the occupants and owners of that cave, for they know this fact, but from their point of view, there is no Iraq without them. A few days ago, Iraqi President Barham Salih spoke in support of Kadhimi’s diagnosis. Despite his past defence of the quota system, Salih dared declare, “We urgently need a new political contract that establishes a capable and fully sovereign state because the system of government that was established after 2003 has shown a huge crack.”

A member of the Iraqi Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) paramilitary forces in Mosul. (AFP)
A member of the Iraqi Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) paramilitary forces in Mosul. (AFP)

Biden will not promote and implement the federal partition project approved by Congress until after the repercussions of the regime in Baghdad reach a stage of collapse. But what we are witnessing in Iraq now are strong signs of collapse in the economic and financial system that was artificially maintained alive by oil revenue when oil prices were profitable. All local reports and American newspaper surveys during the last month of 2020 converged in this direction.

Besides, and this is the most important thing, there are worrying signs of a security breakdown with the rise of the militias in controlling and playing with the fate of the people of the country.

No matter how confident the Shia parties may seem about their victory in 2021 elections, if such elections eventually see the light, fear of an early defeat still inhabits their leaders, because they do not have a project for the people of the homeland to hide behind. They have plundered billions of dollars and smuggled them out of the country; and now the days of their power are numbered. We may witness their demise and the demise of the Iraq that they marketed to the public in 2021.

Evil as they are, these people have no qualms about starting bloodbaths and wars inside and outside the Shia community if necessary.

In the many forecasting metrics for the new year, the more realistic scenarios for the end of Shia power in Iraq are those that set the start of the end in Kurdistan, if the conflict between Tehran and Washington is escalated. In that scenario, the largest US embassy will move from the capital Baghdad to Erbil, thus precipitating the downfall of Baghdad, as the lost Sunni children of the authority decide to end their interested loyalty to the Shia in power, even though the two factions would be sharing the same sinking boat.

Former American diplomat and Middle-East expert Peter Galbraith predicted before 2011 that the United States had lost the war in Iraq. According to his reckoning, and following the US withdrawal from Iraq, the latter will appear as a land divided along ethnic lines into two states — an Arab one and a Kurdish one — and that a civil war will break out in the Arab sector. He pointed out that the United States’ failure to fulfil its mission of establishing a unified, democratic and self-reliant Iraq was a defeat for the United States and a victory for Iran, which used the occasion to expand its influence in the region. He finally suggested to the leaders of the Democratic party and others in the Republican party to have the US forces in Iraq retreat to a safe area in Kurdistan.

Under Biden, who has always considered Kurdistan as the base for the American vital sphere, the partition scenario will become more attractive and realistic. Shia will be given the central and southern provinces, while the capital will remain shared by Shia and Sunnis with no allegiance to the rulers of the Green Zone with its militia-protected borders. The partition will breathe new life in the referendum on Kurdish independence, which is their national historical right.

So, what are the facts of this contradictory scenario, away from the false slogans of resistance and fighting the American occupation? There are none.

Kadhimi, if he remains in office, will be the first to announce on Twitter the end of Iran’s Shia Iraq and the return of Iraq to its people again. These are not just conjectures or wishful thinking, but rather the reading of a possible scenario.