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Power Sharing in Iraq

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The state of Iraq is an artifact of the First World War that was never truly governable as a unitary state. If Iraq was ever to exist as a state at all, it would have to be organized as a federal state where many different nations would share in the exercise of power and the distribution of wealth from oil and other economic resources. Seemingly recognizing this necessity, drafters of the present Iraqi constitution provided for the establishment of a federal system--a power sharing among political groups. There seems a widely held awareness that Iraq is made up of more than 150 Fourth World nations and was never going to be a unitary state. Power sharing was and always has been the only formulae for establishing a state of Iraq. If the world's political powers insist that Iraq be a state, then they had better pay attention to the political realities on the ground. They had better work to piece together political compromises between these many nations to form a federal state that equitably facilitates the sharing of power and economic resources. And now, the United States with its thumb in the dam had better get wise and work for a comprehensive political arrangement that will take time, intelligence, maturity and diplomatic skill to achieve.

Saying in 2004 "you broke it, you own it," former US Secretary of State Collin Powell placed the onus of responsibility for repairing a broken state of Iraq on the United States--a role the present US Administration seems reluctant or unable to perform.

In 2003, the United States government invaded a state of Iraq that had become essentially bankrupt and in a condition of political breakdown. Years of totalitarian rule under the Saddam Hussein regime, internal wars with the Kurds in the north and Shiite tribes of the south, ten-years of war with Iran, the invasion of Kuwait, a war with the United States, twelve years of economic sanctions and years of US air strikes against economic and military infrastructure left Iraq little more than a "fictive state"--a state in name only. Hundreds of thousands of people died in Iraq from 1979 due in part to American sanctions, Hussein's violence and nonsensical wars. Not a single Fourth World nation inside Iraq went unscathed by the violence and terror visited by the manic events of the past thirty-years.

US Senator Joseph Biden (D-Delaware), chairman of the influential US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the US based Council on Foreign Relations proposed a reasonable plan for establishing the federal state of Iraq in 2006, but inconsistent US Administration military policies in Iraq have conspired against a responsible political arrangement between the various nations.

A tri-level diplomatic initiative will be necessary to weave a federal political solution in Iraq. There must be a serious and responsible diplomatic effort working directly with all of the Fourth World nation leaders in Iraq on a nation-by-nation basis--the so called "bottom up approach." Just as this effort is underway, an international conference of neighboring states and nations must be convened ("top-down approach") to sew together a regional agreement and appropriate protocols addressing Iraqi state boundaries, security (internal and regional), economic, refugee and political measures and frameworks. The third level of diplomatic initiative must involve the Iraqi central government which should be rearranged according to agreements among the nations and the international conference of Iraqi neighboring states and nations.

As I wrote in the September 11 Fourth World Eye (Anbar Tribes turn back al-Qaeda) there is ample evidence that the Fourth World nations of Iraq can and will deal with outside agitators like those small numbers of violent actors associated with al-Qaeda.  It is in their interest to remove this thorn in their side--and they seem more than able to do so. The United States government should correspondingly draw down its forces and reconfigure its military presence to reduce the violence and political tensions caused by its presence in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the diplomatic initiative to organize a federal solution in Iraq should look at the success of Fourth World nations in Spain to help find a multi-nation solution for the state of Iraq. I remind readers in my article on September 4 in the Fourth World Eye (A Country in Spain) that the nation of Catalunya, Basque Country and Galisia are examples of regional nations exercising federal power in a formally unitary, dictatorial state. These nations worked with the central government to negotiate a new kind of federal state that ensures a balance of power between nations within the framework of a state.  Spain's example is an excellent model for Iraq.

If stability in Iraq is what we want to achieve, we must recognize the political realities on the ground and build an effective power sharing framework. That stability can be achieved through a tri-level diplomatic effort, reduced US military foot print and a recognition that Fourth World nations are an essential part of the solution.

(c) 2007 Center for World Indigenous Studies

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One Comment

  1. American hubris aside, the major obstacle to diplomatic initiatives is the profiteering enabled by outsourcing military support services. The war industry was always big business, but it has now become colossal crime. Absent accountability, the US is no longer capable of brokering constructive political solutions.

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