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The Incompetence of Sectarianism

A lot has been made of Al-Iraqiya’s recent decision to suspend all negotiations with State of Law Coalition following the remarks that were made by Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki during an interview with AlHurra TV.

The comments that were leaked before the full interview suggested that Al-Maliki describes Al-Iraqiya as the representative of Sunni Arabs in Iraq, therefor; it has to be included in the process of government formation. On the face of it, some seemed to agree with Al-Maliki and saw his remarks as positive and inclusive and expressed astonishment at what appeared to be a reactionary move by Al-Iraqiya to suspend all negotiations, that was until the full interview was aired.

It became apparent that the aim of the “Sunni” description was to disqualify Al-Iraqiya from taking certain positions according to a sectarian quota system Mr. Al-Maliki claimed he rejected prior to the election results. He distributes the leading positions in what Reidar Visser describes as “the most primitive form of sectarianism that exists”. So is Maliki an undercover sectarian or just a sore loser who is looking for any argument to discredit Al-Iraqiya as a viable party that can form the government?

If we look at the timeline of the pre and post-elections drama, a pattern emerges whereby Al-Iraqiya is attacked and marginalised on a regular basis by the State of Law Coalition. Starting with the de-ba’thification debacle, claiming Ayad Allawi cannot assume the PM position because of his mother’s origin, voiding votes, pointless recounts, ending with a pathetic alliance that seems to have caused more problems than it has solved. 

Since Al-Maliki still hasn’t accepted the election results and judging by his actions, it seems fair to conclude that he is a sore loser. We already know that he does not truly believe in the peaceful transfer of power as he has publicly expressed before, but his election defeat has managed to reveal a hidden sectarianism that has waited for all the other avenues to be exhausted before it reared its ugly head.

That also raises the question of whether Al-Iraqiya is the representative of a specific component of Iraqi society only. While it cannot be denied that the majority of its support came from central Iraq, Al-Iraqiya was the only list that gained seats in all regions, and while the majority of its MP’s are of a certain component because they were elected out of their local areas, its leadership and prominent members seems to be diverse and unconcerned with the sectarian distribution amongst themselves, their comments have steered away from ethno-sectarian entitlements, of the kind Al-Maliki all of a sudden advocates. What is even more astonishing is that Al-Iraqiya’s nominee for Prime Minister belongs to that component Al-Maliki finds acceptable, but he seems to think that because the voters are of a certain component that he does not accept, their votes carry less weight.

This has made a mockery of the political and democratic process in Iraq, it goes against the Constitution and article 7, and sets Iraq up for civil and sectarian strife, a la Lebanon, for years to come. There may be a silver lining in the fact that these extraordinary circumstances have exposed certain politicians for what they truly are.

We have allowed politicians to hide behind their sects to mask their incompetence for far too long, it is time we move past those considerations for the sake of a united and prosperous Iraq.

8 Comments on “The Incompetence of Sectarianism”

  1. Ranj Alaaldin August 18, 2010 at 11:28 pm #

    Safwan, interesting post. Don’t forget, however, that Tariq al-Hashimi made a similar remark not so long ago when he said the Presidency shouldn’t be given to a Kurd.

  2. Safwan Mudhafar August 18, 2010 at 11:36 pm #

    Hi Ranj,

    Thanks for your comment. If he did in fact say that, then it is every bit as wrong as what Maliki said. From what I remember he retracted or corrected his comments by saying that the presidency should not be exclusive to Kurds.


  3. Ranj Alaaldin August 18, 2010 at 11:42 pm #

    I’m not sure if he did, but will check in any case. It’s all too easy for Iraq’s politicians to retract statements they make before thinking twice, but which nevertheless provide an insight into what they’re really thinking.

  4. Anon August 19, 2010 at 12:27 pm #

    Sad to see westerners explain Iraqi politics for Iraqis

  5. Safwan Mudhafar August 20, 2010 at 6:46 am #

    Ranj, I agree with you. Even though Al-Hashimi was responding to the claims of some KA politicians that the presidency belongs to the Kurds by saying it should go to an Arab, it was unacceptable, Al-Iraqiya rejected any ethno-sectarian entitlements, and Hashimi was forced to apologise and say that he had meant that it could go to an Arab and does not have to be for the Kurds. Contrast that with the muted response by State of Law.

  6. Ranj Alaaldin August 20, 2010 at 10:00 pm #

    I understand Safwan, but if he was responding to KA officials then that would or should have been obvious. To my knowledge, he didn’t actually refer to the Kurds when he made the statement and, as I say, it’s all too easy for politicians of the world to retract and say “oh, I actually meant…”. I’m not defending anyone here, but simply saying the broader picture needs to be looked at.

  7. Mazin August 28, 2010 at 12:03 am #

    It was not only him. It was Osama Al Najifi, Saleh Al Mutlaq and co. They have said it on numerous occasions. That the President of Iraq should be an Arab because Iraq is an Arabic country.

    The word sectarianism is thrown around way too easily in today’s Iraq. The truth is those who sympathise / miss the old days under Saddam’s regime are more likely to have voted for Iraqiyah whether they be Sunni, Shiite or Kurd than any of the other lists.

  8. Mazin August 28, 2010 at 12:05 am #

    Please do not look at that previous statement as any sort of insinuation that Dr Allawi is in anyway sympathetic to Saddam. Him and his family have lost a lot and are well known to have suffered greatly under Saddam’s regime. This is why it saddens many to see him ally himself with certain individuals

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