By Eyad Abu Shakra
9 October, 2019
“Baghdad is Arab”, a resonating cry that shook me to the bones, when uttered by Iraqi men and women as they rose against hegemony and submission.
Some may rush to regard this as some kind of ‘chauvinism’ in brandishing Arab identity. I can understand that those may have lingering bad memories and reservations about the outcome of past ultra-nationalist attitudes. However, what is before us now is a painful state of affairs that any rational individual must not only reject but also strive to change.
Other friends may confront me with a rejection of ‘change’ in principle. They may point out how certain groups ‘rode the wave’ of the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011, and then ventured to divert the main thrust of the peoples’ uprisings to their own ends. That is also understandable, as I share with them their refusal to condone exploiting the masses’ natural tendency to rise against despotism, stifling freedoms, and corruption to serve ideological or theological agendas unrelated to these masses’ grievances.
Well, my response to the issue of ‘Chauvinism’ is that the ‘Arab Identity’ is neither an accusation nor a problem if espoused with open mindedness, acceptance of diversity, and respect for non-Arab populations. On the issue of ‘change’, I also see no problem if it brings to power tolerant, ambitious, young, and ‘institutionalist’ leaders, who govern fairly, and shun dogmas, narrow-mindedness, and time-buying ‘problem-management’.
In all advanced countries, there are broad consensuses as regards the national identity. Sometimes, they are shaken, as we see around us today. However, in general, they are there to provide a ‘safety net’ to constituent groups and social classes. Also, in these advanced countries smooth change through devolution of power alleviates political, sectarian, and economic grievances, and dissipates accumulated disagreement before they become deep and painful grudges that when explode could destroy society. Thus, if a certain brand of despotism is unacceptable, counter-despotism, especially one whose raison d’etre is bitter and revengeful, must neither be tolerated nor allowed to continue.
There are people who claim that ‘The Iraqi Character’, due to its complex geographic, demographic, religious, and political environment, has always been prone to violence and bloodshed.
Throughout the centuries, they have claimed that the land of today’s Iraq has witnessed wars, revolts, fall of ruling dynasties, and the rise of intellectual movements, ideologies, and radical currents. Some of these died out, others simply went underground awaiting a more suitable time to resurface.
In this context, Iraq has passed through various eras that provided many opportunities for cultural coexistence and exchange; although, some brought about serious conflicts up until the late 20th century, and even, after the US-led invasion of 2003. Perhaps, many still remember a pro-Tehran Iraqi Prime Minister calling the population of the once-richly diverse city of Mosul as ‘The descendants of Yazid’. (Yazid Ibn Mu’waiya, the caliph many Shi’ites accuse of ordering the murder of the Prophet’s grandson Al-Hussein Ibn Ali).
In truth, neither Iraq nor any neighboring Arab state, will have a future in the presence of those who allow themselves what they prohibit to others, who use religion and historic injustices as an excuse to plunder their respective countries and people, and who accumulate wealth through corruption. If the latest popular uprising has provided any ray of hope, it is that despite 15 years of dominance secured by foreign intervention, blatant sectarian incitement has failed to hide corruption and abuse of power. Relying on sectarian militias and imposing them as de facto ruler, along the lines of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), is not enough to shield and protect the ‘thieves’ under the banner of making right the old wrongs, and ending injustice.
The Shiites of Iraq have been in the center of the uprising. Most likely, they are the ones who know most about why it has erupted, and how the regional expansionist conspiracy is hell-bent impoverishing one of the Middle East’s richest countries.
Following the US invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime, many things have taken place, among which are certain realities that should always be kept in mind:
1- Despite Saddam’s tragic mistake of invading Kuwait, most Arab states – including those friendly to Washington – were against the US ‘inept’ and geopolitically damaging invasion; given that Iraq is the Arabs ‘Eastern’ border gate, opening to two major non-Arab powers, i.e., Iran and Turkey.
2- Both Iran and Turkey have always had territorial ambitions and historical interests in Iraq. These only effectively ended with the defeat of the Ottoman Empire by the end of WW1. Furthermore, Iraq’s two largest religious sects are Shiite and Sunni Islam; thus, Iraq’s two great neighbors, Shiite Iran and Sunni Turkey, have always had enough excuses to interfere and meddle in the country’s internal affairs.
3- In Iraq exists an important constituent that dominated the country’s north and northeast; which is the Kurds. In fact, the Kurds have provided the Iranians and Turks and with a rare, if not the only, common goal; as it is in the strategic interest of Iran and Turkey to prevent the emergence of a single independent Kurdish state. Such a state would effectively threaten the national unity of both countries, as there are around 15 million Kurds in Turkey and around 8 million in Iran, in addition to about 6 million in Iraq. Actually, many analysts believe that the strongest reason for not partitioning Iraq, after the US-led ‘Coalition Provisional Authority’ had systematically destroyed the Iraqi state institution – including the army – , was Ankara’s strong opposition to Kurdish independence, which would also further marginalize the Turkmen minority.
4- Despite the ‘Death To America’ and ‘Great Satan’ slogans, and as soon as Baghdad fell to the invading US troops, exiled pro-Tehran Iraqi leaderships flew from Iran back to Iraq, where they took over as ‘victors’. Moreover, within a very short time of Washington’s acceptance of the ‘victors and vanquished formula’, Iran’s followers and henchmen assumed power in Iraq. Later on, to make matters worse, former US President Barack Obama decided that handing over Iraq alone was not enough; so he allowed Iran’s ‘Mullahs’ to take over Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, through a nuclear deal that focused only on technicalities, while leaving Tehran free to expand and invade at will.
Given the above, Iraq’s recent uprising is entirely ‘Iraqi’, as it really should be. It is necessary to stop the major regional collapse throughout the area extending from Iraq to the Mediterranean and Red Sea, whether the major world powers are still unaware, or are in full collusion!
Original Headline: For an ‘Iraqi’ and ‘Arab’.. Not an ‘Iranian’ Iraq