A united Iraq is the best pushback

An agreement between the Kurdish Regional Government and Baghdad over oil revenues signals closer working relations. Photo: Atef Hassan / Reuters
An agreement between the Kurdish Regional Government and Baghdad over oil revenues signals closer working relations. Photo: Atef Hassan / Reuters

There are few upsides to the emergence of ISIL. The group’s twisted interpretation of Islam to justify its own intolerant and violent agenda threatens to drown out moderate voices, which constitute the vast majority of Muslims. Fighting ISIL will take years and will divert money and attention that could have been put to more beneficial use.

But if there is a silver lining, it is the fact that Iraq’s disparate communities are now convinced they need to battle the threat together. In recent years, the Shia majority that was once dominated by the Sunni minority under Saddam’s reign has governed primarily for the benefit of its own people. And the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in the north continued with the course it pursued since gaining effective autonomy after the 1991 Gulf war.

ISIL’s military successes in Iraq, including the prospect of capturing the Kurdish capital, Erbil, have prompted these groups to adopt a more united strategy. As The National reported this week, Baghdad has now reached a deal with the KRG to exchange oil in return for 17 per cent of the national budget. Replacing Nouri Al Maliki’s divisive premiership with Haidar Al Abadi’s more collaborative approach was another step in the right direction. The new Iraqi administration’s all-together-now spirit became apparent in October when parliament confirmed Khaled Al Obaidi, head of a major Sunni bloc, as defence minister.

These signs of an emerging united front against ISIL becomes more significant now that the anti-ISIL coalition of nearly 60 countries, including the UAE, has made known some other encouraging news. At the coalition’s first meeting in Brussels, US secretary of state John Kerry said that ISIL’s territory had decreased and its operational capacity diminished. With Iraqi forces preparing for a major offensive to retake Mosul and Fallujah from ISIL, there is reason for cautious optimism about Iraq’s united purposefulness.

Of course, Iraqi politics should never have been a zero-sum game and the country will be immeasurably stronger if all its communities work together for the common good and the government in Baghdad realises it has to govern for all Iraqis.

This processis a necessary pre-condition, if Iraq is ever to be a stable and prosperous state. If only ISIL’s emergence had not been the trigger.

Published: December 4, 2014 04:00 AM

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