Friday, August 08, 2008

Divisive politics

Iraqi politicians have fallen flat on their faces, yet again. The Economist is concerned that "the politicians will again muff their chance to make a breakthrough towards a real accommodation between Iraq’s competing sects and groups." And they have, failing to pass a law to allow for sorely needed local elections.

Kirkuk is the issue crippling the process, and it shouldn't have gotten to this point. A referendum deciding the fate of the city should have happened long ago, as stipulated in the constitution. And then al-Maliki perhaps bombastically proposed an unrealistic bill to parliament, vetoed by Talabini. The rushing to pass a law before parliament recess in the last few weeks only seems to have exacerbate the Kirkuk problem.

The New York Times reports that "violence has declined in the city in the past year, but the drop masks deep mistrust between the city’s ethnic groups that exploded last week when a suicide bomber attacked a Kurdish demonstration and a mob of Kurds responded by attacking the nearby headquarters of the Turkmen political front. Turkmen guards fired on the crowd, and the day’s violence left 28 people dead and more than 200 wounded."

Kirkuk is historically Kurdish. And despite ethnic cleansing and Arabization under Saddam, it is still predominantly Kurdish. What the issue really represents is denial that Iraq is a fragmented and fragmenting nation. The Iraqi politicians need to stop obsessing about their nationalist project. In any case, delivering better local administration, which the provincial elections would have been a move towards, may be the only way to keep the central government effective.

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