Jay Reding.com

Iraq Steps Towards Federalism

The Iraqi Parliament has passed a bill that would create greater autonomy for Iraq’s disparate regions, a step towards a federal system for Iraq.

I’m sanguine about this process. Yes, it would be nice if Iraq was nice and unified, democratic and peaceful. Realistically, that isn’t going to happen. The split between the Sunnis and the Shi’ites has only grown over recent years as the old ethic grudge matches flared back up and al-Qaeda and Iran stirred the hornet’s nest. The Kurds don’t want anything to do with the abject mess to their south — and who can blame them? If federalism is the solution to Iraq’s problems, then let Iraq be federal.

What is disturbing is that SCIRI is behind this latest move, and SCIRI is heavily tied to Iran. Then again, so is the Mahdi Army, who boycotted the vote. Iraqi politics are nothing if not complex, and many Iraqi pundits didn’t seem to think that the Parliament would even pass a federalism bill. Granted, only about half of the parliament voted, but it is still a surprise.

Even the US was governed by a confederal system for the first few years of its existence, and our squabbles were far less deep-seated than those in Iraq. The ultimate goal should be a pluralist and unified Iraq, but the path to that end may lie in letting ethnic tensions simmer down so that a better political solution can happen later. If the Iraqi people choose the path of federalism to alleviate their sectarian strife, that is a decision we must respect. The Iraqis need to take the reigns of their own future, and this bill would create a referendum which would have to be approved by the people.

A federal Iraq could be the right solution, or it could be a disaster. Given the current mess in Iraq, it’s at least an option that the Iraqi people should investigate.

4 responses to “Iraq Steps Towards Federalism”

  1. Mark says:

    Starting to look like Joe Biden is the only guy in America with practicable ideas about fixing the quagmire in Iraq. If Iraq follows through with the aforementioned plan, Biden’s stock will rise significantly in pursuit of the 2008 Presidential nomination process.

  2. Justin Paul says:

    I think federalism was inevitable. Iraq has a much of a collective identity as Somalia, and holding it together for the sake of it s messy. I do fear that the Kurdish region will be “assyrian-frei” and “turkmen-frei” unless Barzani’s men are kept in check. The status of Kirkuk is interesting, it has never in history been a kurdish majority city and thse so-called dispossessed Kurds who claim they used to live there are returning. But it is awfully funny that they had no infrastructure to come back to, because in reality they are not from there. Any attempts to Kurdify Kirkuk must be strongly resisted as it will be at the expense of all non-kurdish groups

  3. Jay Reding says:

    Starting to look like Joe Biden is the only guy in America with practicable ideas about fixing the quagmire in Iraq. If Iraq follows through with the aforementioned plan, Biden’s stock will rise significantly in pursuit of the 2008 Presidential nomination process.

    Biden’s Presidential ambitions are probably unrealistic, but he is one of the few Democrats with something intelligent to say about Iraq. Granted, he’s not at all the first to come up with it, but he has been pushing it in Congress for a while now, and he did work with the Brookings Institution on a plan for implementation. If it works, he does deserve some credit — if it doesn’t, nobody will remember that he pushed it…

  4. Seth says:

    The plan seems to put on paper what Russia’s plan was following the coup. A weak central government has to let some of the more independent-minded regions have a little rope and reign them in over a longer period of time. The implicit but not talked-about problem with this is that it means a continued military presence over a sustained period of time in order to make sure the regions don’t get just a little too autonomous.