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.