Kurds, safety valve of the new Iraq

27 Apr 2006

Barham Salih
BAGHDAD (SOMA, An Iraqi-Kurdish Digest)

No one in Iraq today has the majority. No one parliamentary group can form a government on its own. Whoever wants to form a government has to enter into an alliance with other parliamentary groups.

The Kurdish leadership is actively engaged in shaping the future of Iraq on the basis of a national unity whereby all are equal and their rights are respected. Largely unnoticed by the media and many of the observers, it is the first time in the history of the modern Iraqi state that the leadership of the Kurdish movement has spent so much time in Baghdad actively engaged in the formation of the government.

In the past, the Kurdish public opinion surrounded most talks in Baghdad with the question: “What are we going to get from them?” This time round, the question should be: “What are we going to build?” The Kurds with their other Iraqi partners are working to build a government of national unity within which all are equal and the right balance is struck between the electoral weight of every group and its national political weight. The December elections have, more or less, showed a representative picture of the demographic make-up of the country. It also emphasized a political reality. No one in Iraq today has the majority.

No one parliamentary group can form a government on its own. Whoever wants to form a government has to enter into an alliance with other parliamentary groups. But it is not an issue of numbers. Unfortunately, we do not live in a healthy environment where we have an established democracy. We are still trying to recover from the aftermath of the brutal sectarian and oppressive policies of Saddam Hussein’s era. As a result, all groups of Iraqi society who are also in parliament have their fears and want assurances for their future.

At the same time, they face the challenge of building a healthy model of a democratic, pluralistic, federal and secure state that is at peace with itself and with its neighbors. For decades, Iraq was characterized by the rule of an oppressive supremacist minority that believed they had a God-given right to rule the country. That part of Iraq’s history showed that the rule of minority can only be done by dictatorship, fear and repression. Iraq can never be governed by one group. The experience of the post-Saddam governments also proves that Iraq can only be run by a government that is representative of all segments of its society and through a democratic system that strikes the balance between electoral and national merits.

To implement this, consensus is the key principle that brings the various components to the table and enables them to deal with the grand challenges that are facing all Iraqis. In addition to the task of rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure, economy and public services as a modern state, the challenge of restoring security is great. Regardless of their gender, creed, religious sect or ethnicity, all Iraqis are facing one enemy. Abu Musab Al Zarqawi’s network of terror and Saddam’s orphans who want to bring nothing but death and destruction to all. The terrorists’ track record proves that they target us all, in Baghdad, Najaf, Arbil, Basra, and anywhere else they can reach. The Kurds realize the danger of the enemy and its tactics.

They realize that their agenda is to impose dictatorship and take Iraq back to the dark days of oppression and brutality. The best answer for them is to form a government of national unity that rallies all Iraqis behind it and gives every one a sense of ownership of their country and of the political process. In this respect, the Kurds enjoy a very good position in the Iraqi political map that enables them to play a key role in the formation of the government of national unity in order to bring about a prosperous, safe and secure Iraq for all its citizens.

The Kurdish negotiators in Baghdad stand at an almost equal distance from all other groups. This has enabled them to talk to all sides and have been able to break many deadlocks in the process over the past year during the constitutional process and during and after the elections in December last year. More recently, the Kurdish role in containing the Samarra shrines crisis was also remarkable. They have almost become the safety valve for the new Iraq. For this reason, the Kurds cannot be excluded from the government of national unity nor should they be excluded from any future political arrangement in the country. The same applies to all other groups of Iraq. This reality can only be translated into practice by adopting the principle of consensus among the various groups in the decision-making process.

Furthermore, this principle should also be reflected in key appointments in the desired government of national unity. President Jalal Talabani has articulated this by introducing a new doctrine to Iraqi politics. He has repeatedly said: “If the two other lists object to my nomination for the presidency, I will happily leave the post for someone else.” To be able to govern in a diverse country like Iraq, and implement change, one needs the support of all the components of this ethnic and religious mosaic. In other words, the Talabani Doctrine should be applied in all key government posts.







Barham Salih is Minister of Planning in the transitional Iraqi government.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Kurdistan Regional Government.