Creating people's geographies
Isn’t this what the Anglo-American neocon plan was all along?
Sunnis enraged as Iraq prepares to divide itself into regions
By Oliver Poole, Iraq Correspondent | Telegraph.co.uk | (Filed: 07/09/2006)
The future of Iraq as a sovereign nation was thrown into jeopardy yesterday after a new law was introduced to parliament that would enable the break up of the country into semi-autonomous regions.
If passed, a self-ruling Shia state is likely to emerge in the south, based on the autonomous region Kurds have already established in the north.
It would not only be able to levy its own taxes and govern itself but, Shia politicians say, would have its own armed guards posted along its borders.
Iraq’s Sunni community, which is bitterly opposed to the prospect, has warned it will mark the first step in the break up of the country and could lead to the south of Iraq becoming a satellite of Iran.
The introduction of the law was marked by a plea by the parliament’s speaker that delegates must compromise and find agreement on the prospect of federalism, otherwise the country risked not only collapsing but descending into anarchy.
“We have three to four months to reconcile with each other,” said Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni. “If the country does not survive this, it will go under.” The law is almost certain to pass as federalism is supported by both Shia and Kurd parties, who control two thirds of the seats in parliament, though it could be amended.
Last night, the document was being considered by a committee of senior parliamentarians and its contents, including the powers of the new semi-autonomous regions, remained unclear.
Hamid Mualla al-Saadi, a leading member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a party with historic links to Iran which drafted the proposal, said only that it would “define how the regions are formed.” This would be done through either a vote in a governing council selected from the region’s leaders or via a popular referendum, he said.
The principle of a federalised Iraq was one of the key principles accepted in the country’s constitution written last year. The law defining how this would work in practice had to be submitted by September 16.
However the recent sectarian violence that has engulfed the country ever since the bombing in February of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, appears to have led to a marked radicalisation among Shia political leaders of what their federal state would involve.
Last year the idea was for a moderate federal state consisting of loose political alliances of provinces with the central government still having control of oil and the country’s armed forces.
But Abdel Aziz Hakim, the head of the SCIRI, has in recent months advocated a nine-province “super region” in the Shia south, where 60 per cent of the country’s oil reserves are located.
It would have its own armed forces drawn from militias such as the Badr Brigade, which is run by the SCIRI, already operating in the region and have some control over oil exploration.
“This is a guarantee to our sons and grandsons that injustice will not be revived,” he said last month, referring to Shia persecution by Saddam Hussein.
Khudair Khuzaie, the Shia education minister, recently laid a scenario that would in practice be semi-partition.
“Federalism will cut off all parts of the country that are incubating terrorism from those that are upgrading and improving,” he said. “We will put soldiers along the frontiers.” Such talk inflames Iraq’s Sunnis, whose leaders warn federalism is an attempt by the Shia to seize control of Iraq’s oil and could lead to the south falling under the sway of Teheran.