Cherish-able Times in Iraq?

Cherish-able Times in Iraq?
Iraqi Federal Police Press Office via AP
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So, Iraqis seem to have done it. They have been through seemingly insurmountable and varied conflicts of late, but they fought their way through it. They were shattered, both mentally and physically. Annihilation loomed large, outside of the capital city of Baghdad, and in the capital to a certain extent as well, fear was in the air. It was all too apparent; it did not look good, things seemed to have been heading the wrong way, tranquility was unfathomable. Such was the abysmal state of affairs prevalent in Iraq for the past several years, principally after Baghdadi’s declaration of a caliphate in 2014.After all those sacrifices, it ought to sound sweet. Haider Al-Abadi, the Iraqi PM, tweeted on June 29 and declared the “end of the fake Daesh state.” And, he arrived in Mosul on Sunday to formally declare victory over ISIS. Can’t get any better than this, can it? It was enough for Iraqis to feel relieved, but in Iraq, the battle has actually just begun.Not to spoil the fun, but Post-Da’esh Iraq will not be trouble-free, unless, of course, the Iraqis themselves decide to do something about it. For everyone looking to relish the prospect of cherish-able times in Iraq, here’s the catch.

Sectarian and religious strife has always been contentious between the major stakeholders in Iraq. Now that ISIS has been sidelined, Iraqis must look inward, and try to overcome their differences, particularly sectarian.

Sunni and Shia leaders have been at loggerheads for quite some time. However, this must change. This needs to change. Moreover, this ought to change if the country hopes to rise above adversity. It appears a tall order. But, what if Iraqi secular political groups go hand in hand with their religious counterparts? An inconceivable concept to many, but now a necessary imperative.

On June 22, Muqtada al-Sadr and his Sadrist Movement stunned Shia hardliners by forging an alliance with the National Coalition, Al-Wataniya,  led by the mercurial Iyad Allawi. The agreement, as the details have it, is political in nature with eyes on next year’s Parliamentary elections.

The Sadrist official statement reads: “the two sides agreed to form a united parliamentary front that is going to include the movement and coalition members with an aim to expedite the enactment of important laws and develop solutions to correct and propose solutions to the problems experienced by the country.”

Sectarianism has pegged the country back.It has been a menace that the people of Iraq need to overcome. Realizing this, Jamila al-Obeidi, an Al-Wataniya member of Parliament, expressed her thoughts after the forging of an alliance with Sadrist Movement that, “the alliance will indeed help overcome this hurdle, given its sectarian variety. It will open the door to pure national alliances that only care about reform, banking on the political process and willing to end the marginalization and dismissal of others.”

Elements of the Iraqi media have been quick to offer partisan critiques. Whether it is Allawi’s intentions of being the premier, or Sadr’s shrewd political calculation, playing to the gallery, it does not matter. Don’t resort to such denigration just as yet. What matters is that the alliance has a realistic chance of uniting the people of Iraq under one banner. It has the potential to form an Iraqi society devoid of sectarianism. It can limit future foreign interventions in Iraq. It can strengthen Iraq’spolitical-economicfoundations.

These are trying times. The political alliance between Sadrists and the National Coalition can serve the country exceedingly well. If a religious group can align with a secular one, the prospects could be promising for all of Iraq. Although a tough ask, it is surely a worthy undertaking. Perhaps, this is what the National Alliance, the largest political party in Iraqi Parliament, needs to be reminded.

A post-Islamic State Iraq is not the time for political folly, but a time for action. The Sadrist-National Coalition alliance may well be up for a topsy-turvy ride. Particularly, considering the animosity, both parties garnered for each other during the Najaf episode in 2004. Although, yes, Allawi did call for operation in Fallujah at the same time to remain neutral and espouse fair play vis-à-vis Sunni and Shia.  However, in spite of all the belligerence by other stakeholders in Iraqi politics, what if the alliance succeeds? What if sectarian extremist tendencies fade away? What if Iraq becomes a more open and tolerable political entity built on such coalitions?

It is too savory a prospect not to give it a thought. And, Iraqis have suffered too much to not pay heed to it.

To all the stakeholders in Iraq; do not let this opportunity wane for wanting.


Shazar Shafqat is a counterterrorism and security analyst. His research focuses on Middle East politics and security issues, counterterrorism strategies, and military-related affairs. His commentary on the AF-PAK and Middle East security issues regularly features across renowned media outlets including Middle East Eye, Middle East Monitor, The Diplomat, World Policy Journal, Asia Times, Dawn, The News International, The Nation, Daily Times, World Times Magazine, and others.

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