Received 17 June 2016; accepted 19 July 2016; published 22 July 2016
In 1921, Iraq was founded by the British mandated authority as a unitary state composed of three major areas (Willayat = Baghdad, Mosel, Basra). These three willayates had no common interest in forming such a state. Administratively, they were divided into smaller units called governorates, and were centrally ruled from
We believe that, the problem of forming new federal units in Iraq, could lead to the division of Iraq at least into three major units. This fear based on facts existed on the Iraqi ground & supported by local & regional forces. We believe that, forming new federal units based on ethnic, religious or sectarian principles would not lead to the stability of
In 2013, there was an attempt by the local authorities of Sallahedeen province to form its own federal unit, but it was faced with rejection from the federal government. The rejection was based on the allegation that, this federal unit might lead to the division of
This paper is not intended to oppose the application of federal system throughout Iraq, but it attempts to clarify the problems facing the formation of new federal units similar to the one in Kurdistan Iraq. It is intended & attempted to be academic, objective, impartial point of view, which is expressed by Iraqi university professors. This paper calls for the application of the federal system based on the realization of its importance & the necessity to adapt in accordance with the facts of the reality of Iraqi political, social & economic situation.
We believe that, one of the most important problems facing the applications of federalism in Iraq is the lack of conviction by many of the parties involved in the federal authority. If there was a real conviction of those parties, the regional authority of Kurdistan would not loom for secession whenever they face the problem with the federal government.
2. Regional Federalism in Iraq
One of the basic conditions for the success of the formation of states to their constitutional system requires studying the experience of other states (Blindenbacher & Ostien, 2005: p. 54). Iraqis through their adoption to the federal system & the experience of building it, they should not only learn from those experiences, but they should first admit the great complexity of building their own federalism. The suffering of this experience has resulted from the problem of mixing & the interaction between the internal factors such as (ethnic, cultural, political & economic), & the external regional (Arab & non-Arab) & the international. We have noticed through the context of this overlap, & through the experience of building the first federal region in Iraq, that, Iraqi Kurds, on the one hand, since the creation of the Iraqi state at the end of the second decade of the 20th century, have suffered from many problems & difficulties with the succeeding central governments. On the other hand, and for fair and objective reasons, they have caused so many problems & difficulties to those governments. No one could deny the fact that, the relationship between those two parties was mostly built on the action of one party & the reaction of the other one, the attempt of each party to take advantage of the problems of another party through making some pressing demands & try as much as they can to acquire some benefits & concessions. Therefore, Iraqi Kurds in a very natural human behavior that, they would not be blamed for, have attempted to employ the new circumstances that existed after 9 April 2003 to serve their cause & pushing the new political system to adapt with the federal principles, according to the following realistic facts:
1. The distinct ethnic & linguistic formation from the rest of the components of Iraqis society.
2. They make the greater majority within a unified geographic area that is located in the northeast of
3. They were able with the help of the
Since Iraqi permanent constitution of the year 2005, asserted that, the new Iraqi state is going to be a federal state & confirm the formation of the Kurdistan region as a federal region, never clarify the natural and legal bases for the formation of such a region, this fact makes us believed that, the bases were made on the followings:
1. The constitutional naming of the region as (Kurdistan region) means the (
2. The insistence of the political & societal Kurdish parties on annexing a new land area and adding it to the region, including
What has been said, would lead to the fact, that, the federal region of Kurdistan in Iraq is the type of dual federation based on racial-ethnic (Kurdish nationalism) & regional-geographic (the region North East of Iraq), which would make it at the same time a mixture of (Ethno-Region federalism). This has known as a type of federalism, which recognizes the different ethnic societies as a component of the system.
3. The Problems of Expanding the Application of Regional Federalism in Iraq
The application of regional federalism in Iraq, weather in the case of Kurdistan region or the future formed regions is facing two basic problems:
The first problem. The common misunderstanding among most of the political & social Iraqi parties to federalism as a thought & project. Most of them believe that, it could be used as a cover to secession. IF this common misunderstanding is mistaken concerning the federal project & their reality of aiming at achieving the political & societal unity of the state & preserving it through the federal system as a guarantor to the diversity within the framework of unity. It should be right on the other side as much as it is related to the Iraqi reality which is full of such factors & circumstances which do not help in preventing such negative understanding to federalism & its potential objectives.
The second problem. It is the federal region of Kurdistan is not the only federal region to be build upon for the future federal regions in Iraq. There are many projected federal regions presented by many different political parties to be formed in the middle & south of
We believe that, the problem with the projected federal regions, is that, those parties are going to build those federal regions in accordance with their sectarian borders and not their ethno-national borders like what their Kurdish brothers have in the north of Iraq. We should not forget the diversified nature of the inhabitants of such regions as
The forces, who have participated in administering Iraq since then, are divided & were formed on ethno-sec- tarian facts. Iraqi components have been described since then as (Shies, Sunny & Kurds). Therefore, we believe that such classification does not match the reality of Muslims in
This evokes in our minds the state of the Chuckslovakian union, which was formed from two different ethnicities. This type of a federal system clarifies the problems and tensions, which might be created by forming such a system. This cumulative polarization ended when Chuckslovakia became two independent states in 1993, without even having a referendum asking what the people would like to (Watts, 2005: pp. 43-45) . These examples clarify the specific problems, which would result out of the formation of such unions & the dynamic process represented by the cumulative dual polarization, the speed which division between those two components would take place, when the political leaders believe it would be beneficial to their own interests.
Recalling such cases pushes us to pay more attention to the percentages & the methods of distributing authorities in Iraq between the federal government & the government of Kurdistan region & other local authorities. According to the scientific fact, which asserts that, the higher the degree of harmony among the societal components of the state, the higher the authorities granted to the federal government. The higher the degree of diversity, the higher the authorities granted to the regions or any other units comprising the federal system. It is desire to give the federal government more authorities, so it would able to resist all attempts to divide the state & even attempts to weaken it.
Since the process of rebuilding state in Iraq after 2003, has suffered from problems similar to the ones discussed above, especially the problem of identity, corruption, & the political quota. Therefore, the danger of the cumulative polarization (Ethnic, Religious & Sectarian) would be present with its negative consequences especially if the future federal regions would be formed on those bases. This kind of formation would threaten not just the stability of the Iraqi state & the continuation of its federal system, but it also would threaten its existence & survival as a unified state.
4. The Risks of Broadening Regional Federalism in Iraq
The present reality of
1. The ability of international & some of the active regional powers to have a negative, deep & broad influence on the political process in
2. The different positions of the neighboring countries of
3. The different ethnic & sectarian affiliation of the neighboring countries.
4. The different objectives of the neighboring countries of Iraq, concerning its present & future.
5. The different vision of the neighboring countries of
6. Likely, the future formation of any new federal region other than
a). The impact of international & regional powers on those new regions & the probability of having a harmony of interest concerning the secession out of
b). The weakness of the federal government & its inability on making & implementing decisive & crucial decisions because of the impact of the ethnic, religious or sectarian, principles & the regional & international intervention in its affairs.
c). The ambition of some Iraqi politicians to preside over those federal regions demanded to be set up. Such an event probably might lead with the support of regional countries into transforming these regions into independent states.
d). The establishment of any new federal regions in Iraq on a unilateral basis (ethnic, religious or sectarian) or complex, beside the federal regional of Kurdistan which was established on a dual basis (ethnic-regional), will include the danger of a wide intervention of the regional & international powers in the internal affairs of Iraq. Once through its direct interventions in the affairs of those regions, the other through its interventions directly in the affairs of the federal government under the pretext of its responsibility for the defense of the territory of their sons in ethnicity, religion, or sect & protect their interest. Such an event would lead to the declaration of one of the regional or international powers its guardianship on any of these newly formed regions. Such an action would push other states to declare an opposite declaration and impose its own guardianship on another federal region that in turn would transfer
e). The establishment of any new federal region in
f). The establishment of any new federal region in
The first danger. Each sect might have its own canton within the Iraqi state (Amel, 1989: p. 41) , such an event would reflect the (stalemate) democratic model of federal Iraq in the form of too many sectarian cantons interacting with each other on the stalemate & not settlement base. This danger would be coupled with the problem of rising weakness of national identity & the problem of working on forming a (New Middle East) through the partition of each state into many mini-states based on smaller identities, the definite & logical result would be the partition of
The second danger. It would include the absence of the direct relationship between the state & its citizen in Iraq. This relationship would be replaced by another indirect relationship between the state & the individual (Amel, 1989: p. 22) . In such pluralistic society, with its many different sects, there is no existence for the individual as a citizen, because the real existence is for the sect, which is considered as the first social unit, & the state doesn’t recognize the existence of the individual unless, he would be affiliating himself with one of these sects.
g). The establishment of any new federal region in
Federalism is not always, as some of us mistakenly believe as it is a cause of differences & conflict & nor it is a cause for division & separation, on the contrary, federalism could be exactly the opposite. We believe that, it could be an essential factor in achieving democratic stability, peace & freedom for the following reasons (Dymond, 2005: pp. 82-94) :
1. Federalism is linking with freedom in undeniable form.
2. Federalism considered as the trusted framework to deal with all ethnic & sectarian conflicts.
3. Federalism plays an important role in enhancing democracy.
4. Federalism provides a better representation of minorities, a catalyst for economic growth.
5. Federalism could achieve reconciliation between ethnicity & democracy in the states, which have many different ethnic components, making it the ideal treatment to contain the conflict between them.
In light of those reasons, none that has been said above represents an opposing point of view to the federal system per se. Also, does not involve any fear of it. It is just an attempt to alert others, that in the case of
First: It is certain that, the adoption of Iraqi’s to federalism as a national & permanent choice, is possible. However, it is a choice where all Iraqis must equally insist on its adoption, apply it on a right, balanced & persistent bases, which would prevent transforming it to a threatening factor to their interests & national unity. We could not ignore neither deny the probabilities of the rising conflict among the opinions, interest & the sub- identities of the different political & social components of Iraq. This could be attributed to a weakness in the unifying national identity, despite the fact that, it has passed more than a decade since the change took place in 2003.
Second: It is certain that, the adoption of Iraqi’s to federalism as a national & permanent choice, should not only aim at achieving the goal of diversity & plurality within the framework of national unity. In addition, the aim should not be only to guarantee the rights & freedoms of the ethnic, religious & sectarian diversified components within the framework of one state, similar to the federal models in
Third: It is certain that, the adoption of Iraqi’s to federalism as a national & permanent choice, is possible. But, it is a choice which could not achieve its goals & ends, unless it is coupled with democracy. It is considered the guaranteeing condition to achieve the federal goals & ends. It does that through its recognition to the societal sub-identities, & the respect to its rights & constitutional freedoms, and to build a sober economy & stimulate growth & development, and to ensure that, the central authority would not move toward authoritarianism. Therefore, the worst of what could happen to a federal state is moving away from democracy, and if that happens, then, we would not get the federalism that ensures for us some or all of those objectives & not the democracy that grants us the citizenship which ensures for us those rights & liberties. At the end, only democracy qualifies federalism & transfers it from political federalism into cultural federalism.
Fourth: It is certain that, the adoption of Iraqi’s to federalism as a national & permanent choice, is possible. However, it is not the only choice to achieve the goals of diversity & pluralism within the framework of unity through the recognition of the plurality & diversity of the social component & the respect to the sub-identities. We believe it could be the last, because the first choice would be a democracy, which is based on the principle of citizenship.
This principle ensures for all the components of the state their unified national identity. It ensures many rights such as, the respect for all the sub-identities, the participation in the whole, active & equal rights & duties without any discrimination for any reason. It secures for them the natural rights & the constitutional liberties in all its forms. Also, it ensures equal opportunities in living, fortune, education, work, free movement inside the state, access to the information, peaceful expression of their ideas, forming associations & political parties & the comprehensive participation in the national & local elections as a voter or a nominee. If all that become available to all citizens, there would be no need for their feeling to add a new constitutional items or making new laws recognizing the existence of the components & ensure their rights & liberties. Because, there would not be components in the home & no minorities need federalism, but citizens their rights and duties are ensured by democracy & full citizenship without any discrimination. If those constants were based on the coupling of federalism with democracy, then, it would be very natural to conclude that, democracy is a necessity as a basic condition to the success of federal experiment & its stability & continuity.
If Iraqis are not going to take into consideration those constants, & did not recognize what refers to the necessity & inevitability of the coupling of federalism with democracy, then, it would end up for all of them, no matter what their ethnicity, religions, & sects, to regret what they have done.
At the end, we believe that, what happened in June 2014 in Iraq, has led to benefits in the interest of the application of the administrative federal system in Iraq through two developments.
The first development is the return of
The other important development is, what the specialized U.N. agencies such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other specialized agencies doing to Iraq. They have given consultations, professional advice, doing specialized studies on solving Iraq’s problems to help the federal government in its efforts to reform corruption in its political, legal, and administrative system, and giving loans under their own administration. Those agencies are working directly with the federal government, and the Kurdistan federal region must cooperate with the federal government in order to secure its 17% share of those loans.
In conclusion, we believe that, such cooperation between the federal government and the international institutions, would lead to building many federal institutions to run those projects throughout Iraq. Building such institutions would enhance and strengthen the national identity, and the federal government through building common interest among all the administrative, social and political components of Iraq.