Iraqi National Partnership: A ‘Noble Lie’

Article Summary
Tariq al-Dulaymi analyzes recent Iraqi political agreements within the context of Plato’s musings on the ”Myth of the Metals” and the Noble Lie.” Many Iraqi officials have tied their personal and political futures to implicit agreements with regional actors. While power-sharing agreements may not be completely fair in practice, in the author’s opinion, their acceptance by Iraq’s political parties would do much for the country’s stability and future prospects.

Today, the clock is running backward in Iraq. The debates dominating the pages of the newspapers that belong to “parties involved in the political process,” have drawn the current “crisis” back down to the atmosphere of mistrust that has existed between these parties and the former “opposition" in recent decades.

The meetings and negotiations, which used to be held “independently” or in association with regional or international powers, did not bring about any consensus over what the shape of future relations between these political groups would be once they reach power.

When analyzing these developments, one would undoubtedly have to look toward the London conference between Iraqi opposition leaders held in mid-December 2002. During this conference, the US State Department clarified its position regarding the realities of the “upcoming” Iraq. It asserted ,“If the Shiites determine [whether there will be] internal stability in Iraq, then the Kurds are the ones who dictate the issue of stability in the region and surrounding countries.”

While the aforementioned conference was practically held under the US umbrella, regional non-Arab influences took a prominent role in formulating the shape of internal “relations,” to be established once change was achieved. Althogh the role played by the Iranians was vague at the London conference meetings, the meeting’s results indicated that Iran had been effective. What’s more, the important meeting held directly after the conference between Zalmay Khalilzad [the US Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush] and Turkey’s deputy prime minister in Ankara stressed the need to “abandon the idea of ​​[establishing] a Kurdish state.” It was decided that it would be better to “grant the Kurds a federal [entity] within the future [political] system, and place the state ‘in practical terms’ under the rule of that Shiite segment, dubbed the ‘secular Shiites,’ to guarantee that Iraq would not become a violent country at home and abroad.” According to leaked information, the Turkish position was firm with regards to “giving the Sunni Arabs an important role that would safeguard Iraq and give it political sustainability within the direct regional framework.”

These propositions echoed the debates that had taken place at the London conference over “Arab Sunni representation.” Interestingly, it was the Kurdish leaders present at the conference who guaranteed that they would not ally with the “Shiite element” against the “Sunni Arab element.” They also assured that the ratios of the Iraqi sects within the population would sooner or later be unveiled through the “referendum” to be held one day in Iraq.

However, the current situation, in which the US administration desires a “speedy” departure from Iraq, will surely be accompanied by a “rushed” use of inflammable elements, which the US administration—throughout its years of occupation—has been keen to sow in the “garden of scorpions” to serve its political-military interests. One of the most potentially inflammable elements that could arise is the problematic relationship between the “central” government—dubbed as “federal” by the “liberal” forces collaborating with the occupation—and the country’s provincial councils. This problematic relationship will persist irrespective of the “sectarian” or “ethnic” order, and will endure regardless of whether Iraq is rich with “oil” or “water”. Furthermore, the ambitions of Iraq’s administrative or political leaders are powerless to alter this problematic dynamic.

These structures have exploded again onto the political scene. They now directly include the “pivotal” relationship between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives Usamah al-Nujayfi. As the US understands it, Nujayfi is currently the legitimate representative of “political Sunnism” within the alleged “national partnership” government. Fierce defamatory campaigns have been escalating between poles in the government. For special “tactical” reasons, some of these campaigns have focused on Tareq al-Hashemi and his special historical link with the Iraqi Islamic Party. This became clear when Nujayfi proposed to form an Iraqi Sunni region. He also launched a “regional” initiative aimed at maintaining security and political stability in Iraq, suggesting that regular conferences be held with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran. Interestingly, the sharp criticism of Nujayfi did not only emanate from the forces of “political Shiism” and the ruling Islamically inclined National Iraqi Alliance. When serious incidents took place, criticism was also expressed by prominent leaders from the Iraqi List,  composed mainly of secular Shiites, and Nujayfi’s own party, in which he is supposedly a special and firm pillar.

Public accusations over Nujayfi’s stances went further than to attack his personal “constitutional” interpretations, to denounce his role in direct and concrete political affairs —namely the Sunnis’ new role in the governing of Iraq after the departure of US occupation forces. A female leader from the Iraqi List made reference to a “special” link between Nujayfi’s scheme to create [sectarian] “regions” in Iraq, and his “regional” initiative of establishing agreements with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran to preserve Iraq and ensure the success of its political experience. The female official asserted that, practically speaking, Nujayfi had proposed “Turkish” ideas supported by the US. She said that the current policy of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party aims to couple Iraq to the Turkish-US order. This order seeks to solve and “neutralize” several problems in the region in accordance with the diplomatic understanding of Turkey's Foreign Minister, Ahmad Davutoglou. Iran’s disregard and silence over this matter has given strength to these explicit accusations. They were also reinforced by Saudi Arabia’s controversial reaction to the issue in which it compared the official Arab system’s positions toward Iran and Turkey. A Saudi Arabian official said, “Turkey [follows] a policy of noninterference in Arab affairs and is transparent with regard to the common interests between Turkey and the Arabs.” It is noteworthy that this statement was accompanied by US pressure on the Baghdad government to approve measures relating to the status and legal immunity of its remaining forces in Iraq. This increased US pressure was especially due to the fact that the Iraqi government has not yet awoken from its internal “regional” shock, whose flames have extended to the southern areas of Iraq, namely the provinces of  Basra and Dhi Qar. These lie within the sphere of influence of the National Iraqi Alliance and al-Maliki’s Islamic Dawa Party.

Here, the clock arms again seem to be running backward. Debates over the issue of “regions” can be primarily attributed to ambiguities within the Arbil Agreement. No one wants to disclose the contents of the power-sharing accords contained within this document. In the same context, the matter of reaching an agreement with the United States is tied to Iraqi law. It is Iraqi legislation that governs the SOFA Agreement (US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement on the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq). The Iraqi legislation clearly states that the Iraqi government should have held a popular referendum on the Arbil Agreement before July 30, 2009. This did not happen, and it will never happen. As a result, both the Arbil and SOFA agreements are legally null and void, today and in the future.

It is now important to emphasize that these ruling “elites’ ” awareness of global-regional collaboration, and of the central role that it plays in shaping the fate of Iraq today and in the near future, does not mean that these “elites” recognize the political ramifications of this idea and how it plays out on three levels—domestic, regional and global. It is true that a few of these “leaders” may have already tied their “personal” political fate to affiliations with this or that state. But several prominent “others” cannot make these decisions now. This is not due to deep opportunistic considerations within their political choices, or to weakness in their tactical approaches. It is due to the fact that everyone, without exception, has lost political independence. Every official is incapable of taking the historically correct position—that in line with their country’s interests—while simultaneously helping themselves.

From the moment that those among former opposition circles were bestowed with leadership status, they have utterly failed. They did not accurately evaluate the impact that their impulsive attitudes  —in favor of cooperating with foreigners—would have. Those who tried to learn from certain other regional experiences failed tremendously. Let us remember the statements made in 2005 by Muwaffaq al-Rabi’i, a former national security adviser to one of the Lebanese satellite channels. He brazenly said that he came to Beirut to learn how civil wars were created.

Centuries ago in Greece, Socrates likened the idea of differing abilities among human beings to the “myth of the metals,” whereby certain individuals were gold, silver or bronze depending on their capacity to be leaders. However, his student, Plato, justified this classist theory of “metals” as a “noble lie” —a myth necessary in ancient Athens to maintain the stability of the leadership class, and avert disaster within the state. It is noted that this myth was later integrated into the political profession, and employed by many parties within the political process. These parties do so to justify their gains from power and their profits that resulted from the division of wealth within national “partnership” governments.

However, these forces, which have agreed to adopt the idea of regional-global “condominiums,” also approved the interim TAL (Transitional Administrative Law) constitution, which was drafted in March 2004 by Noah Feldman, an expert on “management of the occupation authority.” The current constitution is thoroughly based on the TAL. Here it is worth noting that American academic Andrew Arato at the time said that this “constitution” lacks an important and crucial structural tenet: It does not include “laws” on which legislation or the application of this legislation may be based.

Consequently, it is accurate to say that statements from the “Kurdish element” against secession, Shia narratives counter to the establishment of a Shia state, and Sunni claims that pushes for greater provincial autonomy do not imply a division of the country, should be interpreted—at best—within the framework of the concept of ​​the “noble lie.” Otherwise, we must accept the current “upcoming Iraq!” Iraq has become a fertile ground for opinion-giving: if the purpose of thought is to approximate reality, reality should also approximate thought.

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