Holding up Iraq before it breaks down

Iraq is one of the world’s oldest nations and civilizations. Although today’s Iraq is the product of a nation-state that emerged during the last century, it has always remained, like Egypt, united within the borders of Mesopotamia. After the defeat of the Ottomans in World War II, the British took over Iraq’s administration under the Sykes-Picot agreement. Winston Churchill designed the modern Iraqi state at the Cairo Conference in 1921, thus it became a parliamentary monarchy. After the Ottomans, the Abbasids and Umayyads, the British also maintained the unity of Iraq. Lawrence of Arabia considered Iraq the center of the region; he believed that modernization would take place in Baghdad, not in Damascus. The British forced the Kurds to be part of a unified Iraq and rejected that Mosul be part of Turkey. The Turks, however, considered Mosul as part of their new republic. The British administration resorted to a referendum in Mosul, and the residents chose to remain Iraqis. Hashemite kings have preserved Iraq and so did the Baathists. Even after the U.S. occupation, Americans insisted on keeping Kurdistan within the borders of Iraq. As for Nouri al-Maliki, whose mandate in office has ended, he has secured himself a place in the annals of history as the man who divided Iraq. He is the first ruler in a thousand years to cause the disintegration of Iraq - no dictators or foreign occupiers did that. Maliki did what Hajjaj al-Thaqafi, the Mongol Hulagu, Percy Cox, King Faisal al-Hashemi, and America’s Paul Bremer failed to do!

The specter of division has become real. Splitting this country into micro-states has become a real threat, especially as it could be divided into three republics or more, which will most probably fight against each other.

The Arab Sunnis have suffered more than the Kurds under Maliki’s rule; they are both facing the same fate

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Kurdistan announced its intention to hold a referendum to decide if its citizens want to be independent, claiming that it is impossible to remain under the rule of Maliki. It is pretty certain that the Sunni provinces will do the same if Maliki remains in power. The president of the Kurdistan region, Massoud al-Barzani, accused Maliki of being behind all the chaos and crises, saying that Maliki had received a unified and rich Iraq and abused it for personal and sectarian reasons. He fought the Kurds and abrogated their authorities and prevented them from selling their oil, allowing the thieves affiliated to him to control all oil contracts. When the Kurds objected, he threatened them with international prosecutions instead of trying to reach an agreement or at least be tolerant with them. The Kurds told him that they did not want a state ruled by another Saddam Hussein. They fought him for 30 years and they do not want someone like Maliki to be the sole decision-taker in their daily lives. Thus, the policies of this ignorant man have pushed the Kurds towards independence!

The Arab Sunnis have suffered more than the Kurds under Maliki’s rule; they are both facing the same fate. I told one of their leaders that if divided, the provinces of al-Anbar and Nineveh would lack financial resources, leading their people to live in poverty. He told me that under Maliki they are living in humiliation and poverty. If they gain their independence, they could live in poverty but no longer have to live in humiliation.

During the recent crisis, Maliki was not even persuaded against using his previous methods. He blackmailed and threatened the Sunni deputies. He tried to buy off many officials from other political blocs, taking advantage of the huge amount of money he controls. This is why the parliamentary blocs sought to postpone the election of the three presidencies in the new parliament - because they were aware that he resorted to bribery and blackmail to sabotage the democratic course of action!

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 4, 2014.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.


Last Update: Friday, 4 July 2014 KSA 12:19 - GMT 09:19
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.

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Holding up Iraq before it breaks down
During the recent crisis, Maliki was not even persuaded against using his previous methods
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