Back from Iraq

(Photo: Jordan News)
I spent three days in Iraq beginning one day after the Baghdad Summit Conference held on the August 28. The Rafidain Center for Dialogue held from August 29–31 what it named as the Third Forum: Solutions.اضافة اعلان

The center seems to be endowed with the necessary funds. Its first open and hot forum was held in 2019 and I had the pleasure of attending it. The debate is mainly focused on the restoration of Iraq’s entity as a sovereign, Arab, and Islamic country, and in that order. In 2019, an intense exchange between the supporters of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) and the chief of Iraq’s armed forces. It led eventually to the resignation of head of the Iraqi Army.

Both sides claimed a full credit for the victory over Daesh. The dialogue then was so tough and non-compromising. I am not aware of the nature of the debate over this point in the Second Forum of 2020, since it was limited to Iraqi participants due to COVID-19.

In this year’s dialogue, we listened to two prominent leaders in the PMU. The first was Gen. Faleh Al-Fayyadh who insisted that the PMU should be an Iraqi version of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. Yet, he remotely acknowledged that it should work in tandem with the official Iraqi armed forces.

On the other hand, Hadi Al Aameri, the head of the Al-Badr Forces which were established as a political party opposed to the Baathist regime in Iraq (1992-2003) was mellower than Fayyadh. He believes that the popular mobilization units should take orders from the army, but he insisted that the PMU and army together helped in fighting Daesh.

No matter what is said or claimed, the PMU constitutes a major impediment to Iraq’s unity and freedom from the direct influence — if not hegemony — of Iraq’s neighbors, particularly Iran. Regardless of the flag which the PMU carries, it remains a core Shiite and sectarian. It works diagonally against the unity, dignity, and freedom of Iraq from foreign intervention.

In the first panel of the forum meetings, I was a discussant together with representatives from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran. The Iranian discussant was Kazem Sajjadpour, Iran’s deputy foreign minister and a Harvard graduate.
The other three discussants emphasized the unity of Iraq and the need to streamline efforts in order to allow Iraq to reconstruct and meet its basic challenge of corruption, weak infrastructure, water shortage, electricity stoppages, poverty, unemployment, disintegration of the institutional structures, and brain drain.

I focused on the fact that Iraq’s three major partners should come to an agreement among themselves to stop their proxy wars in the region.

The Middle East should view itself as made up of four major components: Arabs, Furs (Persians), Kurds, and Turks. To say that Iraq is made of Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds is a confusing taxonomy. Kurds are either Shiites or Sunnis.
Any views regarding the future of the region should be based on the four demographics which HRH Prince Al Hassan and his researchers spent two years developing. We should stop weaponizing religious ethnicities and substitute that with the acknowledgment of our comprehensive demographic components.

I was pleasantly surprised by the response of the audience to that idea. Turks, Kurds, and Arabs were sold to it. Iraqi Shiites were very much enthused by it. The Iranians and pro-Iranians attending the conference did not give me any response. From the looks of it, it is time to test the idea in an open manner.

Read more Opinion and Analysis