News / Middle East

Analysts: Less Sectarian Solidarity, More Unity Needed in Iraq

Iraqi Shi'ite Turkmen gunmen gather as they prepare to patrol around the village of Taza Khormato in the northern oil rich province of Kirkuk, June 20, 2014.
Iraqi Shi'ite Turkmen gunmen gather as they prepare to patrol around the village of Taza Khormato in the northern oil rich province of Kirkuk, June 20, 2014.
Aru Pande
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has repeated the U.S. desire for Iraqi leaders to quickly form an inclusive government to deal with the Sunni militant group ISIL that is sweeping through the country.

Calling it a critical moment of urgency and decision - Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters Monday in Baghdad that Iraq's very future was dependent on whether the country's leadership could look beyond sectarian divisions.

“When the legitimate concerns and aspirations of all of Iraq's communities - Sunni, Shi'ite, Kurds - are all respected - that is when Iraq is strongest and that is when Iraq will be the most secure,” he said.

Still, many have questioned whether Iraqis can indeed come together and whether the country may even be better off divided into three semi-independent regions governed by Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds - an idea Vice President Joe Biden proposed back in 1996 as a member of Congress.

At a forum in Washington Monday, retired U.S. Colonel Peter Mansoor, who served as General David Petraeus' executive officer during the 2007 U.S. “surge” in Iraq, dismissed the idea of a divided Iraq. He said those he has talked to identify themselves as Iraqi before anything else.

“Forty percent of Iraqis are from mixed Sunni-Shi'ite marriages, that doesn't sound like a place that is highly sectarian to me. It is the political elites in Iraq who have created that narrative and are using it for their purposes,” he said.

Mazin al-Eshaiker, former economic advisor to Iraq's deputy prime minister, also raised the issue of elitism and an economically-divided Iraq during the forum at the National Press Club.

He said had the Iraqi government welcomed regional cooperation and foreign investment in the last decade, six million people or nearly a quarter of the country's population would not be living under the poverty line.

“Had we opened ourselves economically - Iraqis wouldn't have been fighting, they would have been working. They would have had jobs, they would have been working in factories. They would have improved themselves and we would have built the middle class again. Iraq, ladies and gentlemen, does not have a middle class,” he said.

Eshaiker noted this economic disparity stretched across all sectarian and ethnic groups.  He cautioned that a new government in Iraq must represent all Iraqis, echoing comments made by top Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani last week.

Analysts says the key is an Iraq with less sectarian solidarity and a belief among common Iraqis that their government represents them and their needs.

“You can't make a coalition where 95 percent of the people are in the government and five percent are in the opposition, because there aren't enough resources to go around," said Jon Alterman, Middle East Program Director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "What you really want is a dynamic environment where people feel, 'well, I am not in this government, but I can be in the next one.”

The United States will be closely watching to see if Iraqi leaders can look past sectarian lines and come together in the coming weeks to protect their country against a militant group that Kerry says wants to destroy Iraq.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs