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

Conflicts Engulf Christians in Mideast

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Phone, Internet Surveillance

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid