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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fairi
X
Brian Padden
May 29, 2015 1:27 PM
With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs