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  Global Views
What Will Happen after Power Transfer in Iraq?
Special Contribution
By Kamel Abu Jaber
US soldiers in Iraq
Although the Middle East is the land that produced, on the per-capita basis, more prophets than any other part of the world, it remains one of the least amenable regions to divining its future. The difficulty of predicting the future here is not only due to the terrific external pressures, but also because of the complex nature of the heterogeneous populations contained in each of the countries of the region. The religious and ethnic sectarian divisions within Iraq are entrenched in historical and geographic roots so strong they will prove to be difficult, if not impossible, to bridge.

Certain historical factors continue to affect the course of contemporary events in Iraq and no doubt will continue to cast their dark shadow over its future. Traditionally, the country never truly experienced any form of democratic or even semi-democratic form of government. Like most countries of the Arab Middle East, the government in Iraq was always much stronger than its people.

Two main factors accounted for this: the ever-present external challenges and threats; and the multiplicity and heterogeneity of the disparate and often hostile communities within. Historically, and especially over the last four centuries, Iraq has been the battleground, ideologically and otherwise, between the Sunni Ottoman Empire to the West, and the Shi'a Safavid Empire in Iran to its East.

When the Americans invaded Iraq in 2003, under the guise of liberating it from the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein, they were opening Pandora's Box of problems. The chaos that has racked Iraq since its occupation will not be an easy matter to contain, at least in the short run. Furthermore, Iraq is very different from the situation of Japan, Italy or Germany following the Second World War.

Those countries were, and remain today, home to homogeneous populations basically speaking one language, with a shared cultural heritage as well as agreed upon future aspirations. They also enjoyed a certain level of technological advancement and skills much more advanced than what exist in Iraq today. And, most importantly, they accepted the logic of the Allied War against them and their consequent defeat. Does any of the three major Iraqi groups, the Sunni, Shia or the Kurds, accept defeat or feel responsible for the misdeeds of the Saddam Hussein regime?

The future, indeed, does not promise to be a transition to stability or the promised democracy. While the Bush Administration celebrate the unanimous United Nations Security Council Resolution l546, many Iraqis consider it no more than mere legitimization of occupation under a different name. Some Arab journalists are already hostile to the new arrangement fearing that it prepares the country for further violence and chaos.

According to one writer, the resolution is a mere transfer of power from the Americans to the Americans and will not lead to stability. Others wonder about the sincerity of bringing democracy to Iraq or, indeed, to the region, still others emphasize that the war was waged on Iraq for the benefit of, and to further weaken the Arab World vis a vis the State of Israel.

For the time being, many Iraqis and other Arabs will continue to view with suspicion the newly appointed government, just as they did the American appointed Governing Council. And thus, in addition to the tremendous challenges of reconstruction, and providing basic services to the public, it will face the great psychological barrier of mistrust among the Iraqis.

Already, two of the three major groups, the Sunnis and Kurds, are either overtly or covertly hostile, each for its own reasons; while the Shia are not too excited about it either. The time bombs which the war and the ensuing occupation have set will continue to cause problems and pose dangers for a long time to come.

Democracy is not a physical object that can be easily transported or transplanted, but a system of governance, indeed, a way of life that must have the proper environment in which to grow. For the time being, neither the political nor the security climate, nor the heritage of the country can provide the circumstances necessary for a democratic system to thrive.

What the country needs now and for the foreseeable future is a stabilizing regime whose major task will be the reconciliation of the various communities exhorting and encouraging them to internalize democratic values and preparing the people, especially the young generations, to accept them. The needed stabilizing regime must have grass roots support and credibility among the people: A regime that will not be accused of close ties to shady Western security organizations. So far the Allawi government has not had much success in either containing violence or providing hope for the Iraqis. Its legitimacy depends on its ability to distance itself from its own people and their problems.

Other Stories by Dr. Kamel Abu Jaber
    "US GIs Should Be Educated Not to Torture"

Dr. Kamel S. Abu Jaber has been president of the Jordan Institute of Diplomacy since 1997. Previously, Dr. Jaber served as Jordan's economic minister, as a senator, and as foreign minister. After earning Ph.D in politics from Syracuse Univ. in 1965 Dr. Jaber taught politics and economics at the Univ. of Jordan and at America's Smith College and Emory Univ. He has authored numerous books including "The Palestinians: People of the Olive Tree." He contributes a number of newspapers around the world.






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