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What is next for Iraq?

By Zakia Isad

It would be needless to say what drove us to Iraq but we do know now we could not accomplish what we had envisioned for a long time. Now is the time to recognize our losses and focus on a different strategy that may have a chance to succeed.

We are living in the 21st century. What should be the fundamental basis of our foreign policy? What do we need to do for Iraq to succeed without repeating the same mistakes of the previous administration. Our stance of unilateralism, “you are with us or without us” has given us the title of a nation of arrogance. It has caused us a humongous price not only in the Muslim countries but also throughout the world. In the Muslim world, people actually believe that America is the enemy of Islam. They have examples to prove the  destruction of Afghanistan, Iraq and the inhumane treatment of innocent Muslims at Abu Ghraib. America has violated the basic fundamental rules of Geneva Convention in treating the prisoners. European countries believe that America has already entered the opposition-free period of its hegemony and this uncontrolled, belligerent empire is getting weaker by every hour.

There is no doubt that America is still a super power. Its air force, navy and army are unrivaled. Its global dominance has not gone unnoticed. But this is not what is needed in Iraq. The core problem in Iraq is political, not military. American forces cannot stop violence. There has to be a national reconciliation, a political consensus on power- sharing and complete incorporation of the “bitterly alienated Sunnis who have been thrown out of the political process. Newly formed government must let the Sunnis know that they will get their fair share in all areas. A strong national government needs to be created in Iraq that must have the central authority to control the regions yet giving them the freedom to prosper.

We must not leave Iraq until we rebuild infrastructure of this nation. We are the ones that have turned this country into massive rubble. Therefore, we must stay in Iraq and bear the burden to reform it. Just supporting Shiites or Kurds, and using military force to aid one group over the other is a failed option that has not worked in the past and must not be repeated as it might further destabilize the regions. Most Iraqis want us out. They are simply tolerating our presence because we are giving them hopes for a better future in Iraq. We need to assure them that we are there to re-build Iraq and our actions should prove it. President Obama must not force evacuation from Iraq so soon. Otherwise, it is very likely that public in all regions of Iraq will turn against him.

Today, the dangers of continued instability and oppression overwhelm all Iraqis. Iraq was much better off under Saddam Hussein than it is today. It was united and very stable. Tribal and sectarian conflicts were unheard of. They all jointly stood together for their national solidarity. Hanging Saddam Hussein and overthrowing his government as perceived to be one of our missions, did not solve any problem. The country has become severely divided. Sectarian violence is on the rise. Innocent people are getting murdered everyday and no one is really paying attention. We are trying to create a show case democracy that would resemble a castle built on sand.

We must develop a comprehensive political agenda by building an international consensus. It would make more sense if we include all regional neighbors. We should not leave Iran and Syria out in negotiations. It is not a regional issue. It has become much more global. We should also consider involving European Union, China, Russia, and most of all the United Nations. An international partnership to mediate the Iraq conflict would possibly bring fresh perspectives to Iraqi crisis. Since America is solely responsible for creating this gigantic mess in Iraq, it must take full financial responsibility to rebuild Iraq and to foster diplomatic ties with Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds on equal grounds. Everyone who is involved in making policy decisions in Iraq should be far more concerned with what this country would look like in a year or two than in ten or twenty years from now.

It would also serve us well to examine the strategic impact of the U.S. withdrawal from other conflict-ridden areas such as Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1970’s, Lebanon in the 80’s and Somalia in the 1990’s.

The dangerous consequences of a continued military occupation in Iraq are enormous. The occupier is understandably going to be hated by those who are occupied. Without a joint effort for an Iraqi settlement, the social chaos and political stalemate will continue and the violence will increase. President Obama must act fast to develop a comprehensive strategy to rebuilt Iraq and to prevent further damage to American integrity. We must get Syria and Iran involved and we must make an overture to these countries so no other emerging power takes advantage of the situation.

Zakia Isad is Professor of Political Science And Ethnic Studies Chabot College, Hayward, CA