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FUTURE OF IRAQ : NEED FOR THE WORLD TO STEP IN

Sandeep Jain writes: Given the nature of sectarian divide in Iraq, no regime on its own can now find a lasting solution to its travails. The world will have to mediate a solution.

World’s attention today is riveted on Syria and the possible outcome of the conflict there. ISIS is also finding lot of mention but largely in the context of its growing influence in Afghanistan, Libya, and Nigeria as also its ability to attract recruits from the Western world. In this process, the attention on Iraq and its potential for long term instability, has been somewhat reduced. Moreover the Western world and USA do not possibly want to involve themselves in continued stabilisation efforts in Iraq.

Being the birth place of ISIS, the outcome of the Syrian war will definitely have an effect on Iraq also. Given the nature of sectarian divide in Iraq, no regime on its own can now find a lasting solution to its travails. The world will have to mediate a solution. It can ignore the problem only at its own perils as Iraq can remain a perennial source of sectarian tensions in the entire Arab world.

Resurgence of Iran and Turkey are also key factors along with growing western aversion for boots on ground. It may not be out of place to mention that with falling oil prices Saudi and Qatari funding of various Sunni factions will decrease even as lifting of sanctions will increase Iranian economic prowess for similar funding of the Shia factions. Russia while interventionist in Syria for specific reasons may not be equally concerned for Iraq.

The possible options for Iraq are a Unity government involving devolution of powers to both Shias and Sunnis. This is partially aided by the fact that indigenous Sunni militias were far less inclined for mass Shia civilian targeting in the initial days of post war Iraq till Al Zarqawi and ISIS changed the narrative. However, for a Unity government presence of a strong leader is a must-something which is presently missing.

The other clear option is division of Iraq in two Shia – Sunni dominated parts, respectively. This is somewhat the factual position on ground today. In this solution probably the Kurds will have a separate political entity. However, because of the Kurdish problem this solution is unlikely to be acceptable to Turkey.

A wild card solution can also be that the areas of Sunni domination are assimilated in Turkey. Presence of Turkish troops in Western Iraq gives rise to this possibility. This will however, largely be dependent on the outcome of the Syrian war. Turkey did make a strategic blunder by downing the Russian warplanes thereby making a strategic enemy of a possible ally.

United States is caught between wanting to exercise control and not wanting to commit its military and economic resources. It therefore continues to encourage EU members such as UK and France to shoulder some of its responsibilities.

In summation the international borders have already ceased to be relevant in the region. New structures are therefore inevitable. Its Iraq more than Syria which should remain cause for international concern. Letting it drift will cause further conflict as it has done in Syria.

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