How do you explain the current upsurge in sectarian violence?
It is in essence a struggle over power and influence among political forces, mainly Islamic. The Primer Minister and his own party, Da’wa, is in alliance with the Sadr movement (led by Moqtada al Sadr, with its militia, the Mahdi Army). Therefore, he does not want to move against his allies who are heavily involved in sectarian violence. At the same time, groups associated with the former Baathists are escalating their operations. The security forces are penetrated by these militias who profit from the fact that U.S. policies are accentuating and manipulating sectarian divisions.
Why are they doing that?
Washington’s policy aims at keeping a certain balance between government forces and those opposed to the political process, for counterbalancing purposes and maintaining control over the country. In relation to the the Baathists, the Bush administration seemingly wants to accommodate them within its future arrangements in Iraq. One objective is to undermine the National Reconciliation Plan which received broad political and popular support in Iraq.
What is your opinion on US views advocating for Iraq splitting into three parts?
It is not difficult to see the consequences of such a scenario of splitting Iraq along ethnic-sectarian lines into three small statelets. It would lead to an increase in violence (ethnic groups live in mixed areas throughout the country) rather than diminishing it. In addition, it would intensify rivalry and conflict over power and resources in each area. This would invite intervention by regional powers, for example, Iran, as a result of the ensuing instability.
What do ordinary Iraqis think?
The popular mood is strongly opposed to such an idea. A recent vote on a law on procedures for setting up federal regions has revealed the level of opposition to sectarian-based federalism. All in all, the population considers a federal system to be the appropriate form of government for Iraq. For Iraqi Kurdistan, federalism represents a democratic solution for the Kurdish national question in today’s conditions.
What is the mood on the continuation of the occupation?
A national consensus is emerging among the major political forces that there should be a clearly defined objective timetable for a speedy withdrawal of the occupying forces, linked to rebuilding the Iraqi armed forces. Up to now, Bush has adamantly refused to be committed to such a timetable, obviously preferring an open-ended military presence and occupation.
Salam Ali is a member of the Iraqi Communist Party’s central committee and international relations committee