Sunday, May 22, 2005

Iraqi Pluralism--Yet Another Catalyst for Change?

The influence of Iraqi elections throughout the Middle East and elsewhere is a story that has been covered before. As the elections drew nearer toward the end of January, fewer pundits and experts in this country and around the world truly believed that Iraqis were ready to participate in a democratic exercise. That outdated thinking has become just that.

Nearly four months later and the Iraqi government is finally starting to materialize. Despite a recent surge in violence courtesy the terrorist 'insurgency', it seems that the largest groups in Iraq, the elected officials and their appointees are moving forward. Whether the increased bombings are a direct result of this progress remains to be seen. The largest development over the last few days is the apparent realization by the Sunni factions that agreement among themselves will be necessary for effective participation in the new government. Essentially, this is Democracy 101 and it is being taught on the fly. While the different Sunni elements are sparked by unique causes, a lack of unity behind a greater Sunni 'banner' will leave them out in the cold. Not your typical party system, but a promising start nonetheless. The NY Times has a front page article on this very subject. Peaceful political discourse...this is very promising indeed.
Over at the WaPo, Jim Hoagland has an interesting piece regarding Iraqi pluralism. The money quote:

"There is a realization that Arab nationalism should be redefined," Kuwait's foreign minister, Mohammed Sabah, told me. He pointed out that Iraq has Kurds as its president, deputy prime minister and foreign minister; Sudan is
shortly to name a non-Arab vice president, and minority groups advance toward greater influence in other Arab countries.

"We should look again at the concept of the Arab League, to get away from any racist interpretation that Arab nationalism emphasized in the past," said the forward-thinking Sabah, whose country was invaded by Iraq in 1990. "The Iraqis are showing that a more multicultural approach does not divorce the country from the Arab world."

Excellent.

And from Ahmed Chalabi, the CIA's on-again-off-again heartthrob and one of the newly appointed deputy prime ministers:

"Arabs are a majority in this area, but it is not an exclusively Arab area. Other communities cannot be subjugated and their identity eradicated by the force of arms, as Saddam tried to do. We can show that Arabs will accept
pluralism as a fact of life, politically and culturally.

"The great majority of Iraq's population lives nearer to the borders of non-Arab Iran, and non-Arab Turkey, than to Arab countries. These are realities that our politics and culture must reflect."

Starting to sound like a real democracy, no? Take notice Iraqi neighbors.
--Frank

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