Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, January 22nd, 2018

A Message to Iraqis

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A Message to Iraqis

As the counter-time has started for complete American military withdrawal from Iraq, the joy and appreciation, on one hand, worry and anxiety, on the other, strike Iraqis at the same way. According to previous agreement between US and Iraqi government, the present 47,000 American military should leave the country by the end of this year. But definitely, these days, there are secret discussions going on among officials of both countries to assess the ground realities, figuring out whether to stick to the agreed plan or postpone it up to due time.

According to analysts, residents of any country in the world, including Iraqi people, would be irritated seeing their country under the control of any foreign force. And people do like to watch over their country's sovereignty and integrity without the assistance of any foreign force. But there are circumstances wherein people willingly or unwillingly oppress such nationalist and patriotic feelings and accept the presence of a foreign force. But such acceptance is generally temporary and conditional; and day by day, the tolerance against such legal or illegal presence would decline and opposition respectively will grow. However, such process is certain but necessarily does not pass through similar checkpoints. It largely depends on circumstance, which is the principle cause of foreign military engagement.

Iraqis are not an exception to the rule. Perhaps, the entire Iraqis are in a consensus that one day the American troops should leave the country and deliver the whole responsibility to Iraqi forces, the thing which American official might maintain too. The United States may not provide its costly military bases through taxing American people. Its presence already has cost American families too much, both in terms of money and men. Americans more than ever today pressurize government to hold efficient program in order to create jobs which is in a sputtering situation now— as the rate of unemployment crossed 9 percent— and decrease sovereign debt which is more than twelve trillion dollars.

However, Iraqis might be willing to see American troops withdrawing, but there are signs of nationwide concern too. There are numerous civilians and officials who still insist for longer presence of American troops alike. And, meanwhile, there are people who are agreed to force them out if the US troops willingly do not leave the country. Muqada al-Sadr, the Shiite hardliner cleric who is also known as anti-American element, in April in a large gathering of his supporters called for unconditional withdrawal. Tens of thousands of his supporters, while celebrating the eighth anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussien's regime, chanted anti-American slogans, and carried banners which had "No, No to America" written on them. Even his supporters went further and warned of armed resistance against US unless their demand realized.

Such chants and measures are not unfamiliar and his Mahdi militia once fought against both Iraqi and American forces. He is also blamed of sectarian violence which broke out after the first parliamentary election, where Sunni sect overwhelmingly avoided participating in entire electoral process. He also has close relationship with clergy regime of Islamic Republic of Iran and was a student in holy city of Qum, the main center of Shiite clergies.

But the question is, "Is Iraq enough safe and secure to go ahead without US military support?" Unfortunately, no one, even those who fiercely ask for withdrawal, can claim so. There are both internal and external factors that make many worried.

Many regional and neighboring countries exert visible influence on highly influential Iraqi leaders as well as political parties. They have their own interest and no humanist virtue can cause them to avoid such potentially dangerous proxy rivalries. We have clearly observed that how 2010 parliamentary election became controversial and, subsequently, how the formation of government became difficult, which many analysts blamed foreign factors for complete nine months political deadlock. When even finally political parties agreed to form government, there were huge allegations that neighboring countries comprised and asked supporters to join hands.

However, the current government is ostensibly representing all sects, but there are still stumbling blocks to ensure safety of the ongoing transitional period towards democracy. Mahdi Militia, who has remarkable numbers of seats in parliament, frequently warned of stopping support if American troops do not withdraw on the basis of previous agreement. Similarly, there are Sunni fundamentalists who were marginalized from the Sunni main stream after they overwhelmingly participated in 2010 parliamentary election. On May 28, a suicide bomber attacked a mosque which was filled with Iraqi politicians and policemen, and another blew himself inside a hospital where wounded were taken and their family members gathered, both killed almost 21 people in Saddam Hussein's hometown, Tikrit. However, no one claimed for the attacks but many assume that Sunni extremists were behind the attacks and they frequently have tried to avenge Sunnis for the sake of cooperation with Shiite dominated government.

This issue is worrisome in the absence of "buffer zone"—US military. There is the possibility, after the withdrawal, neighboring countries will try to play major role through recruiting devotees on the sectarian basis. The realization of such a scenario would weaken the political stability and provide opportunity for radical groups like that of Muqtada al-Sadr to maneuver freely with indefinite support of Iran. In such circumstance, the secular forces rarely find opportunity to grow which is the very condition for a strong and stable democratic government.
Thus, it is to be mentioned here that presence of the US is far less dangerous in comparison to that of neighboring countries.

The US interest lies in establishment of strong democratic institutions, which provide opportunity for Iraqis to eliminate poverty and illiteracy. While, what neighboring countries want is empowerment of particular sect and its radicalization in order to use as buffer against any possible threat to their regional and global interest. Iraqis should notice that violent measures cannot solve anything and that the democratic government comprises the interests of all if followed principally. The outstation Saddam's regime was not in favor of only particular sect but all! His rule prospered only small circle of his devotees but brought about miseries to the rests, weakened Iraq and diminished its regional and international role.

The only way to strengthen Iraq and let the people prosper is avoiding establishment of a state religion which Muqtada desire the most. And he himself should understand that his popularity and influence is due to American forces, however they did not want so. Thus, he can help Iraqis and supporters, not through arming them against American, but arming them against illiteracy and shielding them against poverty. Such peaceful measures only can ensure his name and fame in the history, definitely not haste and unwise violent measures which are injected through religion by his foreign supporters. Both Iraqi civilians and officials try to figure out the threats which would follow after US military withdrawal. It looks wise if the signs of threat booming, the withdrawal of US military should be postponed.

Jawad Rahmani is the permanent writer of Daily Outlook Afghanistan and Writes on National and International issues. He can be reached through mail@outlookafghanistan.com

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