Experts argue that the stability of the political scene in any given country requires the emergence of an echelon of politicians who become the source of a set of traditions that through time and practice are eventually part and parcel of national consciousness. Eliminating this echelon or hindering its emergence is always a priority for dictatorships and totalitarian regimes.
Following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, a political echelon emerged under very peculiar circumstances. Since for decades such an echelon was nonexistent, the new members of this echelon were brought back from exile. Those did not meet the requirements of a proper political echelon, yet there had been hopes that they will gradually develop and that new ones will emerge with better performance until political stability is gradually achieved. Yet, hopes soon dissipated as the current Iraqi regime started targeting this nascent political echelon.
Terrorist charges leveled against Vice President Tarek al-Hashimi and Finance Minister Rafea al-Eissawi do not bode well especially that both are Sunni. The protests that erupted in al-Anbar, Samaraa and Faluja to condemn government policies were obviously sectarian in nature and calls for establishing a Sunni state in the west of Iraq are hard to miss. Add to this the statements issued by several Sunni clerics as well as threats by the Sunni-backed al-Iraqiya coalition to withdraw from politics altogether.
This is what I call playing with fire, especially in the light of the existing tension between Baghdad and Arbil and the possible ramifications of the illness of President Jalal Talibani as far as ethnic relations in the country are concerned.
The situation is aggravated by the general Sunni-Shiite tensions in the region all the way from Pakistan to Lebanon and from Bahrain to Syria. And when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned that Iraq could become another Syria, this is all the more reason to worry, regardless of the motives behind such a statement.
Such a crisis cannot be resolved through exchanging sectarian incriminations.
Sectarianism is one of the results of eliminating political echelons and aborting all attempts at creating a stable political scene.
This, unfortunately, is happening now in Iraq.
(Hazem Saghieh is a columnist at al-Hayat newspaper, where this article was first published Dec. 31, 2012)