Ever since 2003, the territorial integrity of Iraq has been shaken by sectarian violence. A country with fragile borders from its inception, after the illegal toppling of the Ba’athist government which was comprised of Sinni Muslims, Shi’a Muslims and Christians, the regions began to drift apart.
The Shi’a majority south looked to formerly isolated Iran as a kind of guardian. Meanwhile, sectarian violence in the centre of the country and Baghdad in particular wrought havoc upon a once thriving capital city. Sunni areas in the north such as Mosul, Tikrit and Fallujah resisted both the western occupiers and Shi’a leaders in Baghdad. Much of northern Iraq is still infested with sectarian terrorists including foreign fighters. ISIS remains in control over much of Mosul.
In the northernmost regions of Iraq, Kurds who had enjoyed a measure of autonomy even under the final years of Saddam Hussein’s presidency, moved towards even greater autonomy. Now, as it is with Kurds in Syria, many Iraqi Kurds want their own state, carved from the northern provinces of Iraq.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has issued a statement condemning any Kurdish moves towards secession. His statement is a plea for unity, but one that may well be too little and too late.
The statement from Haider al-Abadi, puts the Iraqi head of government in line with the position of the governments of Syria, Iran and Turkey, countries which are united on the issue of giving up parts of their territory to Kurdish nationalist.
Iraq is indeed a flash-point of Kurdish nationalism due to the fact that for a long while, the central government in Baghdad had little meaningful control over Kurdish regions. What’s more, even many Arab regions have for years, operated semi-autonomously. Autonomous Shi’a militias have often been on the front line when it comes to fighting Salifist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda, but this seemingly positive accomplishment has served to further alienate many of the moderate Sunnis in the country who have felt isolated and unwanted by the Shi’a dominated Arab state since 2003.
Iraq’s status as a nation is dubious. On paper it is a sovereign state with an internationally recognised central government, but in reality, it has been disunited since the war of 2003. Continued US occupation of Iraqi territory has both enraged and demoralised many Iraqis of all backgrounds. It is as though the American led war on Iraq has never ended.
Whether or not a Kurdish state is created in northern Iraq, the country’s future as a united state looks grim. At the moment, the US does not overtly support the creation of a Kurdish state in Iraq nor elsewhere, but if they change course and do so, it will be the ultimate slap in the face of a nation that the US has divided more than any local tribe, sect or political movement ever could have hoped to have done.