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 Failing Federalism in Iraq and the Kurdish Quest for Independence

 Analysis — Opinion    
  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author


Failing Federalism in Iraq and the Kurdish Quest for Independence  31.8.2012  
By Rauf Naqishbendi

Rauf Naqishbendi,
Read more by the Author
August 31, 2012

As a legal term, “sovereign state” is defined as: The supreme, absolute, and uncontrollable power by which an independent state is governed and from which all specific political powers are derived; the intentional independence of a state, combined with the right and power of regulating its internal affairs without foreign interference.

Sovereignty is the power of a state to do everything necessary to govern itself, such as making, executing, and applying laws; imposing and collecting taxes; making war and peace; and forming treaties or engaging in commerce with foreign nations.

National security and civil society can be furnished only through a strong central government that has monopoly of the power. Power that is divided between a federal government and any of its subordinated regions is an open invitation to civil disturbances threatening the fabric of civil society and national security.

Matters essential to the life of the nation such as defense, foreign policy issues, controlling natural resources, printing money, declaring war, post office, establishing army and navy, and commerce with other nations are powers exclusively reserved to the federal government. Should the control of these matters be shared with any other groups within the country, it assuredly will weaken the central government, disfiguring economic, social, and political conditions.

In a federalist system, federated states are bound by the national constitution where deviation from federal constitution is disallowed within the individual states, yet they are empowered to institute their own constitution in matters deemed appropriate to their local jurisdiction, such as budgeting, taxation, education, minimum wage, occupational health and safety, managing state properties, and law enforcement institution.
From what has preceded, the Iraqi government will be brought to light, and the workability of power sharing between central Iraqi government and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Since its independence from Great Britain in 1932, Iraq has been ruled by the Hāshimite monarchy and thereafter by dictators who seized power through military coups. Since the onset of its formation as a country, minority Sunni Muslims have been the dominant power, until the American invasion of Iraq, after which the majority Shiites held the power.

Iraq’s government, throughout its history, has adhered to the principle of the central government’s authority to disallow power sharing amongst the threads, making the fabric of Iraq’s homogenous population. America’s invasion of Iraq introduced federalism, under which the Kurds were granted unprecedented power to govern their region economically, militarily, and legislatively. This arrangement imposed by America wasn’t designed to appease the Kurds or alienate Arab nationalists, but rather it was because of the lack of a strong Iraqi central government and the tumultuous Iraqi situation with the torrent of terrorist violence pouring into south and central Iraq, which left Kurds in charge of the situation.

Then the American troops departed Iraq. The Arab-fashioned leadership is now at work to consolidate its power and solidify its armed forces, targeting restoration of a strong sovereign government, which means an authoritarian government that will reveal its ugly smite upon Kurdish leaders, implying that, as a minority in Iraq, they wouldn’t be trusted to act or behave in any manner like the sovereign state, thereby defying Baghdad’s authority.

The Kurdish leadership miscalculated federalism, first on the onset of American invasion of Iraq. They were duped to trust America, not knowing the arrangement America imposed to empower Kurds was transitory and would last only for the duration of American presence in Iraq. Second, they thought that while the chaotic situation in Iraq persists, thereby the Iraqi government would remain weak. But the current waves of reality have proved against them: America left Iraq, and then the Iraqi government got stronger as terrorist activities subsided.

Kurdish leaders engaged in signing contracts with foreign companies regarding oil drilling in Kurdistan, in consternation and defiance of the Iraqi government. Furthermore, they engaged in foreign policy arrangements as if the KRG was a sovereign state. These actions are all contradictory to the common definition of sovereign governments. The idea of one government with mighty power to rule the entire country, rather than a government within the government is Al-Maliki’s aim.

The current federalism is not workable because the federal government is malfunctioning in a divided country. Moreover, it is impossible to teach Arabs power sharing, which has no precedent in their history. Sure, the Kurds deserve their God-given right to be nationally recognized through their independent homeland. However, that right is not bestowed but to be earned. Kurdish leaders miscalculated America’s intention, assuming that America would perpetuate its protection of the Kurds, but America has not made such a commitment. If the Kurdish leadership were wise, they would have turned to the American invasion of Iraq to accomplish the Kurdish dream for independence. Instead, they let themselves be used by America. Suffice to say Kurdish leaders did more for the Arabs than the Kurds.

Power sharing is workable when participating powers are genuine and harmonious with one another and when there is a binding agreement that serves as a guiding principle, guarding the balance of power. Unfortunately, the federalism will fall apart for lack of a binding principle between Kurdish leaders and the Iraqi government, the Arabs’ unwillingness to share power, and the Kurdish leaders’ desire to act as leaders of the sovereign nations. Eventually, Kurdish leaders will be pressured to ease their demand, and their refusal may lead to an armed conflict. This will be the worst for the Kurds, for they will not be able to defend themselves in the face of Iraq’s military armed with sophisticated American war machinery.

It must be realized that the Arabs are not only rebuking the Kurdish independent state but, as well, an autonomous Kurdistan region within federated Iraq. It’s not only the Iraqi Arabs that the Kurds have become content with, but rather the entire Arab world that is united and has agreed upon the Kurds’ subjugation to Arab power.

In the final analysis the ultimate solution for the Kurds to live free, breathe free, and feel free is to be free from Arab domination. That simply means an independent Kurdistan, Kurds’ national right, and Kurds must pursue.

Rauf Naqishbendi is a contributing columnist for, American Chronicle, and, and has written Op/Ed pages for the Los Angeles Times. His memoirs entitled "The Garden Of The Poets", recently published. It reads as a novel depicting his experience and the subsequent 1988 bombing of his hometown with chemical and biological weapons by Saddam Hussein. It is the story of his people´s suffering, and a sneak preview of their culture and history. Rauf Naqishbendi is a software engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area.

ISBN: 978-1-4626-0187-5 ( get The (Zoftcover) ($7.95)

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  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author


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