Reconciliation in Iraq:
Singular or Plural
By Mokhtar Lamani
Senior visiting fellow – CIGI – Canada
Former Ambassador and Special Envoy of the Arab League to Iraq
It is inappropriate to consider the question of national reconciliation in Iraq without first recognizing the unique nature of the challenge. The best path to redemption in Iraq remains dialogue between those in power, those in opposition, the forces of the occupation, international donors and of the many different antagonists. The problems that have faced Iraqis since 2003, between supporters and adversaries of a political process under occupation, have merged with other challenges, splintering Iraqi actors and causing an unprecedented fragmentation of Iraqi society. What is needed therefore is not one sole initiative but rather a plethora of Iraqi reconciliations. These reconciliations require the acceptance of an inclusive political process that guarantees the participation of all Iraqis and builds a nation based on the principle of equal citizenship and a guarantee a diverse and just society for all.
The fragmentation of the Iraqi political scene has evolved in a climate of complete mistrust and the near-absolute absence of serious dialogue between the different actors.
Further, the regional and international environment is not making the resolution of Iraq’s problems any easier:
- The new American administration, while not acknowledging the complete failure of its predecessor in Iraq, is beginning a new, more timid approach that has not yet dared to suggest an alternative strategy for all Iraqis.
- Iran, which has assured itself of a relatively free hand on the Iraqi chessboard, cannot rest on its laurels; its regional situation remains critical.
- The alarming results of the Israeli election and internal Palestinian problems perpetuate tensions throughout the region, making any resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict unlikely.
Reconciliation in Iraq must be a voluntary act and cannot be imposed by any party. It will not be realized without a decisive and courageous commitment from all parties to move past hatred and renounce violence in order to recognize each other.
All reconciliation conferences that have been organized to date have been little more than red herrings. Some, such as the one that took place in Helsinki, have final documents signed only by Iraqi Members of Parliament: was it really necessary to travel all the way to Helsinki for such a document when the signatories see each other every day in the legislative assembly in Baghdad? Most of these documents continue to state “the impossibility of reconciling with those whose hands are stained with the blood of innocents” but we must ask ourselves: during the last 50 years in Iraq, whose hands are truly clean?
Political and institutional normalization must first advocate for a real “disarmament of the hearts” that will help Iraqis – all Iraqis – to understand that the stability and sustainability of their country must be achieved by their agreement. This type of agreement, in view of the complicated regional environment, is the only true guarantee of internal Iraqi stability.
Successful reconstruction will not be realized through “victor’s justice” or a political system built on ethnic or religious exclusion; it will only be accomplished as a result of a political process takes these three factors into account:
- The effective protection of the civil liberties and political life of all Iraqis and the preservation of social cohesion while safeguarding fundamental rights and liberties.
- All Iraqi people have suffered both before and after 2003, hence the absolute need for a democratization that brings the population into the decision-making process and fosters a respect for pluralism and difference.
- Finally, it must be assured that abuse, mass graves, massacres and genocide are never allowed to take place again.
Finally, no political effort should try to have the people of Iraq and its beautiful mosaic think that these reconciliations are about embellishing, or even worse forgetting, the past or present; rather it is to ensure that these wounds do not remain open and themselves become sources of resentment and waste of the future.
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