by Kevin Stoda in Salalah, Oman
As we observe the mess that has been made of and with federalism in Iraq since 2003, there might be little wonder that most Arabs and Middle Eastern observers don't often even consider federalism as an option for peace as well as sustainable, social, and political-economic development these days. In contrast to this dubious Arab centrist oriented position, I noted at the time that the Iraqi constitution first created the land as a federation in 2005 that trying to introduce such a change in representation through war and through occupation western federalism and western democracy in Iraq was something that neo-con and neo-liberal could only fail in trying to undertake.
However, in order to be a federal regime, Iraq in the post occupation era would require a recreation of a new national identity as a federation and increasing comprehension by peoples throughout the land that federalism is not simply a western colonial concept, but is a well-recognized form of government in the Middle East, dating back 5 or more millennium.
Interestingly, in the case of Iraq, the 2003-2011 creation of a federal state in that Biblical land under USA military occupation has been the first and only time in history that American military personnel or administrators had ever actually attempted to create a federal state from scratch--since 1979, when Micronesia became a federation. In contrast to the thousands of islands that consist of Micronesia (which were already peacefully under USA control for decades as Trust Territories of the United Nations), Iraq had been centralized under Baathist/Sunni control for nearly half a century when the militarized USA coalition marched into Baghdad in April 2003.
In short, moving a state--or people--from centralized to federalized under martial law had never been attempted before by Americans and was bound to fail. (Even the British colonial leadership, which had had much more experience in creating federal regimes from scratch would have had a difficult time in keeping the Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds together after the Baathest regimes had destroyed much of representative government in both Iraq and Syria decades ago. Perhaps, the Americans should have asked the British about how to leave a federal state in the Middle East or Asia--the UK successfully did this in both Malaysia and the UAE.)
On the other hand, Arabs should not simply throw federalism out with the bath waters of the Tigris and Euphrates--which is what many demagogues and short-sighted thinkers may want to do in the Middle East in 2016.
Such typical leaders and elites in the Arab world would have us think that Middle Easterners are not interested in either democracy or federalist-peace solutions in that region of the world. ( I talk about federal-peace or federal-peacetheory here because I have shown in other writings of mine that in all of the world's modern history, federal states or regimes are the least likely state actors to actually go to war against one another.)
In fact, Arab and other Semitic federal-like covenant structures date to well-before the creation of Islam. We can look back some three to five-thousand years and observe how tribes on the Arab peninsula have dealt with each other. As the great federalist Daniel Elizar wrote, " The biblical grand design for humankind is federal in three ways: " It is based upon a network of covenants beginning with those between God and man, which weave the web of human, especially political, relationships in a federal way -- that is through pact, association and consent."  This federal design was clearly created or originated in the time of Moses, Elizar clarified.
On the one hand, perhaps as The Economist noted in a 2007 article, "Arab federalism, anyone?", much of the Arab World has gotten out of tune with God and federal compacts in recent decades. The Economist authors wrote, "The notion of federalism is [now] generally disliked, at least by the Arab world's predominant Sunni majority, as an old imperial device to divide and rule and undermine the umma, the community of Muslim nations--particularly, of late, in Iraq." 
This statement by The Economist is obviously somewhat of an over-generalization, though. Specifically, in the Arab Peninsula, the United Arab Emirates has been demonstrating great political, economic, and social advances under their federal agreements of the past 5 decades. J.E. Peterson, in "The Future of Federalism in the United Arab Emirates", has described the UAE as "the Arab world's most successful unity scheme to date." 
One of the main factors for the success of federalization in the Emirates over the decades, according to Peterson, has included the fact that in terms of homogeneity, the UAE is "largely Arab, Sunni Muslim, and of tribal origin." This statement by Peterson implies that federal states work well with more homogeneous peoples; however, historically federalism functions to empower diverse peoples to work together, like in the USA, Brazil or India.
Peterson also explained another factor in the ongoing success of increasing federalization among the peoples of the United Arab Emirates, i.e. the UAE citizenry have over the past 5 decades increasingly self-identified with the UAE as a federal regime. This means that they are committed to the federation in both the short and long term.
In addition, this means that any alternative movements in the UAE, like those who had initially proposed or supported the reintegration of UAE emirates with Oman, have simply died out since the 1970s. As well, the rise of radical Islamic actors have since the 1970s has been marginalized or even shut-out in many facets of UAE life, media, and society. In short, as a whole, in 2016, UAE citizens are committed to stick together and to keep out the more divisive facets of both Islam and the Arab world. they love their federation.
Unfortunately, outside of the UAE, too many people believe that federalism in the UAE was forced upon the remaining Trucial states, which formed the UAE in 1970, simply because the British were bailing out of that part of the Gulf. This is absolutely not true states Malcolm Peck, who has written on Persian/Arabian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula issues for decades .
Peck explains in his essay, Formation and Evolution of The Federation and its Institutions: "Despite a widespread perception that the United Arab Emirates and the other small Gulf Arab states are artificial creations of the British, the UAE in fact reflects in its political form and dynamics a deliberate lack of British involvement in the Trucial States' internal affairs until a late date, leaving tribal loyalties and structures largely unaffected. The effect of British intervention through the series of treaties implemented between 1820 and 1892 was to freeze the principal power relationships of tribal groupings. Thus, the Al Qawasim and the Bani Yas tribal confederations which controlled what are now the northern emirates and the emirate of Abu Dhabi, respectively, were confirmed as the dominant elements within the Trucial States. The Bani Yas eventually gained the upper hand in their rivalry with the Al Qawasim, largely because the latter's naval power had been eclipsed by the British and because the Bani Yas were a broad, land-based confederation. The initial British military intervention in the southern Gulf had the effect of altering the power relationship between the two rival groupings. More importantly, by dealing with the Trucial States as a unit, the British gave some sense of natural coherence to the grouping of the several sheikhdoms signatory to the 1820 treaty and later engagements. For a considerable period of time they were obliged to cooperate in various common, if limited, treaty obligations." 
In short, as in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar, the United Kingdom's "benign neglect" in the Arabian Gulf throughout most of the 20th Century often led to and encouraged confederal and federal solutions in a region that was already naturally hedging towards federal solutions.