:: Sunday, January 30, 2005 ::

Kissinger on Iraq

That most brutal and cynical of realpolitik politicians, Henry Kissinger comes up with a realistic view of the elections in Iraq. The danger he points to is the Shia fear of becoming second class citizens in a Shia dominated state (some obvious parallels with the north of Ireland there.) The second thing he points to is the chance of a second Iran emerging and the alienation of the Sunni dominated Arab states.

Results, Not Timetables, Matter in Iraq (washingtonpost.com): "If a democratic process is to unify Iraq peacefully, a great deal depends on how the Shiite majority defines majority rule.

So far the subtle Shiite leaders, hardened by having survived decades of Saddam Hussein's tyranny, have been ambiguous about their goals. They have insisted on early elections -- indeed, the date of Jan. 30 was established on the basis of a near-ultimatum by the most eminent Shiite leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. The Shiites have also urged voting procedures based on national candidate lists, which work against federal and regional political institutions. Recent Shiite pronouncements have affirmed the goal of a secular state but have left open the interpretation of majority rule. An absolutist application of majority rule would make it difficult to achieve political legitimacy. The Kurdish minority and the Sunni portion of the country would be in permanent opposition.

Western democracy developed in homogeneous societies; minorities found majority rule acceptable because they had a prospect of becoming majorities, and majorities were restrained in the exercise of their power by their temporary status and by judicially enforced minority guarantees. Such an equation does not operate where minority status is permanently established by religious affiliation and compounded by ethnic differences and decades of brutal dictatorship. Majority rule in such circumstances is perceived as an alternative version of the oppression of the weak by the powerful. In multiethnic societies, minority rights must be protected by structural and constitutional safeguards. Federalism mitigates the scope for potential arbitrariness of the numerical majority and defines autonomy on a specific range of issues.

The reaction to intransigent Sunni brutality and the relative Shiite quiet must not tempt us into identifying Iraqi legitimacy with unchecked Shiite rule. The American experience with Shiite theocracy in Iran since 1979 does not inspire confidence in our ability to forecast Shiite evolution or the prospects of a Shiite-dominated bloc extending to the Mediterranean. A thoughtful American policy will not mortgage itself to one side in a religious conflict fervently conducted for 1,000 years."

:: Alister | 11:52 am | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | |


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