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Post Islamic State, Iraq could emerge as a model for a modern Arab nation

Of all the countries coming out of the present round of violence and political instability, Iraq shows promise if Baghdad sticks to its democratic, republican, federal and non-sectarian ways and inspires the rest of West Asia

editorials Updated: Jun 27, 2017 03:47 IST
Hindustan Times
Iraq,Islamic State,Haider al-Abadi
An Iraqi flag attached to an Iraqi military armoured fighting vehicle flutters past a destroyed house during clashes in the Shifa neighbourhood, Mosul, Iraq, June 15, 2017(REUTERS)

The Iraqi city of Mosul this week celebrates its first Eid free of the oppressive rule of the self-styled Islamic State (IS) in three years. The IS announced its existence from ramparts of the 600-year-old Grand al Nusri mosque in Mosul. In keeping with the IS’ nihilistic tendencies, its retreating fighters blew up the famous leaning minaret of the mosque. Kurdish troops have begun a similar process of driving out IS from its present capital of Raqqa, across the border in Syria. IS is now a shadow of its former self, at least in territory. It still holds a few blocks of Mosul and the battle for Raqqa is in its first rounds. But few doubt, including the self-styled caliphate’s own leadership, that the endgame is well under progress.

These developments would hopefully lead West Asia and, in particular, the Arab world to contemplate what lessons they can draw from IS’ short but brutal life. The Iraqi government should remember that IS fighters were initially welcomed with open arms by the Sunni inhabitants of Mosul because of their anger at the corrupt, pro-Shia regime of the then prime minister Nouri al Maliki. The present ruler has shown himself to be less sectarian in his policies, but addressing the sensibilities of Iraq’s Sunni Arab and Kurdish minorities will determine whether IS will not reappear in a new avatar.

There is little evidence that the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad has shed any of his dislike for the Sunni majority of his country – and his conduct of the war will make it all but impossible to put Syria back together in any stable form.

The Baghdad regime will have to show the sort of enlightened political leadership and willingness to look beyond the narrow tribal-cum-religious allegiances that define so much of the Arab world. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is an expert on transportation and connectivity, both political and economic, should be what the policies of a post-IS Iraq should be about. He will be sorely tested: The Kurdish north is already planning a referendum on independence.

Christian Europe underwent nearly a century of slaughter before it developed and accepted the concepts of modern secularism. The Arab Islamic world need not follow that path. But the past dichotomy of secular dictators and religious monarchies has shown itself to be a failure. Of all the countries coming out of the present round of violence and political instability, Iraq is probably the only one that could emerge as the model for a new modern Arab state – democratic, republican, federal and non-sectarian – that West Asia needs for its future.

First Published: Jun 26, 2017 17:20 IST