“In Iraq, the community logic is nourished by the parties”

The Cross: Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kazimi denounced, Monday, June 28, American strikes against pro-Iran militias in Iraq, which took place the day before. Moreover, repression continues to rage against demonstrators in the south of the country. How to explain the level of violence in which the country is struggling?

Arthur Quesnay: Iraq has been in civil war almost since its inception, as political organizations – whether parties or their armed wing – try to monopolize power on a community basis. As early as the 1960s, the Baath Party, by betting on pan-Arabism, marginalized the Kurdish part of the population. Saddam Hussein went even further with confessionalization in the 1990s, and the choice of Sunni pan-Arabism.

In 2003, when they invaded Iraq, the United States set up institutions operating in a logic of community representation. And Daesh has only exacerbated this dynamic: to imprison a community and force it to follow you, nothing better than to create violence with those around you.

→ LARGE FORMAT. What remains of Daesh in Iraq

Contrary to popular belief, this community dynamic – which creates violence – does not come from society itself. The Iraqis do not mobilize by community on their own: they are pushed to do so, favored by political organizations and by foreign interference.

Does the uprising that began in October 2019 not show the refusal of part of the Iraqis to enter into this community logic?

QA: Yes, absolutely. By their slogans, the demonstrators signify their refusal of this political class which pushes them to the communitarization, which comes to destroy the State to serve its customers. They don’t want the mouhasasa, that is to say the system of religious or ethnic quotas.

In Baghdad, which remains a multi-community city, Sunnis and Shiites mingle in processions, and women are also very present there. In Diyala province, when the Shiites go out to demonstrate, the Sunnis follow them and thus feel protected. In the revolution, Iraqi society shows astonishing political maturity.

Last week, pro-Iranian political organizations again demonstrated their power, pushing back the prime minister who arrested one of their own. Are they all powerful in Iraq?

QA: Even at the head of over-armed militias, the Iraqi parties face a form of attrition. The logic of state takeover no longer works well, and even has two major flaws. On the one hand, it leads to a compartmentalization of the elites, entrenched in the ultra-secure “green zone” of Baghdad, cut off from the population. In reality, political parties are constantly criticized, whether for the way they repress demonstrations or for the social control they impose on the population.

On the other hand, they are fragmenting themselves, as shown by the example of the Shiite Dawa party, ultra-powerful on the Iraqi political scene until 2018, and which finally split into four branches. When you seize ministries, that you place your loved ones there, you ultimately arouse clashes in the name of economic logic. Trillions of dollars have been embezzled in recent years: all that money is creating tension.

If the system holds up until now, it is because Iraqi society has collapsed. 70% of the population is illiterate, and everyone knows, when they are sick, that going through the hospital risks doing them more harm than good. The legislative elections, announced for October, should show this disaffection of the Iraqis. As usual, the parties will asphalt the roads just before, distribute a little more electricity, but the abstention is likely to be massive.


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