Ethnic Partitioning of Iraq is not Federalism
A member of US Congress who maybe one of the candidates of Democratic Party for presidency in the next US presidential election has finally clearly proposed the ethnic religious division of Iraq to three parts of Kurdish, Sunni, and Shi'a as the future plan for Iraq. I have always avoided to state opinions about the plans of political forces of Iraq and have focused my attention on Iran. But the misrepresentation of the meaning of federalism in Iraq damages the Iranian movement a lot the same way that a half century ago the misrepresentation of liberalism by both its supporters and opponents in the Middle East hurt the growth of liberalism in Iran when liberalism was understood as equivalent with nationalism.
Previously I have explained in another article that federalism is not the same as an ethnic government [http://www.ghandchi.com/429-FederalismNotEthnic-plus.htm] and there is no need to repeat all that discussion here. But a brief look at the experience of Iraq since the fall of Saddam shows that country is not administrated in a federalist fashion and what is being called as federalism is the continuation of the quarrels between the heads of the three ethnic religious communities of Iraq, leaders who are the representation of the pre-industrial society of Iraq and not the symbols of the future post-industrial society of that country.
If Iraq wanted to choose the road of federalism meaning to grow the development of democratic administration of the country to every province, city, and locality, then each state or province should elect its governor by the direct vote of those who live in that province. In every city , the residents of the city should elect their mayor. In every province the provincial parliament should be formed and its representatives be elected by the people living in that province to look at the laws needed for that province and the judicial authorities of that province and even the supreme court of each province be elected by the people living in that province. Such an approach would mean extending the democratic checks and balances beyond the centralized states and not creating more centralized states, which is how many Arab states came out of the fall of Ottoman Empire which are neither democratic nor decentralized, from Jordan to Egypt and Syria.
In the Northern provinces of Iraq where the majority of the population are Kurds, the Sunni Arabs should be able to elect and be elected, in a federal system, as the Kurds. Of course, for one whose goal is to create an independent Kurdistan state, such a way seems to be in vain. But an independent state of Kurdistan in Iraq, even with all its oil reserves, will not end up in the growth of those areas and will practically always end up in a military conditions because it will constantly have to face the pressure of Turkey and Arabs and just like Israel it will always be in continuous state of conflict. And even just like the Arabs that have these many independent countries, this may also be a temporary source of pride for a few to be another Jordan, but it will neither bring democracy nor decentralization.
Of course as I wrote in my other writings I do not want to offer leading plans for the Kurdistan of Iraq, but I can repeat as I explained extensively in my book about Kurdistan that the plan of Great Kurdistan State will have nothing but loss and damage for Iranian Kurds and in its best case it will be a false hope in the help of oil rich Iraqi Kurdistan for Iranian Kurds and in practice the Iranian Kurds will get even less and worse than what they are getting from the oil riches of Iran's Khuzestan today and these mirages will only bring about a militarized living and continuation of war and bloodshed in those regions, the same way that oil rich Arab states have not cured the problems of the poor Arab states and have always been a mirage for the Arabs who live in the poor Arab countries.
Let's return to the main discussion. For Iran the meaning of federalism should be elucidated. The support of me and many others in the last twenty some years of federalism for Iran and the Middle East has nothing to do with the plans of ethnic religious division which are steps backwards for all these countries, whether Kurd or Persian, Muslim or Secular, federalism means checks and balances. Meaning that executive, legislative, judicial power at the level of states/provinces, cities, localities to be *elected* and not to create three centralized states based on ethnicity and religion in Iraq or many centralized ethnic governments in Iran. Exactly the discourse is about form of governance in a country which I have explained in another article and not about who rules the county [http://www.ghandchi.com/313-JudgmentEng.htm]. Ethnic religious solutions are exactly repeat of the mistakes of centralized governments but this time by new forces.
For example for Iran, more than any other force, the Persian speaking part of the population have the most significance in forming a federal system in the country, because they comprise 65 percent of the regions and population of the country and in the provinces and cities that the majority of Persian speaking people are residing, unless the three branches of government is elected within each province and city of those regions, meaning that without the involvement of main foundation of federalism ion Iran which is the population and regions that are mostly Persian in such a project, any talk of federalism is in vane.
Exactly it is the people of the central province and Yazd and Semnan and Fars and Kerman and Mazandaran and Esfahan and other provinces of Iran that should elect their provincial governors and those cities that should elect their mayor by their direct vote and to create provincial parliaments to respond to the legal needs of their provinces and to elect their own provincial judicial authorities, Federalism in Kurdistan or Kermanshahan or Azerbaijan or Khuzestan and Balochestan is the same way that it is in Gilan and Lorestan and Khorasan and Golestan and Hormozgan. it is only this way that the centralized state can be ended in Iran. Otherwise even one small point becoming independent, its state will become centralized, and the problem of lack of checks and balances between the provincial or state governments and the federal government which is the guarantee of democracy will continue to remain intact.
A wrong understanding of federalism has given rise to false line ups and its damage will hurt the pro-democracy movement of Iran. Foreign countries are not hurting for us. If tomorrow the Iranian government attacks Israel, our people just like the Arabs will be divided into pieces not that the Muslims of the Middle East to rally behind us, the same way that the Shiites of Middle East did not support us in the War with Iraq. The various nations and countries follow their own interest. What our interest requires is to have our pro-democracy movement succeed and not to use a wrong understanding of federalism, which can turn our pro-democracy movement in many parts of iran into its opposite, in other words instead of expanding the pro-democracy movement, to lose even what we have achieved so far to militarism, which is unfortunately what the leaders of the Islamic Republic have wasted our energy on with the kind of policies they have chosen thinking that with long range missiles that can target Israel they can become the leaders of the Muslims of the world and they do not allow Iran to change into a secular peaceful country with the goal of constructing a 21st Century post-industrial society and not to waste its time and energy in the Medieval militarism.
Hoping for a Federal, Democratic, and Secular Futurist Republic in Iran,
Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher
July 2, 2006
Text in Persian