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solana112_AHMAD AL-RUBAYEAFP via Getty Images_iraqprotestwomanflag Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP via Getty Images

Iraq Cries Out for Unity

Although the ongoing Shia-led protests in Iraq have not spread to regions with a Sunni majority (including Kurdish areas), many members of these communities have supported the protest clamor. Paradoxically, the power-sharing system that has fueled so much division may now be uniting Iraq’s citizens, if only in their opposition to it.

MADRID – With popular discontent erupting in numerous countries around the world, the mass demonstrations in Iraq that have triggered the fall of the country’s government have gone relatively unnoticed in the West. Although the violence perpetrated by the Iraqi security forces is estimated to have caused the deaths of around 500 people, the country’s upheavals over the last few decades have been so persistent that many Westerners seem to have become desensitized to them. And that is not the only uncomfortable reality: unlike in Venezuela or Hong Kong, popular indignation in Iraq is directed toward a Western-sponsored regime.

Following the territorial defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS), Iraq returned more or less to the previous status quo, although the effects of the Salafist insurgency remain visible. Iraq has undergone a bittersweet recovery, because the flagrant defects of the country’s political system have not yet been corrected. Rather than aspire to develop a greater sense of cohesion, the 2005 constitution – supported by the United States – established a system of power-sharing based on ethnic and religious criteria. So instead of nurturing democracy, the current constitution fed the spiral of sectarianism that was already tearing the country apart and that ultimately led to the emergence of ISIS.

It would be simplistic to attribute all of Iraq’s troubles to the 2003 US-led invasion and the endless errors that accompanied it. But the US strategy of regime change in Iraq was itself extremely simplistic, ignoring as it did that the record of such policies is filled with failures.

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