Proposed Bill to Change Provincial Borders Causes Fear of Ethnic Tensions
19/11/2012 03:20:00 By JASIM ALSABAWI
BAGHDAD, Iraq – A law introduced by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to redraw the administration borders of Iraqi provinces and sent to the House of Representatives for approval seems to be yet another crisis on the country’s political horizon.
Sheikh Khaled al-Mafraji, leader of the Arab Political Council, told Rudaw that raising this topic at this time could only escalate the existing crisis. "Addressing such topics in such circumstances will increase the deepening political crisis, in addition to the significant uncertainties surrounding it,” he said.
Mafraji added that he was confident the House of Representatives would stand against the project. "The Arab component categorically rejects this matter and we are confident that the House of Representatives will be opposed to this issue," he said.
Political analyst Laith Mohammed Reza blamed the Iraqi constitution for the issue and warned that continued focus on ethnic dimensions, without administrative counterparts, could lead to a civil war that would be fierce and destructive and engulf everybody.
"The constitution holds the causes of conflict among provinces,” Reza said. “It has legitimized conflict by having disputed areas within the same country."
Reza added, "The constitution uses the term 'normalization.' This is incompatible with all other constitutions in the world. The purpose of a constitution is to resolve and regulate conflicts, not codify and encourage them."
National Alliance MP Qasim al-Aaraji has a different opinion and believes that demarcating borders and returning areas separated by the former regime is acceptable and logical.
"The question remains: is it a right or not a right? It is a right within constitutional Article 140,” al-Aaraji said.
However, he said, we hope that such issues will not be exploited to stir up trouble among the Iraqi people. But we believe that what the Baathist regime changed must return to what it was in the past.
Political analyst Azhar al-Sumaidaie sees contradictions between the demand to implement Article 140 and demarcating the administrative borders of provinces.
"The paradox lies in the implementation of Article 140, and redrawing the administrative borders of the provinces, as this bill contradicts Article 140. It is very unlikely to be approved because it includes technical and legal irregularities," Sumaidaie said.
Nahida Daini, an MP from the Iraqiya bloc, sees the issue of border demarcation as involving risks that may result in conflict with unfavorable consequences.
"Border demarcation is a dangerous subject at the present time,” Daini said. “We are still an unstable country that is engulfed in crises and loss of confidence among the political blocs."
She said that most provinces refuse to give up any part of their territories. “This might be transformed into a conflict among the sons of the provinces after being a political struggle."
The bill proposed by the president is to eliminate decrees issued by the former Baathist Revolutionary Command Council after 1968. It included changes to provincial administrative boundaries all of which took on a political character.
Iraqi citizens have different views on the issue. Saher Amer, a 22-year-old engineering student, believes that this crisis has been created by the Kurds.
"The issue of provincial border demarcation has been created by the Kurdish parties, and they cannot succeed, now or in the near future, because these demands fall within the political agendas of partitioning Iraq," he said.
Muhannad Almuadidi, a 40-year-old citizen of Kirkuk who works in the food trade, agreed with Amer, saying, "I think the Iraqi government is fully aware of what the Kurds want to do. They aim to divide Iraq and not restore rights to their owners as they claim. We are not against anyone but we do not accept harming the unity of Kirkuk or Iraq."
Munjid Faisal, 50, a citizen of Diyala, said, "It is difficult to implement this law now because Anbar province will lose almost a third of its territories to Karbala, and Samarra will take large parts from Baghdad and Tikrit, and even Hillah demands the Yusufiyah region of Baghdad.”
“In the northern provinces it will be a disaster,” Faisal added. “There is also a problem currently between Kut and Diwaniyah. Only God knows where Iraq is heading! "
Sayf al-Din al-Dulaimi, 47, a resident of Anbar, recalls the incident in Nukhayb, currently part of Anbar province, that killed many innocent people and which has opened the door to conflicts between Karbala and Anbar.
"Everyone remembers the incident of Nukhayb, where Karbala demanded the annexation of Nukhayb and Anbar opposed it,” Dulaimi said. “Nowadays, we want to reform the situation and not agitate it with internal conflicts because Iraq is facing enough difficulties already."
Karrar Hussein, 36, does not see a problem in demarcation, provided that the situation is permissible. "We have to divide but not at the present time. There are more important things that should be given priority, starting with the security situation, infrastructure, social services and the health and agriculture sectors," he said.
Suad Majeed, a 45-year-old teacher from Baghdad, agrees, but under one condition. "You can activate this law whenever there are sincere intentions among the political blocs that believe in the unity of Iraq, and without the introduction of Article 140 as the basis for this division," he said.