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Iraq on the Mend?

In the upcoming Iraqi election, Sunni Muslims may emerge with a sense of being part of Iraq’s political process and future.

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Takeaways


  • The Iraqi elections taking place on May 12 could shape the future of the Middle East.
  • Iraqi Sunni Muslim leaders are reconciling themselves to the fact that the days of sectarian minority rule are over.
  • An Iraqi election from which Sunni Muslims emerge with a sense of being part of Iraq’s political process and future would be historic.

The Iraqi elections taking place on May 12 could shape the future of the Middle East.

Underlying the drama of May 12 is a more fundamental shift in the approach of Iraqi Shiite and Sunni politicians towards the region’s sectarian divide.

Encouraging signs

This may provide a first sign of light at the end of the Middle East’s tunnel of violence, civil war and ethnic and religious strife.

It is encouraging that Iraqi politicians campaigning for the parliamentary election have been forging cross-sectarian alliances and wooing votes across the country irrespective of past history and religious allegiance.

Iraq’s largest Sunni Islamist political group, the Iraqi Islamic Party, a driving force behind the Sunni protest movement in 2013 that was hijacked by the Islamic State, has built an alliance with Shiite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Last week, Mr. Abadi became the first Shiite leader to campaign in a wholly Sunni Muslim part of Iraq when he travelled to Anbar province, 110 kilometers west of Baghdad.

“People must feel part of this country and like they are citizens of this country. At the end of the day, we must deliver to the people,” Mr. Abadi said earlier. He wants Iraq to forge an identity that is inclusive in terms of nationhood as well as religious and tribal affinity.

Reversing sectarian fault lines

Further reversing the sectarian fault lines that have dominated Iraq since the 2003 U.S. invasion, Shiite-led electoral groupings are hopeful that they will see record-breaking gains in Sunni areas. And Sunni politicians who fled the country because of sectarian violence have returned to compete in the poll.

Iraqi Sunni Muslim leaders are reconciling themselves to the fact that the days of sectarian minority rule are over and that they will have to carve out a space for themselves in a political landscape that is dominated by fractured Shiite political forces.

A historic event

An Iraqi election on May 12th from which Sunni Muslims emerge with a sense of being part of Iraq’s political process and future would be historic.

How historic will depend on continued Shiite political efforts to give Sunni Muslims a true stake.

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About James M. Dorsey

James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and an award-winning journalist. [Singapore]

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