Iraqi and Northern Ireland sectarianism

I was particularly depressed to read about the attacks on Sunni mosques,
including the murder of a respected journalist from a mixed Sunni-Shia
family. The parallels with the nakedly sectarian violence of Northern
Ireland rang in my ears as I read the article.

A colleague of mine is working in America, to provide his views on
what lessons the US Administration can learn from the peace process in
Northern Ireland, to be applied to Iraq. My view, bluntly, is, “Don’t
do it the way they tried it in Northern Ireland!”

The Good Friday Agreement was premised on conflict management,
versus conflict resolution. The cynical belief is that some conflicts
are so intractable, that they cannot be resolved. The solution, the
theory goes, is to try to establish parameters to manage the divisions.

The result has been an entrenchment of ethnic identity and the
failure to provide any incentive for opposing sides to work together.

To be fair, in Iraq attempts have been made for inclusive
government, on a foundation of a constitution and application of
broader Iraqi nationalism. That is, work towards conflict resolution.

However, Sami Ramadani believes,
conspiratorily, that the US is engendering a sectarian conflict so that
they can justify staying within Iraq. Considering the mood of American
voters wanting troops to withdraw from Iraq, and the inevitiable
exposure to danger that troops would have in a more anarchist
on-the-ground environment, this begs credibility for me. It’s like
saying the British Government encouraged sectarianism to justify
controlling Northern Ireland. Possibly, but hardly likely; witness the
willing draw down of military and security infrastructure since the
ceasefires.

Yesterday’s news spotlights the challenge and cost of failure of a
consensus in Iraq: a downward spiral towards ever escalating, crude
sectarian violence.

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