As Iraqi elections loom Open Discussions in association with Gulf Cultural Club hosted a seminar at Abrar House in London exploring the reverberations of war in Iraq, which continues even after fifteen years. Iraq is a land blessed with the presence of the Holy Ahlylbayt (as) – the shrines themselves stand as a monument to humanitarianism and justice par excellence. The Holy Imams presided over the dream of a just society and personified the struggle to establish it both as an oppressed opposition to corrupt tyrantsand at times as rulers of a hopeful populace. All of them were martyred doing this.
Fifteen years is a reasonable time for a modern state to start building itself. Iraq was devastated by successive wars, the last of which was carried out by Anglo-American alliance in 2003 on false pretentions. The Iraqi people suffered immensely as their country was ravaged by the aftermath of that destructive military intervention. Members at the seminar argued that “for one and a half decades Iraq became a hotbed for terrorism, sectarianism, corruption and lawlessness. It even faced the spectre of fragmentation along ethnic and sectarian fault lines.” Speakers debated whether Iraq can rise again from the ashes and how it could achieve this ‘phoenix from the fire’ feat; given the monumental scale and range of external forces now involved in shaping its future.
Exon Mobil and other transnational corporations have already shared out the oil and gas deals on offer, while the rise and apparent fall of ISIS and Al Qaeda affilates along with the curbing of their alleged masters – the US military. The continued presence of these external Western players in Iraq poses a thinly veiled threat and linger ominously. Their insistence on protecting their hold over regional energy resources hangs over the fragile Iraqi democracy like a dagger on a string. Some speakers suggested that endemic political and economic corruption remains rife in Iraq; and now with Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s Saudi regional expansionism agenda also overtly stretching its petro dollar reach into Baghdad itself, through the likes of Muqtada Sadr, it means the likelihood of further intra Iraqi conflict will rise considerably as the Saudi’s attempt to sideline Iran’s support and friendship. That certainly will not be easy given Iran is Iraq’s second largest trading partner.
Iran has of course invested in building strong political cultural and spiritual ties in the country and has arguably both outmanouvered a lot of the US plans to totally dominate the Iraqi nation and also helped to save them from being overrun by ISIS and the former Ba’athist rulers. The Hashb e Shehabi, raised by the fatwa of Grand Ayatollah Sistani and trained no doubt by the IRGC, have now been incorporated into the regular Iraqi army cteating a more robust Iraqi armed force. Yet the threat of takfirism remains palpable with intermittent terror attacks still being carried out with a likelihood of thos continuing for the foreseeable future.
The panel also addressed the importance of the forthcoming elections which will be a pointer to the extent of Iraq’s revival and the extent of its resilience and desire to live in peace with itself. The panel agreed that “while the internal cohesion will remain a challenge, the foreign policy and the ethics of modern statehood will continue to cause internal discord and external challenge.”
Chair Shabbir Razvi said ” it is time for reflection on Mesopotamia, its cultural riches and intrinsic problems.” Speakers at the event included Zuhair Al-Naher who is involved in strategic economic projects in Iraq. He was an adviser to the first government headed by Dr Ibrahim Al Jaffari. Then he became head of international relations office of the Islamic Da’wa Party under the second government of Nouri Al Maliki. He was also spokesperson for the Party. He is a dentist by profession having practiced for twenty years in UK. Joining him was also Dr Kamil Mahdi; an experienced analyst of Middle Eastern politics and economics, in particular the political economy of oil-exporting countries. Mahdi is secretary of the International Association of Contemporary Iraqi Studies, researching Iraq’s economy, politics and modern history including the politics and economics of sanctions, conflict and occupation.
Also attending was Karen Dabrowska – a freelance journalist focusing on the Middle East and Islamic Affairs. She is the author of three tourist guides to Iraq published by Bradt Travel Publishers the most recent being Iraq: the ancient sites and Iraqi Kurdistan. Before the 2003 war she published many articles about the activities of the Iraqi opposition and is now completing a biography of Mohammed Makiya an Iraqi architect who combined classic Islamic architecture and modern building techniques. On the speaker panel was also Zayd Alisa, a political analyst and a writer on Middle East affairs with numerous appearances on various TV channels, including BBC and France 24.
The Iraqi people who have endured so much over the last half a century and more have a monumental task in continuing the task of rebuilding a broken nation. The incoming government has the unenviable tasks of navigating their people through the post-war national psychological trauma, poverty eradication, high unemployment, poor social and educational infrastructures, political corruption, terrorism and the regional geopolitical turmoil.
Faced with this daunting set of challenges and to achieve success in tackling these gargantuan tasks many would say they, perhaps, require most of all the spiritual blessings emanating from the Holy of Ahlulbayt (as) in Sammarra, Kazmayn, Karbala and Najaf. They say p
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