Iraq never was a real country.
It was a post-World War I construct arbitrarily fashioned out of three pre-existing Ottoman provinces by a League of Nations mandate.
Before 1921, when the British imposed Hashemite King Faisal I (imported from nearby Syria) as its figurehead potentate for the territory, no one had even conceived of Iraq as a nation state.
And when London – fed up with the warring tribes in the region and overwhelmed by the high costs of trying to maintain peace among the sparring indigenous factions – finally decided to grant conditional independence to the kingdom in 1932, it was a maneuver by Britain to keep its strategic military bases without having to finance its puppet’s profligate extravagances.
The people of Iraq are, in fact, three people: a Shi’ite population in the south, a Kurdish population in the north, and an indulged Sunni minority (less than 20 percent of the country’s total population) in the central region that brought to power the likes of the Ba’athist Party and Saddam Hussein.
None of these three populations can stomach the other two, which means that they have always been at war with one another.
And because there has never been an organic homogeneity to Iraq’s population, there has never been a sense of national identity or an ethnic cohesion.
Consequently, in order to maintain power and try to unite an un-unifiable state, Iraq’s leaders have consistently and unrepentantly resorted to repression, brutality and heavy-handed tactics (lest we forget, the Iraqi government had no qualms about using chemical weapons against Iran in the 1980s and mustard and nerve gas against its own Kurdish communities in 1988).
Moreover, in many senses, Iraq represents the sectarian dividing line between the Sunnis and Shi’ites, a deep-rooted religious schism that dates back to the year 632 and which is at the crux of the eternal militarized pissing contest between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
And since the second U.S troop pullout three years ago, Iraq has become a virtual black-hole power vacuum that has sucked in both homegrown and imported sectarian groups that are fighting to control the country’s vast oil reserves.
Corruption, graft and financial malfeasance in Iraq are endemic and rampant. The global civil watchdog Transparency International has ranked Iraq the sixth-most corrupt country on Earth, right behind North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan and South Sudan.
And as for democracy, it is an alien concept in Iraq, because it is geometrically opposed to the central values of the fundamental Islamic religious practices that permeate virtual every aspect of life in the country.
Trying to impose democracy in Iraq from outside is futile. It simply will not work.
Today, Iraq is a breeding and training ground for jihadist extremists, including the Islamic State group.
Meanwhile, Iran and its Shi’ite militias (sadly, the best defense against the IS at the moment) are slowly gaining ground in parts of Iraq as the West looks on complacently, hoping that the recent Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal with Tehran will make the Islamic Republic less adversarial.
Europe and the United States are also courting the Kurds, treating the Iraqi north as a de facto autonomous region and indiscriminately supplying Peshmerga soldiers with guns and ammunition to fight off the Islamic State (and any other enemies they might care to attack), thus intensifying already-taut ethnic divisions and tensions.
All of this is only exacerbating the climate of hostilities in a dysfunctional country that seems to be caught in an endless spiral of violence and bloodshed and is turning it into an even more volatile powder keg.
There does not seem to be a viable path to creating a stable Iraqi nation.
Iraq never really existed and perhaps it never should have.
The only solution is to accept the inevitable and let Iraq splinter into three separate nations, which hopefully, in the context of a global community, can finally learn to coexist with one another.
Thérèse Margolis can be contacted at [email protected]