Iraq is in need of a "post-sectarian strategy," according to a newly released report by the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs. The institute gathered a panel of Iraqi academics to put together the report, which criticizes the sectarian system put in place in Iraq after 2003 and advocates international -- and American -- engagement with Iraqi nationalism. Here's an excerpt from the executive summary:
The report sets out by questioning the success of the US “surge” in Iraq when it comes to providing long-term stability. It highlights the absence of real political reform as well as the persistence of Iranian influence over the new Iraqi political system as factors that may lead to major regional instability – either if US forces withdraw without facilitating a process of genuine national reconciliation, or if an attempt is made to overstay the withdrawal framework of the SOFA. Today, unless the international community alters its approach, a protracted conflict between an Iran-supported Iraqi government and various insurgency groups (including some with inspiration from al-Qaeda) seems like the most probable five-year scenario for Iraq. As a consequence, the geopolitical point of gravity in the region can be expected to shift towards Tehran, with an accompanying escalation of regional tensions as well as likely disruptions to world energy supply.
The report does two things to deal with this problem: It identifies ways in which the United States and the international community can regain leverage in the Iraq crisis, and it highlights reform measures that can help bring reconciliation in Iraq by focusing on the general population rather than on political opportunists – thereby also making the country more stable in the long term and less susceptible to Iranian influences. By aligning itself with the strong but often underestimated national aspirations of the Iraqi people (instead of the sectarian interests pursued by some Iraqi politicians), the United States would be able to responsibly withdraw its military forces within sixteen months while at the same time supporting a post-sectarian program of political reform.
The report was launched on Tuesday in Washington. Download the 32-page PDF here: NUPI_Iraq_030309.pdf, or scroll through the document below.