"Iraq's tribal system is vital for national stability"
By Jaber Aljaberi*
+++THE DAILY STAR (Lebanon)
QUOTE:"tribal leaders... struggling and
even fighting to maintain a unified Iraq"
EXCERPTS:In the history of Iraq, presidents and occupying powers alike have sought to minimize or eradicate the role of the tribes. None succeeded. Until 1958 when the monarchy was disbanded, tribal law ruled the land. The Iraqi Republic may have officially cancelled tribal law in 1958, but 50 years later Iraq's tribal system is alive and well and has earned a seat in aregional democracy paradigm. . . . .
Through "Iraqi" agents, neighboring powers managed to convince the coalition forces in Iraq that tribal leaders, Sunnis and Baathists were all synonymous. Thus, the tribes were politically and economically marginalized and prevented from securing their areas. As recently as 2007, tribal leaders and their guards could be arrested for carrying weapons, even in self-defense. This left them vulnerable; insurgents and militias-for-hire stepped in to seal the deal. This scenario played out across Iraq ... ..Once again, tribal leaders are playing a critical role in ..., deflating potential tribal conflict....
We can attribute the success of the tribes to various factors. When the Iraqi nation was bombed, pillaged and neglected, of the two social pillars able to maintain cohesion - religion and tribe - the tribal system proved to be the more effective. Rather than advocating harmony, tolerance and forgiveness, Iraq's religious apparatus became politicized, thereby fostering (but not fueling) sectarian tensions. Tribal leaders, on the otherhand, were struggling even fighting to maintain a unified Iraq. Because in the tribal system decisions are derived by consensus, they are moreeffective and last longer. . . .
Every Iraqi government has tried and failed to disband the tribal system. Today, we have seen that the tribal mechanism (including tribal leaders,tribal law, and tribal judges) has demonstrated its effectiveness and has earned a place in a modern Iraq. It is a system that is based on hundreds of years of experience in resolving disputes and mediating conflict; it is practical, effective, secular and completely tuned in to stakeholder needs with full transparency and accountability. Furthermore, today many tribal leaders, in the past uneducated but knowledgeable and wise, can tout degrees in law, engineering, mathematics and medicine.
We may not see a Jeffersonian democracy in Iraq, but the tribal leaders of Iraq are poised to lead their nation toward an equitable system. It is our hope that one of the lessons learned from the Iraqi experience since 2003 is that the tribal system is a vital component for a stable Iraq and Middle East. It is one area where the West can learn from the East and is the foundation for any sustainable Arab democracy.
*Jaber Aljaberi is president of the Iraq Future Foundation, which works onlocal reconciliation projects in Iraq. This commentary first appeared at bitterlemons-international.org,
Sue Lerner - Associate, IMRA
IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis
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