Huffpost Homepage

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Raed Jarrar Headshot

Iraq's About Politics, Not Sectarianism

Posted: Updated:

A few weeks ago, the Washington Post reported that the administration was considering what some call an "80% solution" to solve the problems in Iraq. In essence, the solution would be designed to work with the Shia Iraqis who make up 60% of the population and the Kurds who make up 20%. It would exclude the Iraqi Sunni Arabs that make up the remaining 20% of the population.

However, this won't work. There are new, mixed Iraqi coalitions emerging, which makes the Iraqi political map more complicated and mixed than this solution provides for.

Background of the issue

The approach of the United States in dealing with Iraqis is, and has been, based on such sectarian and ethnic divisions. The Governing Council, created by Paul Bremer in July 2003, whose 25 members were chosen by the U.S. led coalition to represent their sects. This was the first time in Iraq's contemporary history where leaders of the country were selected based on them having been identified as members of a particular sectarian group. The Governing Council was a failure - at least in part because of the sectarian makeup and, as one member said of it, the Council's propensity to "sit in the council while the country is burning and argue over procedure.''

Furthermore, the U.S administration -- followed by the mainstream media -- did their best to portray the growing Iraqi-Iraqi conflict as a sectarian or religious one with roots that pre-dated the occupation even though many Iraqi analysts and politicians disagreed with that perception and believe the current conflict is based on political, not religious, motives.

The real problem

As new coalitions emerge inside the Iraqi government, it seems that the background of "sectarian conflict" put forth by the U.S. is collapsing completely. A number of Shia groups such as the Al-Sadr movement and the Al-Fadila party are working with Sunni, Kurdish and secular parties both within and outside the Iraqi government and are attempting to establish a national front that is against the occupation and is for unity in Iraq.

While these pro-unity groups coalesce, the Bush administration is lending its support to another pro-occupation coalition that may include Al-Hakim of the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution In Iraq (SCIRI), the two main Kurdish parties, and the Islamic party which is a Sunni party led by the Iraqi vice president, Tariq Al-Hashimi.


The newly formed coalitions prove sectarianism is not at the root of the conflict in Iraq. Sectarian and religious differences are not splitting the country. Thus, it's clear that the "80% solution" will have no impact and will not work, nor will any other sectarian-based response.

The main issue that is splitting Iraqis is the presence of the occupation, and that's why
more than 87% of the Iraqi people, and a majority of the country's politicians, believe that the first step in dealing with the Iraqi-Iraqi conflict is pulling out the U.S. and coalition troops and ending the occupation.


Written in collaboration with Jennifer Hicks