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Cantonization: A key concept


December 18, 2007

Harith al-Dhari repeated in an AlJazeera interview on Sunday his warning to the Iraqi tribes about the implications of the so-called awakening movement, summarized as follows at Islamtoday.net and picked up by other Islamist sites: "[T]he war being waged by the American occupation forces and the forces that are called 'awakening against AlQaeda' is tantamount to a war against the Iraqi resistance as a whole".

After repeating other points earlier included in al-Dhari's open letter to the tribes of Iraq, including the point AQI membership being overwhelmingly Iraqi and not foreign, this summary adds:

He invited the tribes of Iraq to not become part of the American plans, which aim at weakening and dismantling Iraq and turning it into Cantons and armed regions.
This emphasis on the idea of an end-result of the American plans, described here as taking the form of "Cantons and armed regions", is an idea that resonates, and not just with the Sunni resistance. For instance, the GreenZone newspaper AlSabaah after telling the story of Barzani's pilgrimage to Najaf to seek Sistani's assistance in the Kirkuk issue, takes the trouble to summarize press-conference remarks of another Shiite authority, Mohammed Jacoubi, spiritual leader of the Fadhila party. The journalist writes:
[Jacoubi said to journalists] the chances of engendering a dictatorship through a federal regime are much greater than the chances of [dictatorship] through a centralized system relying on the ballot-box". He explained: "If we set up a number of federal [entities], there will be diminished chances for the opposing view, because these will be partitioned Cantons, and each Canton will represent a particular point of view", making the point that there would be greater chances of producing dictatorship in a region. And he stressed the importance of having proper policies at the center with decentralizing administration in the governates so as to promote their flourishing and the provision of services to the people.
(When Jacoubi says "diminished chances for the opposing view", he is talking in general about the political process within one of these entities which he conceives as a "partitioned" or closed Canton where presumably the local-patriotism will have the upper hand and multiplicity of views will be discouraged).

The journalist concludes:
Jacoubi thinks a central-government system is the solution for the conflicted problem of Kirkuk. And addressing the journalists, he asked them: Do you see any cases of a problem in a particular governate that can be solved otherwise than by having a strong center that can intervene in a solution? Any number of problems have come up in governates, that the local governments aren't able to solve, even Kurdistan, now subject to the Turkish threats, hasn't been able to solve that problem except by the central government standing with it...
Dhari and Jacoubi, from their different political perspectives, both warn against an end-result of turning Iraq into an array of "partitioned" or "armed" Cantons. Naturally it is a coincidence that these two sets of remarks are reported on the same day. I'm just taking advantage of that coincidence to point out that this anti-Cantonization stance is part and parcel of a nationalist viewpoint that by definition and in fact isn't limited to a particular sect. It comes up in tactical thinking about the implications of the "awakening" movement, and in strategic thinking about federalism. These are two sides of the same nationalist attitude.

The western media strategy in this respect is circular: The likes of Dhari are demonized and the likes of Jacoubi are ignored, so that any corporate-media or big-blog reference to the anti-Cantonization view will--take my word for this--be represented as just another expression of some exotic sectarian position.

:: Article nr. 39340 sent on 19-dec-2007 04:06 ECT


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