We are continuing our series of a featured article from the sidebar of What Others are Writing Section on the Homepage. Once again, there were several candidates for today’s feature with these centered around the continuing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan that we previously discussed here. Both Unholy Alliances – Armenia Surrounded – Small Wars Journal and Russia to ‘assist’ Armenia if conflict with Azerbaijan spreads beyond Nagorno-Karabakh – DW are really good and definitely worth your time as are so many other articles that we linked too. So if you haven’t already done so, head over to the front page and check out some of the other candidates for today’s post!
Today we are featuring: Al Monitor’s – Iraq’s western Anbar province getting back on its feet, eyeing autonomy. The future of Iraq will always catch my interest and this headline was a bit eye popping to say the least. We have always accepted that there would be some autonomy in the Northern, Kurdish Regions but in Anbar? Honestly, this might be a reflection of how catastrophic the Maliki Government’s heavy handedness partially lead to the rise of ISIS there. Before we dive into the article a little about Al Monitor itself. I found this site while researching the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict and have made it a daily stop ever since. You can read their entire Mission Statement here, the following is a portion:
Al-Monitor’s mission is to foster a deeper understanding between the Middle East and the international community by diving deep with analytical pieces from some of the most trusted, independent authors from across the globe.
Our team represents a diverse set of perspectives and Al-Monitor provides a unique, multilingual platform that amplifies their insights to allow us to uncover the trends that are shaping the future of the Middle East.
Founded in 2012:
Al-Monitor features unmatched reporting and analysis by prominent journalists and experts from the Middle East and North Africa, through our reporting and analysis on Egypt, the Gulf, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, North Africa, Palestine, Syria and Turkey. Our Washington and Russia coverage looks at how policies from Washington and Russia impact the MENA region.
It truly is a daily must-read for the Middle East.
Three years after the last city held by the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq fell to Iraqi troops with the help of international coalition support, a bleak economic situation with low oil prices and continuing regional instability have for the most part blighted hopes for the rapid reconstruction of areas severely damaged by IS or during the fighting to defeat it.
Why this is important
I believe this is important because, absent an absolute dictator, some level of autonomy and federalism is probably the only way Iraq will stay together. In my opinion, there are too many ethnic groups that have long standing disputes to hold Iraq together without the autonomy of states within a larger Iraq which will be required to confront the next-door challenge of Syria, Iran and the potential for a resurgent ISIS that will continue to try to establish a caliphate there.
A semi-autonomous Anbar is a real thing, Kittleson’s report continues:
Talk of creating a Sunni federal region has recently been heard again in political circles, an option allowed by Article 119 of the Iraqi Constitution if the move were to be approved by one-third of the provincial council and one-tenth of the electorate, as US forces continue to draw down and locals are concerned about undue influence by Iran when and if they leave entirely at some point.
That this idea has made it this far is important for the people and the region.
In recent years, the Kurdish and Sunni populations have often been seen as closer allies for the United States in Iraq than the Shiite component, part of which has longstanding ties with Iran and involvement in armed groups that regularly attack Western embassies, logistics convoys and military facilities.
Prominent Sunni lawmaker Mohammed al-Karbouli told this journalist in an interview in January in Baghdad that an autonomous Sunni region “could be a way to rebuild the country,” noting that Anbar is rich in untapped resources.
And there is positive news out of the region also:
Sunni tribal leader and Anbar native Sheikh Hamid al-Hayis told Al-Monitor via WhatsApp Oct. 12 that security in the region was mostly good. He noted the rehabilitation of the Haditha oil refinery also in western Anbar, which he said had been completed the previous week, as a sign of progress and a potential spur for further growth.
On Oct. 25, an engineer working on another bridge some 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of Rutba was reportedly kidnapped. Media outlets noted that such an occurrence, once very common, has this year been rarely seen in Anbar province due to the improved security situation.
Local officials and dignitaries have long warned that without significant reconstruction efforts and increased employment, Anbari youth may be at risk of recruitment by insurgent and terrorist groups.
Again, I don’t want to copy the entire article and you really should read the whole thing, I highly recommend it but I will leave you on another positive note from the reports final paragraph:
With many bridges now fully rehabilitated and other infrastructure works underway, Anbar’s residents hope that the province will see enough investment to provide jobs for its youth and may also look into the possibility of forming that long-discussed Sunni autonomous region.