Iraq’s political process was unraveling faster than had been anticipated Saturday, with Sunni politicians walking out of the nation’s parliament and threatening to resign from the government even before the last U.S. troops had left the country.Now that the U.S. is leaving, it is payback time.
The crisis was triggered by reports that security forces loyal to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, are planning to arrest the country’s Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, and charge him with terrorism.
Those reports have fueled fears among Sunni politicians that Maliki intends to further consolidate his grip on power by moving against his rivals now that U.S. troops have gone. In recent days, the homes of top Sunni politicians in the fortified Green Zone have been ringed by tanks and armored personnel carriers, and rumors are flying that arrest warrants will be issued for other Sunni leaders.
If I were to give a prediction of a major strategic trend, it is that the national borders artificially drawn by the European colonial powers are breaking down as tribal, ethnic, and religious affiliations begin to reassert themselves. There are two results to this: (1) national and provincial borders will revert to more natural borders, and/or we'll see an increase in "autonomous" zones; and (2) incidents of genocide will increase as smaller minority populations are simply exterminated or forced to leave (think of the Jewish and Christian populations in Iraq, which have all but disappeared in the past 10 years; or the Copts in Egypt), and fights break out between larger groups for control of territory.
This is bad news for Afghanistan and Pakistan which are home to various tribal groups that hate each other. Certainly, the Pashtun tribes of Afghanistan and Pakistan will continue to fight against the "central" governments of those respective countries. All of our "nation building" efforts will ultimately be for naught because the people are too infantile, in a political sense, to tolerate sharing power and rights with other tribes or groups.
This is also bad news for Iraq and Turkey. The Sunnis and Shiites will continue to kill each other, while the Kurds continue strengthening their position as a semi-autonomous region and, possibly, finally seek full independence from Iraq. Either way, successes by the Kurds in Iraq will fuel continued demands for independence from the Kurds living in Turkey.
The only way that this trend will reverse itself would be through a strong, charismatic leader to emerge in the Middle-East that can wield both political and religious authority.