A very interesting piece published on al-Monitor’s website today argues that Turkey has overestimated its ability to facilitate a Sunni Arab-Kurdish partnership capable of advancing Turkish interests in Baghdad.
Interestingly, the piece credits Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for playing up Iraqi-Arab nationalist sentiments among Iraqi Sunnis to rally them against Kurdish and Turkish influence. The author states that Maliki “has already reversed some anti-Ba’athification laws in Mosul and other Sunni Arab strongholds, appeased key Sunni Arab tribal leaders and formed Sunni Arab military units to defend Iraqi territory.” This is a fascinating development as it is practically a carbon copy of Saddam Hussein’s approach to Iraqi Shiites during the Iran-Iraq war. Many expected, including Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, that Iraq’s Shiites would rally around the new Islamic Republic of Iran and fight against their own countrymen. This of course did not happen, at least in any meaningful numbers, and the war ground on for eight years.
So, is nationalism a stronger force than sectarianism? Why would Sunni and Shiite Iraqis feel compelled to stand up for Iraq at the same time sectarian fighting wages around them?