The de-Baathification and complete dismantling of the existing political, military, academic, and civil services institutions by the US and their local allies has condemned the country's political and economic growth for the foreseaable future.
On the 15th anniversary since the United States led an illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, one does not need a crystal ball to see what the future holds for the country.
For a decade and a half, the country has been beset by terrorism, brutality and violence. Sectarianism and ethnic nationalist trends have become the norm.
The Iraqi national identity has been gradually eroded, leading the country’s best and brightest to leave and enrich other countries rather than their own that had abandoned them.
With corruption, nepotism and violence holding sway over Iraq since it was “liberated”, it seems clear that the war-torn country will not be able to find a way out of this quagmire until its ruling elites are cast out.
The ‘de-Baathification’ witch hunt
Iraq’s history since the early 20th century is perhaps best illustrated by how power tends to transition from one group to another. From the birth of modern Iraq until today, the country has seen no less than 12 major revolts while the army conducted four coups, showing that wielding power in the country is rarely a peaceful endeavour.
The most recent government to be overthrown through violence was that of former dictator Saddam Hussein, who was ousted by the United States and their allies, and the man himself was executed by the new American and Iranian-sponsored Shia government.
In 2003, and under American tutelage, the new kings of Baghdad began a process of attempting to purge every last vestige of Saddam’s influence from any future Iraqi state.
This process was given a deliberately vague title in order to marry up with the stated US objective of removing Saddam and his Baath Party completely from Iraq in order to facilitate a new democratic process. This sounded good in theory, but in practice it was a total disaster for Iraq.
There are many kinds of Baathists, and this vague policy was designed to empower the new governors of Iraq to remove anyone they did not like from their jobs and from any possible position of influence.
Many Iraqis were members of the Baath Party, simply because that was the mechanism through which one was promoted through the civil service, the military, police, academia and many other organisations under Baathist rule. They were not necessarily ideological Baathists, but simply wanted to improve their career prospects and the prospects of their family and loved ones.
Naturally, the de-Baathification process turned into a veritable witch hunt.
As the newly enthroned power holders, Iranian-aligned Shia, such as the ruling Dawa Party, proceeded to target Sunni and Shia alike who would not play ball with the new order.
Tens of thousands were expelled from their jobs, and a functioning Iraqi civil service simply crumbled away.
The same happened to the military, police and security services, freeing up jobs for extremist militias to start wearing state-issued uniforms and the beginning of a great shift from institutions that served the nation to ones that served the interests of groups such as the sectarian and pro-Iran Badr Organisation that now controls the interior ministry.
It bears a similarity to how the Zionist Haganah terrorist organisation was absorbed, and formed the core of the newly created Israeli Defence Forces in 1948.
The army itself was completely disbanded by then-US governor Paul Bremer with the agreement of almost all of the Kurd and Shia dominated Iraqi Governing Council, leaving hundreds of thousands of soldiers unemployed.
The army was replaced by a new, inexperienced force of corrupt officers with political ambitions and agendas. This led to the now exposed Iraqi ghost soldiers scandal, where tens of thousands of absentee soldiers were having their paycheques cashed by corrupt officers, and this during a war with an existential threat such as ISIS (Daesh).
Those who escaped de-Baathification process were pro-Iranian, such as senior special forces commander Sabah al Fatlawi, and his sister, MP Hanan al-Fatlawi, a close aide to former Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, who were confirmed as members by the Baathists themselves.
Is a 'de-Dawafication' necessary?
Post-2003 Iraq’s “normal” is of course not normal by any stretch, and eventually something has to give way.
The rampant sectarianism cannot last, the ineptitude of the government and Iraqi politicians will eventually lead to palpable popular fury, and the influence of Iran will one day diminish.
Many Iraqi Shia will not want to play second fiddle to Iranian ayatollahs, and Iraqi Shia fighting Iranian theocrats is nothing new – many of the soldiers who fought in the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s were from that demographic.
On that day, all eyes will turn to those who will be perceived as having run the country into the ground, tortured and killed countless Iraqis, and collaborated with foreign powers in the most treasonous of ways.
In other words, all eyes will turn to the Dawa Party.
The Dawa Party, whilst not alone in its sectarianism, has the lion’s share of the blame for the catastrophe that is Iraq today.
The Iraqi intelligentsia has all but vanished, creating a brain drain where before Iraq was the leading Arab country in terms of educated academics.
The Iraqi economy does not inspire confidence, and international investment is hard to come by. Security is non-existent, and basic services such as sanitation, drainage and clean water are considered luxuries rather than par for the course. Of course, mismanagement and bad governance are not the most shocking of all the crimes attributed to them.
The Dawa Party has presided over state-sponsored terrorism by supporting militias who slaughter Sunnis, murdered Shia who spoke against the government, and are complicit in causing Iraqi women to be victims of sexual violence.
After all of the Dawa Party’s heinous crimes against the Iraqi people, we can certainly expect a de-Dawafication process to occur in Iraq in the future, and perhaps some of their leadership will follow in Saddam Hussein’s footsteps.
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.
We welcome all pitches and submissions to TRT World Opinion – please send them via email, to email@example.com