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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 March 2007, 15:12 GMT
Political healing vital for Iraq
By Magdi Abdelhadi
Arab Affairs analyst, BBC News

Iraqi men amid bomb debris
The allocation of posts on a sectarian basis has fuelled the violence
The new US commander in Iraq, Gen David Petraeus, has warned that there can be no military solution to Iraq's problems.

Gen Petraeus said political reconciliation was vital if the insurgency was to be ended.

But a political solution may prove just as difficult as quelling the violence.

Gen Petraeus's remarks confirm what many have been saying for some time now - that there can be no end to the violence in Iraq without political reconciliation between Iraq's fractious political groups.

But as Ali Allawi, a senior adviser to the Iraqi prime minister, told the BBC, an end to politically motivated violence may prove difficult to achieve without engaging Iraq's neighbours.

If you in fact reject ethnic, or sectarian-based politics, then you have to have a formula whereby the domestic equilibrium is reflected by a regional equilibrium
Ali Allawi, senior adviser to the Iraqi prime minister

"You can't really have a Shiite-dominated Iraq that is at peace with its Sunni Arab neighbours," he said.

"There has to be some kind of equilibrium established between the internal domestic situation and the regional situation. Without that happening, I think we'll have a great deal of instability."

Mr Allawi said that stability could be achieved by engaging every country in the region that had "felt threatened or that has felt its own existence being at stake in terms of the change or the up-ending of the order in Iraq".

"If you in fact reject ethnic, or sectarian-based politics, then you have to have a formula whereby the domestic equilibrium is reflected by a regional equilibrium," he said.

Old enmities

There is also a growing awareness in Iraq that the allocation of political posts on a sectarian basis has fuelled the violence and aggravated divisions within Iraqi society.

On Wednesday, one of the factions making up the powerful Shia alliance that dominated the Iraqi parliament announced it was pulling out of the coalition.

The Fadhila party said it wanted to see an end to sectarian-based politics - a view shared by many Sunni parties and the secular alliance led by the former prime minister, Ayad Allawi, as well as many of Iraq's Sunni Arab neighbours.

But an alternative coalition along national rather than sectarian lines may prove to difficult to put together.

Persuading the Kurds to sit together with their erstwhile enemies among the Sunni Arab nationalists will not be easy.

For the time being Iraqis are likely pin their hopes on efforts to persuade their neighbours to support the new political order in their country.




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