In Iraq, Regionalism Another Casualty of Islamic State

In Iraq, Regionalism Another Casualty of Islamic State
Residents chant slogans supporting the creation of Basra region, in front of the Basra provincial headquarters, Basra, Iraq, Sept. 27, 2014 (AP photo by Nabil al-Jurani).

The Iraqi government agreed Tuesday to a long-term oil wealth sharing deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). In an email interview, Kirk Sowell, a political risk analyst who is the publisher of the biweekly newsletter Inside Iraqi Politics, discussed regionalism in Iraq.

WPR: What are the main non-Kurdish regional movements (i.e., potential autonomous regions) in Iraq, and what grievances are driving their regional aspirations?

Kirk Sowell: There are three. The first, chronologically speaking, is what might be called the “southernist tendency,” which has existed in two variants. One focused on Basra province, and another on combining Basra with the other southern oil producers, Maysan and Dhi Qar provinces. These were driven by a feeling of material deprivation, despite the wealth these provinces produce. The second is the Sunni Arab autonomy movement, driven by the abuses of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, in particular illegal arrests. It started in Salah al-Din and Diyala provinces in late 2011 and made a second push through the Sunni protest movement of 2013. The third, newer tendency might be called “Sumerism,” and is essentially a Shiite effort to break the south and the center away from the Sunni Arabs and just have a state from the city of Samarra southward.

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