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Old 03-22-2010   #19
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Rachel Schneller at Jamestown Foundation, February 26, 2010, No Place Like Home: Iraq’s Refugee Crisis Threatens the Future of Iraq

Demographic Warfare

The dynamic of Iraqi IDPs and refugees since 2006 has altered the demographic fabric of Iraq. The country in 2010 looks vastly different than it did before the Coalition invasion and the Samarra mosque bombing. Previously mixed Shi’a-Sunni neighborhoods are now almost entirely homogenous. Northern territories which used to house Kurds, Arabs, Turkomen, and other ethnicities are now less diverse, with Kurds claiming more area for the independent Kurdish region through tactics intended to chase away minorities.

One result may be greater regional stability, as ethnically homogenous populations more readily agree on social and political goals. Regional stability, however, will come at the cost of decreased national stability and greater fragility in relations between Iraq and its neighbors.

A homogenous Kurdish area will have less incentive to engage with Arabic-speaking areas of Iraq. A homogenous Shi’a region will have little incentive to listen to Sunni concerns, let alone make concessions to them. Ten years ago, many areas of Iraq were home to mixed populations of Kurds, Shi’a and Sunni who made the necessary political compromises to co-exist peacefully. The population displacement that has occurred in Iraq, however, has exacerbated sectarian and ethnic tensions and greatly decreased incentives for negotiation and compromise.

As demographically homogenous regions become stronger and more unified in their aspirations, the central government will become less capable of unifying the nation. Already, provincial governments have become more capable at exacting monetary tribute from the weak national government. In 2009, Baghdad bowed to Basra and the Kurdish Regional Government, according them one dollar per barrel of oil produced or refined. For each religious visitor, Najaf will receive a fee from the national government. National unity achieved through buying off provincial governments is tenuous, dependent on unstable oil prices in Iraq and a government struggling with corruption and inefficiency.

A national Iraqi census envisioned for late 2010 will reveal the extent to which the country has become divided (Aswat al-Iraq, August 31, 2009). This census is likely to be controversial, fraught with implementation challenges and marking a new phase of instability in Iraq. Determining the status of disputed territories such as Kirkuk will be linked to completing a census, which will reveal the demographic make-up of these highly sensitive areas. National elections slated for March 7 will also expose the extent to which Iraq has changed demographically since the 2005 elections, likely triggering further sectarian violence.
Aswat al-Iraq website, and description

Al Sabah

MEMRI (Middle East Research Institute) website, and description
Sapere Aude
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