The lifting of the United Nations’ Chapter 7 sanctions against Iraq is receiving mixed reaction among Iraqis, with some welcoming the move and others worried about its impact, given existing ethnic, sectarian and political tensions.
Minorities have been especially concerned, apprehensive that the Iraqi government — without a leash – could turn into yet another threat, paving the way to renewed dictatorship.
Labeed Abbawy, Iraq’s former deputy foreign minister, believes that the move will enhance Iraq’s diplomatic and political ties.
“Iraq can now have normal relations and sign all sorts of treaties with other countries of the world,” says Abbawy. “We were not getting invitations from the international conferences and some countries would even deny visa to our Iraqi diplomats,” he explains.
Amir Hassan Fayaz, head of the political science department at Nahrein College, believes that the lifting of sanctions will have both negative and positive consequences.
“The positive effects will be Iraq’s ability to use the oil revenues freely, because now part of Iraq’s oil revenues goes to Kuwait as reparations for the (1990) invasion and the rest goes to Iraq’s reconstruction fund.
“Iraq will become a normal country again and will be dealt with as a sovereign state,” he adds. Among the negative effects, he says: “Now all the countries that Iraq is indebted to can ask for payment.”
The Iraqi National Movement (al-Iraqiya), a coalition representing Sunni Arabs in Iraq, says that worries are understood, but the sanctions had to go.
“Although there are fears that lifting the restrictions will free the hands of the Iraqi government against the minorities, this is not an excuse for keeping the imposed sanctions on Iraq,” says Haydar Mulla, an al-Iraqiya MP. He says that the lifting of sanctions has been the wish of all Iraqis.
For the Kurds, the important question is how Iraq will deal with the Kurdistan Region after the lifting of sanctions. Will it use dialogue or military force in solving the issues with Kurdistan Region?
“The lifting of sanctions will allow the Iraqi army to purchase advanced weapons, we should all work on ending those sanctions,” says Sarwar Qadir, a military expert. “The Iraqi army is the army of all the Iraqis, and purchasing heavy and advanced weapons will not threaten the Kurdistan Region,” he believes.
Dindar Zebari, special representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the UN, believes that lifting the sanctions does not mean Iraq is no longer under the observation of the international community.
“Iraq will remain under observation and it has to respect the role of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI),” says Zebari, who adds, “Iraq is still not a stable country so the UN delegation will keep its presence there.”
Contrary to current belief, Zebari thinks that lifting the sanctions on Iraq will not slow down the economic, political, and diplomatic activities in the Kurdistan Region.
Peshraw Hamajan, political science lecturer at Sulaimani University, says that Kurdish fears over the lifting of sanctions are valid, since Erbil’s diplomatic ties are restricted by the Iraqi constitution. He shares the widespread Kurdish distrust of the Shiite Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
“No doubt Maliki and his government will regain full sovereignty and independence,” he says. “All the frozen Iraqi assets will be freed, with which the Iraqi government can buy heavy weapons and sign military treaties.”
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who is an ethnic Kurd, said that from now on Iraq is a free country, and that it will be debt-free by 2015.
In a speech after the lifting of sanctions, Maliki said that, “Iraq has become a free country and the burden of the restrictions that were implicated by the previous dictator regime are lifted.”