News You Really Need To See: “Iraqi Sunnis Reject Minority Role, Hindering Political Solution”

“Iraqi Sunnis Reject Minority Role, Hindering Political Solution”

The Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2015, p.A6

“Ask anyone in Baghdad’s Sunni Muslim neighborhood of Aadhamiye about life under Iraq’s Shiite majority, and you’re likely to get a puzzled reply: ‘What Shiite majority?’ … That is a common refrain, heard from ordinary Sunnis and the community’s most senior politicians alike.  And that is what really makes the Iraqi crisis—which spawned the Sunni militant group Islamic State, with all its atrocities—so intractable.   A minority that dominated or ruled Iraq for centuries until the U.S. invasion brought Shiites to power 12 years ago, Iraq’s Sunni Arabs aren’t just refusing to accept their loss of status.  They also, by and large, reject the basic demographic reality on which any feasible power-sharing deal could be built. … Nobody knows for sure how Iraq’s population is divided between its three main components: the Arab Shiites, the Arab Sunnis, and the predominantly Sunni Kurds, who control an autonomous region in the north.  The political implications of this question have repeatedly scuttled plans to hold a census after Saddam’s downfall.  The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency estimates that 60% to 65% of Iraqis are Shiite, with the remainder split more or less evenly between Sunni Arabs and Kurds.  Only three of Iraq’s 18 provinces are solidly Sunni Arab and Shiite politicians also estimate that Sunni Arabs account for between 15% and 20% of the population of 35 million.  Iraq’s Sunni leaders, of course, dismiss all these numbers as a conspiracy against their community.  One of the country’s main Sunni politicians, Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi, points to data from the latest census, carried out by the Saddam regime in 1987, as the right basis for sharing power in Baghdad.  Those figures, dismissed by Shiites as doctored, show Sunni Arabs at 38% of the population and Shiite Arabs at 42%.”

Quickie analysis:  Welcome to the Middle East, where the facts are, always, in dispute.

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