It’s A Brokers’ Market

In commercial markets when the supply exceeds demand by a large amount, a situation exists when the buyers are so empowered that they dictate their terms on the sellers. This situation is called a buyers’ market. And in reverse, when demand exceeds supply it is called a sellers’ market. Iraq now is like a goldmine of conflicts; there are many divisions and plenty of confrontations, each one demands brokerage for reconciliation. The reward for brokerage is gaining political influence, getting business opportunities and market penetration, in other words economic advantage for the broker in the short, medium and long terms. There is so much demand for brokers that the situation could be called a brokers’ market. The brokers’ market scene in Iraq is diverse and strange; there is the U.S., the biggest broker, dictating its brokerage terms sometimes successfully and sometimes not. Then there is Iran who recently brokered a cease-fire between Shia factions and the central government in Basra. And then there are the numerous so-called reconciliation conferences in European, Arab and overseas countries. The hosts of reconciliation conferences try to portray their meetings as charitable mediations but to many Iraqis they are acting like the guest of honor in the feast of the greedy; the motive for profit is all too apparent to hide. Mediation and brokerage should be done inside Iraq and from within the political process, well wisher countries should call for an independent political process rather than join the feast of the greedy.

Consensus is a term often used when describing a political process; it means general agreement over the outcome of a political decision. Most modern democracies reach consensus as part of normal political process, which is regularly based on accurate and frequent population census. Consensus can also be reached without census at times when the decisions discussed are not based on population division or there is no issue over ethnic representation, which is not the situation in Iraq. What difference can a census make to consensus? A lot. Without census the political process is like working in the dark, no firm ground for sharing power, dividing income or planning for the future, a free reign for brokering tenuous deals and an invitation for outside influence and intervention. On the other hand, having census is like having the light; many answers are there to see, when statistics are firm and repeatable they don’t cause an excitement. Deals, arguments and brokerage become unnecessary, political negotiations become the concern of only the voters and their representatives like it should. You could say that difficult consensus and the brokers’ market are two ugly daughters of the lack of census, as well as fraudulent ID’s, tough security and exclusive political process. The one Cinderella in the eyes of backroom politicians is the short-term benefit of pro-US factions; they saw her but not her sisters when they planned a political process without census for Iraq.

Sooner or later there will be census in Iraq, if it is delivered half-baked with added cynicism then it will be the cause of even more discord. It is time the decision makers look at it with seriousness: only a neutral body like the U.N. should decide the criteria and directly supervise the procedure in order to guarantee fairness and guard against tampering.

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