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Iraq's flagging unity effort
A Times Editorial
Published January 25, 2008
These are among the issues Iraqi lawmakers have yet to resolve: minority rights, security, the division of oil wealth and the integration of the provinces into a federal state. With such a full plate, and an American public calling for U.S. troops to come home, one would think the Iraqi Parliament had bigger things to do than haggle over the Iraqi flag. That it doesn't shows how far Iraq still is divided along ethnic lines.
Parliament removed three stars from the flag, symbols of former dictator Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. It also went with a red, white and black color scheme. But the move hardly signaled a fresh start. It was meant to appease the Kurds, who insisted on removing any vestiges of the Hussein era, and who threatened not to fly the flag at an upcoming Arab conference in the semiautonomous Kurdish north.
Flags are important national symbols. The issue here is not that the design is unimportant, but that it took four years to get to a point where blackmail determined the look of Iraq's national symbol.
The whole point of the U.S. troop surge was to improve security conditions in Iraq enough to give its leaders the confidence to work toward political reconciliation. But American troops are dying as Iraqis debate a color scheme. The flag's design is not even permanent, and opponents have vowed to take another crack next year. Meanwhile the political process is stalled. So are talks over next year's budget. Iraq has a flag - but also now another source of recrimination. That is not much to wave a banner about.