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Is it Possible to Eliminate Corruption in Sectarian Regimes?
Iraqi protesters run from teargas fired by security forces during an anti-government demonstration in Baghdad on October 25. (AFP via Getty Images)

Is it Possible to Eliminate Corruption in Sectarian Regimes?

Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, October 31

The uprisings we are witnessing in Iraq and Lebanon may very well succeed, but what is clear from the very outset of these demonstrations is the following: Regimes in societies that are torn apart by sectarian tensions are doomed to fail. This is one of my well-established convictions that I have written about extensively in the past: Those who advocate for democratic reforms in societies plagued by deep partisan and sectarian divisions are rushing to put the cart before the horse. Sadly, it is my belief that while many politicians in the Arab world are well-aware of this reality, they rush to pursue the lofty ideas of democratization and liberalization as an excuse to consolidate their own power. If history has taught us anything, it is that the forceful imposition of democracy in environments that are not ready to deal with this type of political culture will inevitably lead to rampant administrative and financial corruption. What applies to Lebanon’s politics also applies to Iraq’s politics, where lawmakers protect themselves from investigations thanks to sectarian immunity. In addition to being plagued by corruption, both Lebanon and Iraq are protected by the guardian state in Iran, where corruption, theft and cronyism are the modus operandi. Iran’s system of clientelism allows Tehran to wield its power in other countries by bribing powerful politicians in return for their support of pro-Iran agendas, even when these agendas undermine the sovereignty and independence of the very states the politicians claim to protect. The only way to ensure the development of societies plagued by sectarian strife is to avoid the pitfall of rapid democratization. Democracy, implemented hastily, will only hold these societies back and create a breeding ground for corruption and theft. – Muhammad Al-Sheikh (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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