Reconciliation Strategies in Iraq

A window of opportunity now exists for post-conflict reconstruction in Iraq despite the resurgence of violence in the spring of 2008. The creation of Sunni Awakening Councils, the ongoing presence of sufficient U.S. troops, and the decrease in combat activity by the Mahdi Army provide a real, though tenuous, opportunity to continue building on the gains of the past year…In all societies emerging from conflict, reconciliation efforts are the glue that holds the post-conflict reconstruction process together. Reconciliation must be pursued not only on national but also on local levels and not only in the political but also in the social domain. At all points within a society, people and groups must be encouraged to work together constructively for the common good. Reconciliation in Iraq must be approached with sensitivity to its shame-oriented culture, which emphasizes community, authority, honor, and hospitality. Reconciliation must also be approached with an awareness of the importance of primary identity markers-religion, ethnicity, tribe, and family-and the possibilities for creating bonds based on secondary markers-class, profession, internally displaced persons (IDP) status, and so forth.