Since the establishment of modern Iraq in 1921, its provinces have had different positions toward decentralization as a result of the country’s ethnic and cultural diversity.
In addition, economic resources have varied widely from one region to another. At the end of 2014, Iraqis were once again discussing the possibilities of decentralization.
Perhaps the oldest demand for decentralization was raised even before the establishment of modern Iraq, when a prestigious group of men presented a petition signed by 4,500 people to the British High Commissioner in June 1921 demanding the administrative independence of Basra province.
The rationale behind the petition was based on the economic and social characteristics of Basra, such as its having a seaport and economic vibrancy. Iraqi politicians and British decision-makers never welcomed the petition, despite constant demands until 1928 that they consider it.
Other federalism or disassociation plans, such as for the Kurds and Assyrians, were also tamped down by the strengthening of the Iraqi state. The central government in Baghdad, however, failed to please certain segments of the society with its management of the country, so demands for disassociation continued until the Baathist regime was overthrown in 2003.
The idea of regional federal governments within a united Iraq was suggested during negotiations between the political blocs while drafting the current constitution, which defines Iraq’s republic as a federal state. According to Article 117, “This constitution, upon coming into force, shall recognize the region of Kurdistan, along with its existing authorities, as a federal region,” and according to Article 120, “Each region shall adopt a constitution of its own that defines the structure of powers of the region, its authorities, and the mechanisms for exercising such authorities, provided that it does not contradict this constitution.”