"Kurds and some Shiite Arabs have called for a federal system that would formally create separate regions in the predominantly Kurdish north and possibly in the Shiite south. The minority Sunnis, who ruled Iraq for more than eight decades, until Saddam Hussein was deposed, said such a move would mean the breakup of the country." Washpost
Islamic history reflects the patterns of traditional Islamic social structures and even religious discourse. In all these fields the emphasis is on unity, cohesiveness and consensus. Almost nowhere is there any real value placed on the kind of devolution of power or diversity of opinion, or authority implicit in the Western idea of federalism.
"Ta'ifa" (faction) is a word in Arabic that has few positive connotations. It is generally associated with divisiveness, selfish self-interest and the weakness that struggles over the division of power are thought to produce.
The only federal structures that I know of in Arab history are modern and the products of the interaction of British educators and colonial officials with the people of the arabian Peninsula. The first of these was the ill fated "Federation of South Arabia" which was cobbled together by the Brits from a collection of colonies, protectorates, sultanates, etc. when the British were intent on pulling out of Aden. This lasted a short time and then was replaced by a Stalinist regime of British educated Marxists who were not interested in the distribution of power and who, therefore fit nicely into the historiography of the Arabs. The other example is that of the United Arab Emirates, a grouping of princely city-states into a loose federation in which one of the rulers holds the reins as president. I don't think that model will work in Iraq.
Federalism in Iraq? It is a way station on the path to dissolution on the model of Yugoslavia, and that is the way most Arabs see it. pl