Where is Iraq Going? Part II

6: The cause of the breach

What has caused this development? There is no easy answer to this. But the improvement is there and can be briefly explained as follows: Much of the conflict in Iraq in recent years has basically only to a limited extent been about the United States. The bloodiest and most intense part of the war has been the internal conflict between different parts of Iraqi society. As mentioned, one important ingredient of this conflict has been ” sectarianism “.

Ever since 2003, Iraq’s own government, backed by the United States, has been controlled by Shiite and Kurdish political parties for the past four years under Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Together with large parts of Iraq’s new army and police, this government has largely promoted Shiite and Kurdish interests. This has helped to nurture sectarian violence. The war in Iraq has therefore largely been fought between government-controlled Shiite militias and armies, on the one hand, and a number of major rebel groups, on the other, rooted in the Sunni Muslim, Arab part of Iraq.

According to sunglasseswill, this war was largely about control of the capital, Baghdad . And roughly speaking, we can say that this battle has been won by the Shiite militias and the government. The main reason for this is the different power ratio. But there have also been deep divisions internally between the rebel groups in Iraq. Not least between al-Qaeda, which has sought to exploit the situation to advance its global ideological agenda, and purely nationally oriented sections of the insurgency, which ideologically stand far from al-Qaeda.

During 2008, the United States was able to exploit these internal divisions and the military inferiority of the rebel movements. The United States did this by offering guerrilla troops from various parts of the insurgency movement payment, protection as well as control over its own districts and areas of Iraq. The return was that they laid down their arms and ended their own warfare. The result was that several of the largest rebel groups lost many of their soldiers and were weakened. In retrospect, the war has entered a calmer phase.

7: The danger over?

Does this mean the danger is over? No, although the security situation in Iraq is far better today than anyone dared to hope a few years ago, a number of the basic problems have not been resolved. The US strategy has been so-called counterinsurgency, where the goal has been to fight and undermine the uprising, but not to resolve the underlying conflicts and contradictions in Iraqi society. In other words, what is still missing in Iraq is a reconciliation process. The situation has stabilized , but the original contradictions that caused the conflict have not yet been removed.

These underlying contradictions are about several questions. One of them has to do with Iraq’s so-called ” abatement policy “. This policy, which was adopted as early as 2003, means that Iraq’s former ruling Ba’ath party has been declared illegal and that thousands of former members are not allowed to hold public office.

Another important issue is the Kurdish question. The Kurds make up about 20 percent of the Iraqi population and today have significant autonomy in three provinces in the far north of Iraq. The Kurds believe that this autonomy should also include additional areas, including the important oil city of Kirkuk. For Iraq’s Arab majority, this is not acceptable; many want to reduce the degree of Kurdish autonomy, and the issue is still unresolved.

In addition, the rebel movements are not gone. Both the national movement and al-Qaeda in Iraq have weakened, but extensive attacks are still being carried out – often in the middle of Baghdad. In the last six months, for example, there have been three major suicide attacks aimed directly at the Iraqi state apparatus. In each of these attacks, more than a hundred civilians have been killed. The rebels therefore pose a continuing threat to the Iraqi state. Without an internal Iraqi reconciliation process, and an inclusion of the Ba’ath party in politics, there is little indication that this type of attack will cease.

8: The election

In other words, President Obama’s desire to pull the United States out of Iraq is a rather risky political project. As long as the fundamental contradictions in Iraq are not resolved, there is still a danger that the conflict could flare up again. This will be very serious, not only for Iraq, but also for the United States, which in that case will have to shelve the plan for a final US withdrawal. At the moment we can see four possible future conflict scenarios , all of which must be taken seriously:

  • A resurgence of the sectarian conflict between the rebel movements and those parts of the government army that are loyal to Shia political parties.
  • A military conflict between Kurdish forces and the Arab part of Iraq over disputed areas in northern Iraq.
  • An internal armed conflict between nationally oriented Shiite political parties and militias allied with Iran.
  • Increasing internationalization of the conflict in Iraq in that neighboring Arab countries (eg Syria and Saudi Arabia) become more directly involved in the conflict as the United States withdraws, in order to weaken Iran’s influence in Iraq.

On March 7, 2010, Iraq will hold national elections for the first time since 2005. At that time, the election was boycotted by large sections of the Arab, Sunni Muslim population in Iraq. The election was won by a majority coalition of Shiite and Kurdish parties. The entire Iraqi community is likely to participate in this year’s elections. The struggle will apparently be between four different parties, none of them large enough to form a majority government alone. Whether Iraq is on the path to lasting stability or is once again at risk of a relapse depends on the conduct and outcome of this forthcoming election.

Two questions are crucial: First, whether Iraqi politicians, and their parties, will be able to agree on a governing majority government in the weeks following the election. For the second of Iraqi society have the ability to conduct an internal reconciliation process and resolve the remaining contentious issue politically. Iraq’s way forward is therefore currently in the making. A lot will be decided in the coming months.

Where is Iraq Going 2