Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Iraq's continuing problems

The Independent discusses (Ten years on from the war, how the world forgot about Iraq) the ongoing problems in Iraq. Some quotes:
- Iraq is disintegrating as a country under the pressure of a mounting political, social and economic crisis, say Iraqi leaders. They add that [..] the conflict between the three main communities – Shia, Sunni and Kurd – is deepening to a point just short of civil war.
- One of the reasons many Iraqis welcomed the fall of Saddam in 2003, whatever their feelings about foreign occupation, was that they thought that his successors would restore normal life after years of sanctions and war. To their astonishment and fury this has not happened, though Iraq now enjoys $100bn (£66bn) a year in oil revenues. In Baghdad there is scarcely a new civilian building to be seen and most of the new construction is heavily fortified police or military outposts. In Basra, at the heart of the oilfields, there are pools of sewage and heaps of uncollected rubbish in the streets on which herds of goats forage.
- It is not just political violence that darkens lives, but a breakdown of civil society that leaves people often looking to tribal justice in preference to police or official courts. One woman said that: “If you have a traffic accident, what matters is not whether you were right or wrong but what tribe you belong to.”
- If there is not quite the same fear as under Saddam, it often feels as if this is only because the security forces are less efficient, not because they are any less cruel or corrupt
- The administrative apparatus has in any case been degraded by departure of able officials abroad and the allocation of jobs solely through political patronage rather than experience or ability, membership of al-Dawa, the ruling Shia religious party often being the essential qualification. One study of Iraqi officials revealed that on average they put in just 17 minutes’ productive work during the average day.
- Ordinary Iraqis are pessimistic or ambivalent about the future. Professor Yahya Abbas says: “If you ask my students ‘What do you want?’ About 95 per cent will answer ‘I want to leave Iraq.’”

What doesn't help are the continuing shocks to the power balance. Iraq has just processed the shock of the departure of the Americans - who played an important role of king makers - and now there is the trouble in Syria.

A document of interest is Learning From Iraq: A Final Report From the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. His colleague for Afghanistan is the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

The Atlantic also wrote a piece about the same subject.

In contrast it is interesting to note that the economy has boomed in Afghanistan since the US invasion. The question is whether this will be sustained once the US leaves and stops infusing billions of dollars. Peter van Buren notices that many of the US people initially working on Iraq "reconstruction" later moved to Afghanistan to do the same thing.

This article (Notes From The Underground: The Rise of Nouri al-Maliki) provides a good biography of Maliki, a hard-line Shiite who after years of exile is bitter and distrusting and believes in revenge.

The BBC has made some nice graphs showing where Iraq has advanced and where not.

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