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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Where is Iraq Headed?

Yes, I have not been blogging very much.  I blame my spouse, who picked the UMass Lowell Continuing Ed class for this semester—Fiction Writing.  I accept that a high percentage of my few readers think this blog is mostly fiction, but this class requires real inventiveness and not just rehashing the talking points of the late Herbert Hoover or Thomas Dewey.

The National Journal has an article by reporter Yochi J Dreazen on the future for government in Iraq.  That future does not look bright from the Democracy viewpoint.  It appears that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who was seen as weak when he took office, five years ago, has learned how to rule.

Since then he has become increasingly authoritarian as he has knit his nation back together.  For two years he seemed to flounder, but in 2008 he went after radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr and took back control of Basra. Since then he has done more to consolidate his nation, and his control.

The other view, inside Iraq, is that he is really a democrat.
...his allies deny that he is expanding his control of the country. “The prime minister suffered a lot under the dictatorship, and he helped write a constitution [that] is precisely designed to prevent the creation of a new dictator,” said Sadiq al-Ribaki, a nattily dressed Dawaa lawmaker who has advised Maliki for years. “Why should anyone doubt what is in his heart?” Ribaki said that Maliki lost many close friends fighting Saddam, and he ultimately had to flee the country (for a lengthy exile in Iran) after the Iraqi strongman pronounced a death sentence for him. The prime minister has a deeply personal reason to avoid following in the dictator’s bloody path, Ribaki says.
Maybe the Prime Minister will bring democracy to Iraq.  Part of the answer lies in the Iraqi understanding of what democracy is.  Is it a route to power or is it a way of sharing power?

The last paragraph of Reporter Dreazen's article talks to my disappointed hopes.
And that may be the most dispiriting development of all. Americans once talked of turning Iraq into a functioning democracy that could inspire other Arab nations—the “demonstration effect,” they called it.  Instead, the reverse is happening.  Iraq is absorbing a lesson from neighboring Syria: Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki seems determined to hold onto power by any means necessary.  A succession of authoritarian strongmen has long ruled the country.  With U.S. influence at an all-time low, Maliki looks like the next in line.
Strong men is the way of the Near and Middle East.

For the United States, which has already withdrawn 140,000, the question is how this will all unwind.
An official at the U.S. Embassy who asked not to be named says that the Americans have neither the means nor the inclination to try to change his course because the most important objectives now aren’t connected to Maliki or his commitment to democracy. Instead, the Americans say, the primary U.S. goals are boosting the professionalism of Iraq’s security forces, devising economic policies that encourage foreign investment, using Baghdad’s regional influence to help stabilize neighboring Bahrain, and isolating Syria.
That may be the long term goal, but the short term goal must be getting our forces out of Iraq without problems that endanger our forces.  For at least some Iraqis it is just for us to go.  In Basra the Iraqi general in charge is pushing for us to just leave.  No nice ceremony, just get out.

Back when we invaded the line running through my mind was "War is like childbirth. The outcome is always uncertain."

Regards  —  Cliff

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