For the past year and a half, I’ve followed U.S. efforts in Iraq for the Foreign Policy Association. We always predicted a bumpy road for the nascent democracy in post-American Iraq, but even I wouldn’t have guessed at the tumultuous instability currently rocking the country. To put things in perspective, I’ve compiled a brief timeline:
Sunday, December 18: In the pre-dawn hours, the last American soldier leaves Iraq… after nine tumultuous years spent battling insurgency, and engaged in reconstruction and nation-building.
Monday, December 19: Hours after the final U.S. convoy crosses into Kuwait, Nouri al-Maliki’s hardline Shi’a government surprised international observers upon announcement that an arrest warrant had been issued for his Vice President, the prominent Sunni politician, Tareq al-Hashemi. ALSO, Saleh al-Mutlak’s al-Iraqiya bloc (the party of Hashemi and Ayad Allawi, the man who almost saved Iraq) quit parliament, labeling Maliki a “dictator” for increasing political marginalization at all levels.
Wednesday, December 21: Having tracked down Hashemi in semi-autonomous Kurdistan, Maliki demands his return to face prosecution. Maliki also threatened to purge his government of all officials who refuse to work with him.
Thursday, December 22: A dozen coordinated explosions in Baghdad kill more than sixty people — the first major violence since the U.S. military completed its pull-out.
If I put on my analyst’s hat, it’s pretty obvious that what’s happening in Iraq, in the days since U.S. withdrawal. Maliki is very comfortable playing sectarian politics, shielded by the authority of parliamentary majority. The opposition’s decision to quit the field will only secure his grasp on power. Meanwhile, Sunni insurgents are anxious to demonstrate that the government does not enjoy that old Weberian chestnut… a legitimate monopoly on the means of violence within the country.
What’s most alarming to me is the fact that with every disenfranchised Sunni and alienated Kurd in parliament, Maliki makes himself and his fellow Shi’as gradually more reliant on their friendly neighbors to the East.
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