I recommend two excellent articles on post-occupation Iraq.
The first, by Charles Tripp, explores the different kinds of violence that now define the Iraqi political system, and how that violence is wielded both by the state and its opponents. There’s no doubt that violence defines the state and its interaction with the public. American sacrifices, good intentions, and political designs did not create an equitable and just political system in a country occupied for nearly a decade. And although Iraq’s future has brightened somewhat now that the specter of Saddam Hussein no longer hangs over it, the country remains dysfunctional, and democratic promises remain unmet, as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki proves most concerned with himself.
Another article by renowned Iraq expert Reidar Visser is also worth reading–and it certainly complements my Middle East Policy Council bulletin, which I linked to last week. Visser provides some excellent context by focusing on Iraq’s domestic politics. He also addresses the Syrian crisis, and how it will dominate the Arab League summit. The crisis along Iraq’s western border is especially tricky for Baghdad, as Maliki tries to walk the tight-rope between Damascus and Tehran, while reasserting Iraq’s Arab credentials in a polarized sectarian environment. According to Visser, Iraq has settled into an uncomfortable “equilibrium” that allows the government to do business (for now) but with much friction and constant fears of the country relapsing into chaos. Torture and abuse are rampant, Visser acknowledges. But Iraq’s standing, and Maliki’s prestige, would still be boosted if the Arab League summit in Baghdad honestly and seriously addresses the Syrian problem.
We should all keep an eye on Iraq. As an historic pivot point for the Arab world, Baghdad’s good fortune or failure can greatly impact the wider region.