Iraq is in danger of becoming a failed state and faces the possibility of collapse and fragmentation, a foreign affairs thinktank said today.
The bleak assessment, from Chatham House in London, said Iraq was suffering from not one but many civil wars and insurgencies involving numerous communities and organisations struggling for power.
With Iraq so polarised by years of conflict and violence, it was futile to rebuild the country as a unitary state with a strong and centralised government, argued the report, written by Gareth Stansfield, a Middle East expert at Exeter University.
But we had to rebuild Iraq as a single country because if we didn't that'd throw into question the wisdom of turning the United States into a Balkanized multi-racial society with no market dominant majority. We need to demonstrate that multiculturalism can work in foreign lands to prove that it can work here.
There is not 'one' civil war, nor 'one' insurgency, but several civil wars and insurgencies between different communities in today's Iraq. Within this warring society, the Iraqi government is only one among many 'state-like' actors, and is largely irrelevant in terms of ordering social, economic, and political life. It is now possible to argue that Iraq is on the verge of being a failed state which faces the distinct possibility of collapse and fragmentation. These are some of the key findings of Accepting Realities in Iraq a new Briefing Paper written by Dr Gareth Stansfield and published today by Chatham House.
The paper also assesses Al-Qaeda activity within Iraq, especially in the major cities in the centre and north of the country. Dr Stansfield argues that, although Al-Qaeda is challenged by local groups, there is momentum behind its activity. Iraq's neighbors too have a greater capacity to affect the situation on the ground than either the UK or the US. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey all have different reasons for seeing the instability in Iraq continue, and each uses different methods to influence developments.
Dr Stansfield argues that with the myriad conflicts in Iraq following societal, religious and political divides and often involving state actors, the multinational forces are finding it exceptionally difficult to promote security normalization. The recent US 'surge' in Baghdad looks likely to have simply pushed insurgent activity to neighboring cities and cannot deliver the required political accommodation. A political solution will require Sunni Arab representatives’ participation in government, the recognition of Moqtada al-Sadr as a legitimate political partner, and a positive response to Kurdish concerns. Further, it would be a mistake to believe that the political forces in Iraq are weak and can be reorganized by the US or the international community, there must be ‘buy-in’ from the key Iraqi political actors.
Dr Stansfield says: ‘The coming year will be pivotal for Iraq. The internecine fighting and continual struggle for power threatens the nation’s very existence in its current form. An acceptance of the realities on the ground in Iraq and a fundamental rethinking of strategy by coalition powers are vital if there is to be any chance of future political stability in the country.’
The commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, General James Conway, says his forces in volatile al Anbar province are continuing to see a significant reduction in violence. He says local tribesmen are joining the Iraqi security forces in record numbers and are helping U.S. troops to defeat al-Qaida insurgents in the province. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel has details from Washington.General Conway told reporters at the Pentagon that it has taken four years since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq for the predominantly Sunni population of Anbar province to realize that al-Qaida in Iraq can only offer a future filled with fear and instability.
"What we are seeing transpire in Anbar province today is a clear, discernible wedge between the Sunni tribes and the al-Qaida in Iraq," said General Conway. "Some very brave people have stepped up to speak out against al-Qaida and encourage their fellow tribesmen to work together toward an Iraq that is stable and at peace with its neighbors."
The civil war has to be wearying. That weariness is perhaps the best hope for reaching a political settlement. But I suspect there are too many factions with too many incompatible expectations to make a deal possible. Some of the factions aren't going to abandon their ambitions unless they are utterly defeated.
U.S. commanders think their squeeze on Sunni and Shiite extremists is having an impact. In al-Qaeda's stronghold of Anbar province, tribal leaders have begun allying with American forces against the Sunni terrorists. According to Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, who commands day-to-day military operations in Iraq, there were just 60 attacks in Anbar last week, compared with 480 per week a year ago. But al-Qaeda continues its deadly attacks, as in last Saturday's brutal ambush that killed four U.S. soldiers and left three missing.
But while the Sunnis of Anbar might have turned against the foreign Sunnis the Iraqi Sunnis still see the Shias as enemies in a civil war. Plus, the Shia factions are fighting each other even as the Kurds fight the Arab Iraqis in areas which the Kurds want to make part of an independent Kurdistan.
Check out this mention of a fight between Madhi Army militia and Iraqi police.
News agencies reported that at least three people were killed Thursday in fighting between Iraqi police and the Madhi Army, the militia of Moqtada al-Sadr, the anti-American Shiite cleric. The incident took place in the city of Diwaniyah, about 110 miles south of Baghdad.
Was this a battle between central authority and a militia? Or a fight between two rival gangs for turf? Maybe both at the same time.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2007 May 17 10:59 PM Mideast Iraq Decay|