As the last convoy of US soldiers pulled out of Iraq on Sunday morning, ending nearly 9 years of war, the questions still stands whether Iraq will be able to emerge from its political crisis.
The Iraq War was launched in March 2003 with missiles striking Baghdad to oust Saddam Hussein, has closed with a fragile democracy still facing insurgency, sectarian tensions and the underlining theory (Selectorate Theory) that the exportation of democracy is rarely successful (read about Selectorate Theory in Libya here). With the American soldiers marching jubilantly to Kuwait and home, the departure brings to the Iraqis a sense of sovereignty amidst fears their country may slide once again into sectarian violence. The intensity of violence and suicide bombings has subsided but Sunni Islamist insurgency and rival Shi’ite militias remain a threat, carrying our repeated attacks on Iraqi government and security officials. Iraq has states that its forces can contain the violence but they lack capabilities in areas of air defense and intelligence fathering.
“We think there are new indications of a new attempt to create a dictatorship. We are really worried that the country being led into chaos and division and the possibility of civil war is there.” – Saleh al-Mutlaq, Deputy Prime Minister of Iraw
In International Affairs, the concept behind Selectorate Theory helps illustrate the problems behind the implementation of Democracy by a foreign power. In the case of Iraq, Selectorate Theory argues that because the US is a democracy and it has a responsibility to appease its winning coalition, it must enforce a democracy in Iraq that reflects the values of the American people. So saying, a government that reflects the values of the American people will not appease the Iraqis, the people who that government is intended to represent and be beholden to. Hence, when the secular Iraqiya bloc, which won most of the votes of Iraq’s disenchanted Sunni Arab minority, walked out of Parliament on Saturday, it sparked a political crisis. The bloc, led by former Premier Ayad Allawi, said its reason for the boycott was its previous accusation that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki held a monopoly on all decision-making. Evidently, the swift withdrawal of American troops is parallel by the swift unravelling of Iraq’s political process. The political crisis, the boycott by the Iraqiya and threats of resignation were triggered by reports that security forces loyal to Prime Minsiter Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi’ite, are planning to arrest the country’s Sunni Vice-President, Tariw al-Hashimi, and charge him with terrorism. Coupled with recent activity of military force encircling the homes of top Sunni politicians with tans and armored personnel carriers, fears have been fueled that Prime Minister Maliki intends to further consolidate his grip on power by moving against his rivals. For over a year now, the Prime Minister has effectively controlled the Interior and Defense Ministries, which oversee the police and military, while conflicts between Sunni and Shi’ite politicians have delayed the appointment of permanent ministers.
“We can no longer remain silent about the way that state is being administered, as it is plunging the country into the unknown. Iraqiya rejects this system of policy-making that consists of ignoring other political parties, politicizing the justice system, exercising sole power and violating law.” – Ayad Allawi, head of Iraqiya bloc
Moreover, a brewing confrontation in the province of Diyala underscored the riske that violence could erupt. After the mostly Sunni leadership of the province declared last week the it intended to seek a regional autonomy under the terms of Iraq’s constitution, Shi’ite militiamen surrounded the provincial council headquarters and set fire to the Sunni governor’s home. The governor and most members of the provincial council have fled to northern Kurdistan, and on Saturday, the main highway linking Baghdad to the northern city of Kirkuk was blocked for a 3rd day by Shi’ite militiamen who belong to Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. The crisis marks the most serious breakdown yet of the consensus forged a year ago between the main Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish political blocs that enabled the creation of the current coalition government.
“It’s never going to end. People are going to continue to suffer. As long as there is a political crisis, its never going to end.” – Mohhamed Abbad Hussein, Iraqi citizen injured by bomb explosion
In retrospect, tensions have been building for months between the factions in the coalition government, largely targeted at the failure of Prime Minister Maliki to include Sunnis in the decision-making process and his steady pursuit of personal control over the security forces. Considering the lack of past success in attempts to implement democracy in foreign territories by the developed powers in the West, the regional conflict in Iraq will capitalize on growing political animosity and fuel the division of the country.