What’s next for Iraq?



Iraq is facing a looming economic crisis, with a displaced population of 3.3m people, according to the UN, and renewed sectarian bloodshed which could fuel the very resentments that helped Isis seize control of Sunni majority areas. Such problems could turn military victories into practical defeats, The Financial Times reports:

The US-led coalition and Iraqi government have spent billions on defeating Isis and they have been winning, with 40 per cent of the territory the jihadi group once held back in government hands. Less effort has been put into planning the reconstruction of a country that the jihadi force has torn apart. The Pentagon says it has spent $6.5bn since 2014 on the military effort to force Isis out of Iraq. In contrast, it has spent just $15m on “stabilisation” support — highlighting the risk that once again, western powers could win the war but neglect the aftermath.

“The government needs to convince people that things will be better,” says Zaid al-Ali, author of The Struggle for Iraq’s Future. “If they maintain the same systems then all this effort is purposeless and Isis, or some newer version of it, will come back.”

The last thing Iraq needs is a major political crisis, says Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Iraq from 2005-07, and the author of, most recently, “The Envoy,” a memoir. But that’s exactly what appears to be in the works — unless the United States and Iran work together to help the prime minister avoid it, he writes for The New York Times.

The latest troubles began on March 31, when Haider al-Abadi (above), Iraq’s prime minister, presented a new cabinet to the country’s Parliament. That is within his right, of course, but he did so without agreement from the political parties that dominate the assembly. Most of Mr. Abadi’s nominees are reformist technocrats, people with integrity and excellent credentials — but they do not represent Iraq’s major parties, nor do they have their support.

“Both Washington and Tehran should be interested in an immediate resolution of the political crisis in Baghdad and they will probably have to work in parallel for a quick compromise between the political parties and the prime minister,” adds Khalilzad, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy. “Washington and Tehran will also need to coordinate with each other and engage with Iraqi leaders to ensure that Mr. Abadi’s gamble does not become a major crisis.”

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