|Beyond the Bullets|
|Written by Colin Smith|
|Tuesday, March 17, 2009 12:08 AM|
In 2003 the Iraq War began. For the next five years Americans, along with people around the world, watched Saddam Hussein fall, inspectors find no WMD’s, violence rule the streets of Baghdad, hundreds of thousands lay dead, a troop surge come and go, a sitting American president’s approval rating sink to historic lows, and his successor run a campaign originally based on opposition to the war. After all of this, it seems appropriate to look at this new nation, this new Iraq, and ask, what have we created?
The largest party in Iraq today is the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. We can look to this party to see the beginning of the splintering of Iraq. The SIIC has a huge power base in Shiite-dominated Basra and is quickly transforming the area into a place of rigid Islamic standards. Where once there was a relaxed atmosphere, now women must walk the streets in traditional garb. Furthermore, according to the BBC, the SIIC has been accused by Sunnis for having a secret political and military alliance with Iran. Its position as the largest party, as well as its leadership of the United Iraqi Alliance (a coalition of 22 different parties), has provided the party with many government positions, including control over the Ministry of the Interior, which oversees the nation’s police force. Here, the SIIC has abused its power. It has been implicated for using the police force for sectarian violence and may have been responsible for thousands of Sunni civilian deaths. As if this was not enough, the SIIC has its own military branch, the Badr Organization, which contains several thousand fighters.
Another crucial Shiite Leader is Muqtada al-Sadr. Sadr controls the Mahdi army, a collection of loyal militants, and has considerable political influence. His followers have been blamed by the United States for multiple assassinations, kidnappings, and bombings. His militia has directly fought the United States military on multiple occasions and for a while seized complete control of the city of Amarah. Although he, like Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, does not hold a government position, Sadr is one of the most powerful men in Iraq.
The Sunnis, on the other hand, have united under the Iraqi Accord Front, which won 44 of the 275 seats in the parliament. This coalition has been politically marginalized by the larger and more dominant Shiite groups, and currently holds powerless positions, like that of the vice presidency. The result has been Sunni anger and violence. One of the coalitions’ three main member parties, the Grand Council for the People of Iraq, was led for years by Adnan al-Dulaimi, who has been investigated multiple times and whose son was arrested after being caught planting a bomb in a Shiite family’s house. This is a small sample of the violence Sunni groups have displayed during the sectarian struggles.
A quarter of the seats in the Iraqi Parliament are held by yet another group, the Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan (DPAK). This party unites the two main Kurdish groups along with a series of smaller parties. This coalition is again purely ethnic, looking to advance only the causes of the Kurdish people. As part of the joint government the DPAK has possession of the presidency, currently held by Jalal Talabani. Talabani recently launched a lawsuit against the Kurdish newspaper Hawlati after it published an essay accusing the Kurdish parties of corruption and undemocratic tendencies.
This year’s Brookings Institution’s list of weakest states placed Iraq fourth. That position is no surprise considering the mess that confronts Iraqi politics. With the vast majority of seats held by groups with loyalty not to the state as a whole, but to individual populations and parties, there is little consensus building or compromise. The situation becomes even more complex with the threat of politically motivated militias and corrupt police forces using bloodshed to solve differences. While the surge may have slowed the tide, it is hard to see a bright political future for this child of American foreign policy, the Republic of Iraq.