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Middle East and Africa

Iraq: “today worse than two months ago and better than in two months”

After the elections in Iraq the political scenario is paralized while violence rises

Last update: 2018-03-28 12:49:15

The hope is that after Eid al-Fitr, the long holiday marking the end of the Ramadan fasting, the most important Iraqi parties will finally be able to break the long deadlock that has paralysed the Iraqi political scene since the last elections. Since the general election last March in fact, the country has been blocked owing to the inability to reach an agreement on the part of the two ‘winners’ of the electoral battle, the former prime minister Iyad Allawi and the prime minister Nuri al-Maliki.

 

 

Iyad Allawi is the leader of the electoral alliance Iraqiyya, coming out as the largest party, even if by just a few seats, and presenting an anti-sectarian and secularising political platform. Al-Maliki, the outgoing prime minister, considers that he has a greater chance of forming the government and accuses Allawi of representing only the interests of the Sunnis and those nostalgic of the old regime, proposing himself as the only party capable of mediating between the three main different communities, Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.

 

 

Adding to the complexity of this general picture are the interests, the crossfire of vetoes and use of tactics of the other electoral alliances, among which that of the Kurds and the other Shiite group, formed by the ISCI – heavily penalised by the voting – and by Muqtada al-Sadr’s radical Shiites. The deadlock is producing very negative effects at security level (with the increase of violence and terrorist attacks), and in the fields of economy and the reconstruction (a failure until now) and generates a growing distancing of the ‘real country’ – wounded by the lack of basic needs (water and electricity are still intermittent) and by high unemployment or underemployment – from the political one. One of the most popular quips to be heard in Baghdad today is the one describing the political situation: ‘today is worse than two months ago and better than in two months’. A pessimist vision that mirrors the uncertainty of the institutional and political set-up of the new Iraq and which risks thwarting all the successes of the last years in the fight against the jihadists led by al-Qaeda, the radical militias, various opponents or simple bands of delinquents.

 

 

Undoubtedly the jihadist forces appear to be marginalised and incapable of bringing down the new post Saddam institutional system by force. But it is evident how the political instability fosters an increase in the terrorist attacks and violence, often used cynically as much by the Iraqi politicians as by the neighbouring countries. If the deadlock between al-Maliki and Allawi were to become chronic, the result would be the birth of an executive entrusted to a less important figure, who risks not having a clear majority and who will probably have to face a new radicalisation of the ethnic-sectarian tensions. In this scenario the Kurdish alliance could be tempted to further weaken its links with the centre, giving life to a veiled independence of the Kurdish provinces.

 

 

This would make the Kurdish-Arab relations come to a head in the mixed zones (Mosul and Kirkuk in primis) and would cause an increase in the interference from the neighbouring countries, which - even though for different reasons – do not want a fragmentation of the country (even though pursuing policies that have undermined the consolidation of the new post Saddam political order for years). This is an extremely dangerous situation that could encourage surprise attacks by the military, above all following the departure of the last American troops foreseen in the second half of 2011. The solution hoped for by many – especially in Washington – is on the contrary the formation of a government of wide cooperation, with a compromise between al-Maliki and Allawi, sanctioning a division of public power and permitting a temporary overcoming of the political conflict. Constitutional reforms are fundamental for the rebalancing of the powers of the organs of state, at present too much in favour of the prime minister.

 

 

Likewise, decisions that have been due for over five years can no longer be postponed, like the law for the distribution of the proceeds from hydrocarbons between centre and periphery, a compromise over the ‘towns contested’ between Kurds and Arabs (Kirkuk and Mosul) and a greater protection of the minorities. Among those is the Christian minority, for years the victim of brutal violence and persecution that risk wiping out the oldest community in Iraq: without it, the country would lose part of itself.

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