Events

The Situation in Iraq

May 30, 2008 // 11:00am12:00pm
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International Security Studies
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"The security situation in Iraq has improved somewhat," declared Adnan Pachachi at a May 30 Director's Forum. "Violence in both Basra and Mosel has subsided a bit, and other areas have been pacified. Overall, though," he said, "the country is in a very fragile and precarious state."

Pachachi pointed to the continued heavy fighting in East Baghdad, as well as the consistent violence in Kirkuk. "Even in pacified areas," he said, "there is still a pervasive fear among ordinary citizens." The militias still have weapons, and, furthermore, their infrastructure is still intact. What is needed more than ever, Pachachi stressed, "is a professional, non-sectarian police force."

Likewise imperative are free and fair elections. "In Iraq it is a propitious time for change," Pachachi stated. Not only is there widespread frustration at the failure of the government to deal with everyday violence, he explained; there is also a growing disillusionment due to high levels of corruption, and because of the government's inability to provide basic social services or address the failing economy.

Looking forward, Pachachi listed the following as the key objectives for the Iraqi government to achieve: 1) ending foreign interference by Iran; 2) overcoming political sectarianism; 3) purging the armed and security forces; 4) promoting national reconciliation; 5) restoring the judiciary; and 6) dealing with the displaced and refugee populations and facilitating their safe return.

In terms of international assistance, Pachachi remained firm that Iraq has a vested interest in becoming self-sufficient. However, at least in the initial phases, the presence of multinational forces will be essential. Particularly with regard to cleaning up the security sector—which has in many cases been co-opted by regional players such as Iran—the support of international troops will be crucial.

Should the UN mandate be extended? Or should it be replaced with a bilateral pact between Iraq and the United States? Pachachi acknowledged that this will probably not be decided in the National Assembly for at least six months. He cited opposition among Iraqis on the issue of signing a long term agreement with the U.S. and yet, the fact remains that the presence of U.S. troops is widely perceived as indispensable. According to Pachachi, there is a genuine fear on the part of many Iraqis that a U.S. withdrawal would cause the country to plummet into violence again.

On the other hand, Pachachi allowed, the UN is uniquely poised to serve as a catalyst for national reconciliation. He surmised that there may be a window of opportunity for diplomatic efforts on this issue early next year.

Pachachi closed by saying he remains hopeful that the upcoming elections will pave the way for the establishment of a liberal, non-sectarian democracy. "Iraq is an ancient land with a young and vigorous population," he said. "It has survived many upheavals and I have no doubt that it will rise again, due to the indomitable spirit of its people."

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