Thursday, May 17, 2007
(Royal Institute for International Affairs) - There is not 'one' civil war, nor 'one' insurgency, but several civil wars and insurgencies between different communities in today's Iraq. Within this warring society, the Iraqi government is only one among many 'state-like' actors, and is largely irrelevant in terms of ordering social, economic, and political life. It is now possible to argue that Iraq is on the verge of being a failed state which faces the distinct possibility of collapse and fragmentation. These are some of the key findings of Accepting Realities in Iraq a new Briefing Paper written by Dr Gareth Stansfield and published today by Chatham House.
The paper also assesses Al-Qaeda activity within Iraq, especially in the major cities in the centre and north of the country. Dr Stansfield argues that, although Al-Qaeda is challenged by local groups, there is momentum behind its activity. Iraq's neighbors too have a greater capacity to affect the situation on the ground than either the UK or the US. Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey all have different reasons for seeing the instability in Iraq continue, and each uses different methods to influence developments.
Dr Stansfield argues that with the myriad conflicts in Iraq following societal, religious and political divides and often involving state actors, the multinational forces are finding it exceptionally difficult to promote security normalization. The recent US 'surge' in Baghdad looks likely to have simply pushed insurgent activity to neighboring cities and cannot deliver the required political accommodation. A political solution will require Sunni Arab representatives’ participation in government, the recognition of Moqtada al-Sadr as a legitimate political partner, and a positive response to Kurdish concerns.
Further, it would be a mistake to believe that the political forces in Iraq are weak and can be reorganized by the US or the international community, there must be ‘buy-in’ from the key Iraqi political actors. Dr Stansfield says: ‘The coming year will be pivotal for Iraq. The internecine fighting and continual struggle for power threatens the nation’s very existence in its current form. An acceptance of the realities on the ground in Iraq and a fundamental rethinking of strategy by coalition powers are vital if there is to be any chance of future political stability in the country.’