By Andrei Ilyashenko
On the eve of the 9th anniversary of the beginning of the military operation in Iraq that falls on March 20, there is a lively atmosphere in Baghdad, the country’s capital. It is not related to the anniversary though. A week later the summit of the League of Arab States is scheduled to take place in Baghdad along with the meeting of Foreign Ministers and Economic Ministers. The summit has to demonstrate that Iraq is returning to normal life. The question is how fast.
The last US soldier left Iraq at the end of December 2011. However, all official speeches dedicated to that event did not make it clear whether the US troops returned with a victory, whether they reached their goals, whether the threats that the previous US administration had talked about were removed.
The official reasons for entering Iraq were the concerns of George Bush administration that Saddam Hussein’s regime was producing and accumulating weapons of mass destruction. The UN inspectors who had worked in Iraq for several years before the war failed to find the proof of that. That was mostly the reason why the UN did not give its permission for the military operation against Iraq. Germany, France and Russia consistently and actively opposed the operation. Nevertheless, the USA created an anti-Iraqi coalition and violating the UN Charter started the invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003.
President Bush acknowledged that he was shocked that intelligence had given false information about weapons of mass destruction. “The reality is that I sent the US troops to the war mostly based on the information presented by the intelligence, that turned out to be false. I was shocked and infuriated when we did not find the weapons. I had horrible feelings each time I thought about that” – he wrote in his memoires.
That story cost the US its reputation. Democratization of Iraq could help the US reputation, but it did not happen. The country failed to become a model democracy for the Middle East, as the Bush Administration had hoped. To the contrary, as many experts had predicted, inter-confessional fights and the escalation of extremist groups are growing in the country.
Al-Qaeda felt at ease in that political chaos that followed the fall of the totalitarian regime in Iraq and has become a noticeable political force. During this year alone that organization claimed the responsibility for a series of terrorist attacks carried out simultaneously in 12 cities. As a result 60 people were killed, 225 wounded. In total 91 people died in the country as a result of terrorism in February alone. Two more powerful explosions took place last Tuesday. Total number of people killed was 39, with 188 wounded.
As a consequence, despite the sharp decline in the number of personnel of the US Embassy in Baghdad, the representation of the CIA there has not been cut. To the contrary, its activity is expected to go up. The US intelligence personnel will focus not only on tracking the situation in Iraq and its authorities, but also on fighting al-Qaeda activity.
On the other hand, private military and security organizations replaced the US troops in keeping order in the country. However, there is no improvement.
Iraqi Government is forced to take measures to increase its control over the private security firms that the Baghdad authorities view as a «giant army» threatening the stability of the country. Currently, 109 security organizations with over 36 thousand employees are registered in Iraq. Most of them are foreign. In February a draft law was submitted to the Parliament that would introduce additional limitations on the activity of such companies, would reduce their quantity and the number of personnel.
It is not clear whether it would be possible to break that vicious circle. The issue is that al-Qaeda and other extremist Sunni groups continue to fight not only against foreign hired employees, but also against the Shiite government. The Shiites don’t hesitate to pay back.
Iraq’s political life is focused on the issue of Iraq’s Sunni vice president Tariq Hashimi who the followers of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and other Shiite politicians blame to be a terrorist aid. Hashimi himself rushed to disappear on the territory of Kurd autonomy and denies everything. Also unclear is the fate of the Sunni deputy head of the government Saleh Mutlaq who was forced to resign by Maliki in December 2011.
The weakness of the executive branch of power that is balancing on the verge of the government crisis caused by the standoff between the Sunni and the Shiites is gradually becoming the main factor of the instability in the country.
For the summit of the League of Arab States in Baghdad that is definitely going to discuss Syria’s problem first of all, the current problems of Iraq with potential solutions that are hard to forecast can serve as a warning for the proponents of external interference. Perhaps the example of the post-war Libya that hosted the previous Arab League summit in 2010, will also serve as an example. Muammar Gaddafi acted as a host back then.