The American Dream for Iraq
Rival communities rallied around a democratic Constitution, the insurrection put down by Iraqi security forces, gradually replacing US and British soldiers: this is the dream scenario of the Americans. Is it a realistic strategy or a fantasy? Some would say it depends on the time frame. But some skeptics argue that the longer foreign troops stay, the more the situation is degrades.
In Washington and in London, the government blares that the troops will stay in Iraq as long as it takes to stabilize the situation, despite growing dissatisfaction in polls of public opinion at home, shocked by the level of daily violence. An anonymous British source at the Foreign Office observes that the handover of responsibilities to Iraqi security forces by British-American forces is a long-term process. The underpinnings of the British-American political and security policies in Iraq seem fragile faced with an ongoing defiant, bloody insurrection, which has claimed thousands of Iraqi civilian lives. More than 2,000 US and British soldiers have also died since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
More alarming is this month’s confrontation in Basrah between British troops and the British-trained Iraqi police which displayed cracks in loyalty and in ability. It is a very serious problem, admits the Foreign Office. Even the Iraqi National Security Advisor has acknowledged that insurgents have infiltrated the police force. Hundreds of militias linked to political parties represented in government have extended their influence through the ranks of the police, army and government administration, complains former Shi’ite Premier Iyad Allawi. We clearly see that the militias have the upper hand now. The assignment of government posts is made based on faction.
This tendency does not square with making Iraq into a country of laws. And just who is going to enforce the fancy principles of the Constitution?, asks Christian Tripp, historian at the London School of African and Eastern Studies. Cronyism, favoritism and force have taken the upper hand at the local level. The Sunnis, tossed out of power with the fall of Saddam Hussein, are consumed with resentment which goes beyond the disputes over the Constitution. They viscerally fear that the distribution of power resulting from the Constitution.
Iraqis will be called to the polls on October 15 to participate in a national referendum on the Constitution to be followed by legislative elections in December. This process is thought by some to lend itself to the stabilization of Iraq, plunged into crisis over democracy.
If the International Crisis Group, a think tank specializing in areas of conflict, is to be believed, the adoption of a Constitution categorically rejected by the Sunnis and an election of a government dominated by their rivals, the Shi’ites and the Kurds, could accelerate the disintegration of the country. In a report published Monday, the ICG predicts that the dreaded descent of Iraq into civil war and disintegration, accompanied by ethnic expulsions in Baghdad, Basrah, Mosul and Kirkuk could become a reality. But this pessimism is not shared in Washington and London.
For Tony Dodge, an analyst at Queen Mary College of London University, the draft Constitution was offered as a sop to US public opinion. The Americans are behind a series of theatrical gestures such as the Interim Governing Council, the January elections and now, the Constitution. None of these gestures has improved the situation in Iraq and most have aggravated it. Not without irony, Dodge believes the mobilization on the part of Iraq’s Sunnis against the Constitution is a positive thing. The adoption of the Constitution may fail if 2/3 of the voters in three provinces vote it down. This is the first time that communities prevented from participation in any sort of democratic process have shown their willingness to take part. It is proof of participation in the process by the Sunnis--left outside official politics and opposed to the Constitution from the beginning.