Hopes that American troops could withdraw from Iraq and leave behind a country at peace faded in April, when a spike in violence caused the death of 18 American soldiers and at least 300 Iraqis, and Iraq again seemed on the verge of civil war. Much of the blame for the renewed violence lay with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Al-Maliki has steadfastly refused to honor America’s commitment to the thousands of Sunni fighters whose willingness to join the American side two years ago was responsible for a dramatic decline in violence. The Sunni Awakening Councils provided soldiers who fought with the Americans against al-Qaeda and in return were paid by the American army. They also were promised they would be given government jobs and allowed to join regular Iraqi security forces.
Instead of meeting these commitments, the Iraqi government began arresting senior Awakening Council leaders, claiming they are still insurgents, and demanding that members of the Councils be disarmed. Awakening Council members are also being attacked by Islamic militants whom they turned against when they joined the Americans. The security situation in general has deteriorated, with many Iraqis claiming the Iraqi forces are too inept to provide security.
One of the main obstacles to stability and progress in Iraq is massive and all-pervading corruption, especially within the government. A report by Iraq’s Commission on Public Integrity lists the Ministry for Public Works as one of the worst offenders, which undoubtedly accounts for the government’s continuing failure to provide such services as electricity and clean water.
Meanwhile the problem of Kirkuk remains unresolved, with Kurds insisting that the province become part of an autonomous Kurdistan, and the Arab and Turkoman populations strenuously opposed. Until there is a solution, “Kirkuk will be like a TNT barrel that could explode and burn everybody,” said Mohammed al-Bayati, a Turkoman member of parliament.
The American army went into Iraq six years ago in order to replace a tyrant with a Western-style democracy. They will leave behind a lesser tyrant ruling over a country riddled with corruption and racked by sectarian conflict.
In response to Obama’s request for $83 billion in supplemental funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, California Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey said, “I cannot support either of these scenarios. Instead of finding military solutions to the problems we face in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama must fundamentally change the mission in both countries to focus on promoting reconciliation, economic development, humanitarian aid, and regional diplomatic efforts.” These are words to remember when the cost of our current wars, like those of all wars, prove to have been tragic waste.