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Iraq legacy

August 31st, 2010 · No Comments

A Grisly Form of Stability
What is the US Legacy in Iraq?
By PATRICK COCKBURN

A few days after the US announced that it had withdrawn its last combat brigade from Iraq, the local branch of al-Qa’ida staged a show of strength, killing or wounding 300 people in attacks across the country.

Its suicide bombers drove vehicles packed with explosives into police stations or military convoys from Mosul in the north to Basra in the south.

The continuing ferocious violence in Iraq, where most days more people die by bomb and bullet than in Afghanistan, is leading to questions about its stability once US forces finally withdraw by the end of next year.

American politicians, soldiers and think tankers blithely recommend American troops staying longer, though at their most numerous US troops signally failed to stop the bombers.

The unfortunate truth may be that Iraq has already achieved a grisly form of stability, though it comes with a persistently high level of violence and a semi-dysfunctional state. Bad though the present situation is in the country, there may not be sufficient reasons for it to change.

Politically, Iraq may look increasingly like Lebanon with each ethnic or sectarian community vying for a share of power and resources. But if Iraq is becoming like Lebanon, it is a Lebanon with money. Dysfunctional the state machine may be, but it still has $60bn in annual oil revenues to spend, mostly on the salaries of the security forces and the civilian bureaucracy. One former Iraqi minister says that the one time he had seen the new Iraqi political elite “in a state of real panic was when the price of oil fell below $50 a barrel a couple of years ago”.

Tags: General

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