The Next Year in Iraq — More Chaos | Charles Duelfer

The Next Year in Iraq — More Chaos

The bombings in Iraq this week point to two clear aspects of the situation in Iraq. One, the government can not provide security. Second, there are powerful forces who are not committed to the current government. These two points are obvious, but over the next year there is no “democratic” scenario that can fix or control them. What’s worse is that one element that has been relatively stable, the views and influence of Ayatollah Sistani, will likely drop from the scene as he comes to the end of his natural life. The balance of between the influence of Iran, Moqtadr al Sadr, and other parties are impossible to predict. But more instability will result, not less. It may be a grim prediction, but it is not only likely that Sistani may pass from the scene (he is old), but I would not want to hold Maliki’s life insurance policy. Prospects for chaos in Iraq are high. And, to the extent Iraq is in chaos, it takes attention away from Iran. Decision makers in Iran may well see it in their interest to respond to pressure on their government (sanctions and otherwise) to pour oil on the fires in next door Iraq. Even if Washington had any idea what to do, there are few levers for the US to act. For Washington, events in Iraq and, increasingly the whole region, are out of our control. Increasingly, the Saudis and others in the region will be acting with greater effect than we can. In Washington, hoards of people have their hands on the steering wheel (or provide commentary like this), but it is not connected to anything.

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