Blogroll Me! How This Old Brit Sees It ...: The Politics of Iraq

29 March 2008

The Politics of Iraq

Prime Minister Maliki is backed by both Bush and Ahmadinejad

I think it's important that we understand what's behind the recent spike in violence in Iraq. Unfortunately, the mainstream media isn't doing a very good job of providing context. If you watch the news and read the leading newspapers, it's easy to get the impression that the fighting in Iraq is the result of long-simmering hatreds between Sunnis and Shiites, or between Arabs and Kurds. Or that it's the result of interference by outside forces like al Qaeda and the government of Iran.

In reality, though, the conflict in Iraq is just an old-fashioned power struggle over a few difficult issues. The most important of those issues are:

1) Whether Iraq will be a united nation with a strong central government, or a confederation of regional governments.

2) The extent to which Iraq's oil will be privatized.

3) Whether the revenue from Iraq's oil will be distributed equitably across the nation, or whether oil producing regions will be allowed to keep the lion's share of the money.

Here's a few links that go into these issues in greater depth:

Five Things You Need to Know to Understand the Latest Violence in Iraq

This is a sort of primer for those who wish to understand Iraqi politics. Briefly, the points made in the article are these:

1) The violence is political, not sectarian in nature.

2) Sadr is very unpopular among ordinary Iraqis.

3) Iraqi security forces behave as a militia, and are backed by both the Iranians and the Americans.

4) The Sadrists are expected to make significant gains in regional elections, which will be held in October, so the current crackdown is widely seen as an attempt to subvert those elections.

5) The Maliki government is trying to criminalize dissent.

Here's some more links on the politics behind the conflict:

The fighting in Basra may be the decisive battle for control over the oil sector, local government and the fate of the province

Nationalism and the War on Sadr

Politics of the Sadr versus Maliki-Hakim confrontation

Americans are fighting the Iranians' war for them

(via appletree, cross posted at Liberal Avenger)


Anonymous phil said...

That's a great piece of explaining. It's easy to follow and to understand, Gordo, and it's much appreciated.

What still galls me though is that wtever the present complexities America, Britain and our other so called allies (coalition of the willing?) will NOT be judged lightly by history. And you know what? That's as it should be., because it's ALL our fault. We should all be ashamed.

11:14 pm  
Anonymous pimpernel said...

If only more people had a clue. Right, Gordo?

12:15 am  
Anonymous gordo said...


I appreciate it. I decided to just present a sparse outline of the issues and provide some links for people who wanted to read up in depth, because I understand that a lot of Richard's readers already have a pretty good handle on the situation.


It's very disturbing how much of the debate here in the US is informed by misconceptions. A lot of the support for a continuation of the war is rooted in the belief that the conflict is primarily the Coalition and the Iraqi government vs. al Qaeda and Iranian-backed militants.

Unless and until the American media starts to clear up that misconception, there will be a significant number of Americans who believe that withdrawal from Iraq would be a disaster.

7:33 am  

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