What appears to be missing in these assumptions is an appreciation of some of what happened in Iraq in 2007. This is not to suggest that ‘the surge’ was such a wonderful success. So far, no significant political institutional reform has materialised as a result of the decline in violence; without this kind of political reform ‘the surge’ in itself is worthless because it is based on temporary stop-gap measures like an infusion of US troops and the bribing of armed militants. However, Nuri al-Maliki the person has been enormously strengthened by the surge. A year and a half ago, any suggestion that Maliki would be the next strongman of Iraq would be met by ridicule. Today, his emergence as a powerful figure with an increasingly independent position vis-à-vis his political coalition partners is an undeniable fact. The Iraqi army is stronger than at any point since 2003 and is becoming a potential tool of repression that many other authoritarian rulers in the region are envious of. And Maliki has rediscovered an ideological superstructure that is making him increasingly immune against criticism at home: using the language of centralism, Iraqi nationalism and at times anti-federalism, he has become independent enough to challenge even some of his longstanding coalition partners such as the Kurds and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI).
Iraq: The Problem with ‘Conditional Engagement’
November 7, 2008 by Jari