I’m hardly an optimist on Iraq, but this kind of pessimism is shocking. A meeting at the Barcelona Centre for Information and Documentation in October 2008 discussed three scenarios for Iraq in the near future:
- A return to civil war between Iraqi factions, against a background of a US withdrawal.
- A settlement imposed, or at least guaranteed, by regional states, in the event of a US departure.
- The gradual building of political support by different factions in Iraq for the existing government, leading in turn to a consolidation of the Baghdad authorities and a decline in political violence.
The result: “the majority opinion among the experts present inclined towards the first option”:
The experts’ consensus is that talk of a significant, let alone plausibly enduring, decline in violence in Iraq is misplaced. It is not true to say that Washington’s military ‘surge’ strategy has worked. While there has been a decline in violence, killing continues in Baghdad at a level among the highest of any city in the world (with average deaths of thirty or more per day).
It would be inaccurate to ascribe the divisiveness and retribalisation of Iraqi politics to the 2003 invasion alone. This began in the 1990s in the aftermath of the invasion of and war over Kuwait (1990-91) and with the impact of the sanctions regime. In effect, Iraq is a country that has been at war since the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980 and this is reflected in the condition of the state and administration, and in the collapse of much public infrastructure.
This is an important and often overlooked point, but no matter how violent Iraq was pre-2003, it is no excuse for the U.S. to pull out without first fixing the pottery it broke. “Residual violence” is a term used only by those who have no first-hand knowledge of the fact that for the dead and injured, no such thing exists.