Just days after the withdrawal of the last US troop, Iraq is facing a wave of attacks and crises in the highest reaches of government. Daniel Scheschkewitz argues that the country was poorly prepared for sovereignty.
Last Sunday, the world met the withdrawal of the last US troops from Iraq with cautious optimism. On the surface, the country seemed to be on a reasonably good path to sovereignty nine years after American troops first invaded and deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.
But the intervening week has created a very different impression: over 60 people were killed in the most severe attacks in months, while an escalating crisis in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government has brought the country back to the edge of civil war.
There seems to be no causal relationship between the recent wave of bombings and the simultaneous government turmoil. The attackers didn't single out an ethnic group and struck in both Shiite and Sunni districts of the capital. Terrorists associated with al Qaeda in Iraq are thought to be behind the attacks, aiming to give a powerful reminder of their existence in the wake of the US withdrawal.
The brink of war
The attacks could sharpen Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's agenda against Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a Sunni for whom al-Maliki issued an arrest warrant after accusing the vice president of planning terrorist activities. Al-Hashemi fled to the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, where al-Maliki's warrant can be ignored.
The terror strikes paired with the crisis in the highest reaches of government make it clear that Iraq's security is just as fragile as the political division of power at the heart of the country. Iraq is on the brink of a war along religious lines with no occupying forces to help stabilize the situation.
DW's Daniel Scheschkewitz comments on world issues
Under supervision by the US, Iraq's religious groups had settled on a shaky powersharing arrangement. The Prime Minister, a Shiite, had both Sunni and Kurdish deputies, and a parallel structure was implemented among the leadership in Parliament.
But Prime Minister al-Maliki has declared an end to the need for quotas, adopting a strategy that will help concentrate all the power in his hands. Al-Maliki issued the arrest warrant for Vice President al-Hashemi, one of the few Sunnis who had taken part in building the new government, exactly one day after the last American troop left the country. Shortly thereafter, state broadcasters showed purported confessions by al-Hashemi's bodyguards.
The US is now witnessing the consequences of not providing enough support for constitutional institutions, an independent media and reconciliation efforts among civil society during its occupation. Instead, the superpower took a short-sighted approach, claiming that Iraq would soon be in the position to organize its own security. That evaluation now seems far from the truth.
Against the recommendations of military leaders, Washington declined to station a small number of remaining troops in the country, citing a lack of funds. The US government seems plagued by a failure to understand the deeply rooted cultural conflicts in a country that for years was only held together by the brutal omnipotence of a dictator.
Nine years after Saddam Hussein was deposed, Shiite and Sunni factions are now battling for power in their divided nation. The appearance of national reconciliation during the US occupation was an illusion, and one media outlet loyal to the government has led a campaign against Iraq's Sunni minority. Agitation against Sunnis has spread, and terror is rearing its head once more.
As America leaves, chaos emerges - a long-feared scenario that seems to be taking shape faster than even the pessimists could have predicted.
Author: Daniel Scheschkewitz / gsw
Editor: Nicole Goebel