Monday, September 15, 2008

Iraq is becoming a normal country.

Iraq is quite like a normal country. It has an army, it has a police force and it has regional civil militia. It is approaching a second set of elections with some optimism that all groups will choose to participate. The transition from lawless 2005 to quiet 2008 has been made by the famous surge and some other stuff.

The surge was a commitment to stay when it looked likely that the Americans would leave, it was from this that all else followed. The Iraqi Army needed the time to train and the assistance the Americans could offer and has proved its worth by taking Basra from the Mahdi army. The police force is more pieced together and less secure for the central government, but this works better for the police and works better for the locals. The Sunni, have joined the Shia and the Kurds in supporting the government, whilst maintaining a local militia forces who get supprt (sometimes willing, sometimes not) from state and coalition coffers. Iraq was made safe by deploying a large enough force of men.

Less positive actions have also assisted in creating the peace. The seperation of ethnic groups brought about by the Sunni killings of Shia and the Shia killings of Sunni have assisted in the formation of several motivated civil militia. The seperation has also made it easier for local police to work with the locals. And fact that it ended in a stalemate has served as an object lesson as to such operations general ineffectiveness.

Against this backdrop the economy is improving (5% GDP growth), because oil exports are secure. Oil contracts are being inked. The agricultural sector is in crisis, because there is a drought. Normalacy reigns. There are problems - banks are non-existant, brown outs are the norm and corruption runs at normal Arab levels.

They did all this without rocking up to and threatening their neighbours. At least beyond the implicit threat of having a reasonably large and battle tested army. Which means I was wrong about a lot of stuff, but mainly wrong that time would not alter perspectives.



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