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Joanne Faulkner,

Editor (Asia – Middle East & Central)

 

BAGHDAD – It is now a year since the troops silently left Iraq, a country tarnished by nearly a decade of war and which scarcely makes our news feed. The last US bases were handed over to the Iraqis on 18th December, 2011 and now fewer than 200 US military personal, left to provide training and weapons, remain. Despite the passing of a year,  Iraq is still trying to come to terms with the political upheaval and reestablish itself as a power.

As a presidential candidate, Obama made the pledge to withdraw troops from Iraq. In the year 2012, Obama maintained  that he had ended the war, but the debate of whether the troops and other significant support should have remained, was all but ignored in the 2012 Presidential race.

Although the standard of living is rising within Iraq, with new electrical goods being imported, militant violence remains high and civilian casualties remain common. Ultimately, there are not much visible returns of American taxpayer’s money. The lack of US help means that such attacks are likely to continue.

However, one legacy left behind by the Americans is the continuation of America as Iraq’s biggest arm supplier,thus  tying America to the Iraqi army for the foreseeable future. Moreover, there are still US checkpoints dotted around the landscape as American companies continue their search for oil.

One area that is booming in Iraq is the media; a media that is freer and has a more diverse opinion than ever before. There was no free media during Saddam’s dictatorship and now, a new law passed ensures free speech and internet accessible to all, that has proved favourable for the growth of a media industry.

But Iraq’s government  remains fragile, conducting itself relatively unchecked. America effectively put Prime Minster Maliki into power, pressuring groups to support him. Currently, thousands of Sunni Muslims have taken to the streets to protest against him, blocking trading routes and waving the flag that existed prior to the collapse  Hussein’s regime. Now, Jalal Talabani, Iraq’s President, seen as a mediator in the country and a leader less dependent on The West, has suffered a serious stroke.

Iraq has a desire to separate itself from its Western ally, something that was clearly demonstrated by the decision to release an imprisoned Hezbollah commander, Ali Mussa Daqdug.  Daqdug is considered a threat to the US and believed to be behind a raid on a base in 2007, that ended with 5 fatalities.

As the war turned unpopular, the focus within Iraq was on the troops presence and not on the  American commitment. America doesn’t seem to have any strategy for continued relations in Iraq, or if they do, it is has been lost. Incomprehensible by most, relationships between the two countries seem to be reversing to how they were before the war.  Although the Iraqis are resilient people, this war of intervention left over 100,000 dead. Citizens are not rushing to overthrow the government in power, perhaps thinking that an Arab Spring-like situation is unlikely improve their situation.

Though most of the blame lies with Bush administration, the situation has not really improved. Western democracies still don’t leave the Middle Eastern nations alone and despite events of the past, they still continue to intervene.

American presence could have been used to strengthen democratic institutions, but instead the  decision to collapse the state and dissolve the military has led to a increase in Jihadis to fight a civil war. This can, at least, serve as a lesson that with intervention and without substantial commitment, institutions are likely to revert and  it is evident that countries can not simply be ‘fixed’ by a Western presence.

Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons(U.S. Army)

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