Strategic Forum Number 208: Turbulent Transition in Iraq: Can It Succeed?
Author(s)Yaphe, Judith S.
KeywordsGovernment and Political Science
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AbstractAs the Interim Government of Iraq begins to assert authority, diverse communities within the country are struggling to protect their equities. Critical issues include Kurdish desires for federalism and a veto on the constitution; Shi a resistance to separatism and minority veto rights; religious demands that Islam be recognized as the exclusive source of legislation; and increasing combativeness of Arab Sunnis, facing marginalization after the fall of a regime they long dominated. Iraqis will grow increasingly fractious as they jockey for political space. However, the risk of civil war between Arabs and Kurds or between Sunni and Shi a Muslims is low. While fissures are deep, all parties appear to understand that division is not an option and more can be gained through participation and negotiation. Two developments could raise the risk of domestic strife: if Sunni and Shi a extremists succeed in undermining the new government, and if the Kurds, who waver in their commitment to join the government, push for greater autonomy and control of Kirkuk. Iraqi government efforts to deal with the United States as a partner rather than a client will bolster its credibility in the eyes of many Iraqis. These efforts will not, however, lessen terrorist or insurgent attacks. Iraqis will remain suspicious that the new government will not be fully sovereign. Success will depend on American officials resisting the temptation to promote Iraqi foreign and domestic policies that support U.S. regional goals but could endanger the prospects for survival of the new government. country. Although grateful for the removal of Saddam Hussein s cruel and repressive regime, many assumed the United States and its coalition members would soon go home and leave them to sort out their political, economic, and military fate.
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