Foreign Policy Blogs

Political Deadlock Furthers Instability

Three months after international observers hailed Iraq’s parliamentary elections as a success for sovereignty and civil society, the nation’s fragile democracy is suffering a withering swell of political violence.

It seems like only a short time ago we were celebrating news that the country’s Sunnis had holstered their discontent to unite with countrymen across sectarian lines. Iran’s influence seemed on the wane and a secular coalition had gained momentum after years of confessional infighting.

Sadly, Iraq’s politicians have not yet proven themselves worthy of the men and women who braved car bombs and mortar fire to impart their mandate.

Ayad Allawi’s Al-Iraqiya coalition was poised to win a decisive victory, but ultimately fell short of a governing majority. Now, his cross-sectarian alliance has been thoroughly undermined by the dominant Shi’a alliance – one in which the powerful Sadrists have assumed the role of political kingmakers. Sunni displeasure seems on the rise as their role is yet again reduced to “opposition bloc.” 

And while the 325 member parliament has been formally sworn in, it is unlikely that the governing hierarchy will be finalized for several weeks. The constitution, itself, remains riddled with legislative gaps that threaten the electoral and political processes that bind the nascent democracy. Meanwhile, external challenges continue to mount.

First and foremost, the new parliament will be responsible for putting an end to the precipitious escalation in violence that has rocked the country since the March elections failed to yield a clear winner.  

The country’s Kurdish minority harbors a long-standing and bitter resentment over land, oil and constitutional rights that has threatened the peace across the semi-autonomous northern territory the Kurds consider their ancestral homeland. This antipathy has further delayed the responsible stewardship of Iraq’s multi-billion dollar oil wealth which remains hamstrung by antiquated hydrocarbon laws.

The corruption that marginalizes the government’s ability to assure security and basic services is viewed by many U.S. military officials as being as dangerous to the country’s stability as the lingering insurgency. Just today, Iraq’s electricity minister, Kareem Wahid Hasan, announced his resignation amidst mounting frustration with the country’s terminal power shortages. The service crisis stands testament to the empty promise of a representative government that remains brittle with dishonesty and fraud.

All the while, America counts the days till her duty is done…



Reid Smith

Reid Smith has worked as a research associate specializing on U.S. policy in the Middle East and as a political speechwriter. He is currently a doctoral student and graduate associate with the University of Delaware's Department of Political Science and International Relations. He blogs and writes for The American Spectator.