Foreign Policy Blogs

Defining Irony: Iraq Set to Take the Helm of the Arab League

In an unintended twist of fate, Libya’s expulsion from the Arab League has left the fragile state of Iraq at the helm of the Arab League. However ironically, the Arab nation has significant experience coping with a Western powers military campaign against an unpopular dictator. The New York Times is reporting that Iraq had welcomed their turn at the wheel before democratic fervor swept across the Middle East. Several Iraqi statesmen were said to have envisioned a so-called “Baghdad Declaration” as statement of the definitive ideology and ethics of modern Middle Eastern democracy.  

Well, now they’ll have their chance, although it remains to be seen whether they’ll be ready. The current tide of unrest that has rocked the region has not spared Iraq, where the nation’s curious version of democracy seems to many to be creeping backward toward authoritarianism. Still, the widespread protests experienced in the streets of Baghdad and Basra have not been aimed at dismantling the government – rather, demands have been made to improve it.

Some 50,000 American troops remain on station around the major cities and the nation’s reliance on United States advisers to defend its air space and protect against foreign threats lingers. However, Iraq has kept in line with her Arab League neighbors by declining participation in the military action against Libya, which began last Saturday.

While the United Kingdom and the United States were not audacious enough to pressure the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya until the Arab League requested it, the Arabs have spared little time before denouncing the implementation of the decision, on the grounds that it was designed to protect civilians, rather than attack territories in Libya.

After weeks of violent crackdowns by security forces on anti-government protesters in Bahrain, Yemen and Syria, it should come as little surprise that the Arab states are reticent to applaud foreign intervention. The demand for political reforms and greater freedoms will not be beaten back without a swift government action. That the foreign response has been so vigorous must have given many an oligarchic pause to think.

Of course, Iraq has already had a taste of that medicine…



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.