Can Iraq Embrace Democracy Paul

Can Iraq Embrace Democracy?

Paul McGeough of the Australian newspaper, The Age wonders thoughtfully whether the US attempt to impose democracy on Iraq will succeed.

He writes, ‘ The compound is just across the oozy waters of the Tigris River from downtown Baghdad, a commercial district that, superficially, has much of its old bustle back. Petrol queues are shorter than they were in December. A mobile phone system is staggering into life and some of the telephone exchanges bombed by the Americans during the war are expected to come back into service any time now. But there are still power black-outs every day; there is no guarantee about the quality of the drinking water; raw sewage runs in garbage-strewn streets; and unemployment is estimated at between 35 and 60 per cent. Baghdad also remains a city of fear, patrolled by tanks and guns, with kidnappings and murder rife. Any building that is at all important is surrounded by intimidating blast walls made of heavy concrete – living and working behind them are diplomats and aid workers, the Coalition Provisional Authority and local political parties, banks and the foreign media. There is gunfire through most days and nights, punctuated by explosions that seemingly cause little disruption to the city’s rhythm. The Americans have started reducing their street patrols, pulling back to bases. But their place has been taken by an anxious, incompetent and ill-equipped new Iraqi police force and dozens of public and private security organisations and politically-backed militias. Many of the new political parties have their own armed militias. The Shiite-backed militias engage in security and policing in neighbourhoods loyal to their party; the Kurdish Peshmerga stand ready to defend their territory in the north; and the Sunni militias are already at war. It could well be that the much-predicted civil war has already begun. ‘

Nir Rosen in the Asia Times gives an overview of the current state of play with regard to the militant Shiite movement of Muqtada al-Sadr. His militia, the Army of the Mahdi, is running courts and jailing people in the basements of tenement buildings. The Sadrists oppose a loose federalism, citing the failures in Bosnia, and desire a strong central government.