After suffering from a decade of foreign occupation, Iraq entered a new phase of its 21st century history this month when a multipronged insurgency seized large parts of the country from the central government.
Signs of a recovery on the part of the Iraqi state aren’t encouraging. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to the Kurdish region to talk with Massoud Barzani, and was informed that a “new Iraq” had already emerged. The Kurdish authorities have begun to strike out on their own, seizing the city of Kirkuk, lying outside their regional government zone, and ignoring the central authorities to export oil, with one of the buyers being Israel.
Amid these worrying indications of the direction a “new Iraq” will take, there is the performance of the central government – Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has agreed to give legal protection to U.S. military personnel who are being sent to salvage the situation.
This is the same Maliki who opposed such a move on principle a few years ago, when Washington and Baghdad were negotiating the future of the American military presence. It’s obvious that his objections weren’t based on principle, if one looks to the rapid acceptance of what was so unpalatable before.
Yet another Baghdad decision – no pay for state employees in insurgent-held areas until “hostilities” end – signals only retreat and expediency, instead of vision and resolve.
As American and Iraqi officials discuss ways to help the “new Iraq” move forward, people should remember that many of the players being asked to fix things are actually responsible for the current mess.