Reflections on Iraq

Iraq needs a Premier

Since the failure of Mohamed Tawfiq Allawi to form a government things in Iraq have been going nowhere. Technically the President has a 15 day window, a breathing space in which to find a new premier. The name currently being touted is that of Iraq’s Intelligence Chief, Dr Mustafa Al-Kazemi – but is anyone willing to take on this poisoned chalice? To hear the Next Century Foundation’s Secretary General’s podcast on the subject click here.

This is the most dangerous time in Iraq’s history since 2003. Some suggest that the risk is that there might be a Shiite – Shiite civil war (presumably between forces led by Hadi al Amri and forces led by Muqtada Sadr) and that the aftermath of that might lead to a dictatorship. It seems there is no interest in making Iraq a better place, no pressure or incentive whatsoever to work toward better managing (reducing) divisions that could erupt into violence. Some say that Baghdad has become a place of competing warlords.

Iraq is a failed state. It’s a conundrum. Partitioning is one proposition but that is unlikely to ever happen. Too many see it as breaking the country apart.

Whomever is premier is held hostage to the political parties. Mohamed Tawfiq Allawi’s ideas about a quasi independent government to satisfy the demands of the demonstrators might have worked from a man more willing to at least listen to advice.

Iraq needs a transformation of governance, not just a change of government that amounts to no more than changing one’s clothes.

Adel Abdul-Mahdi had to go whether or not Ayatollah Sistani called for him to go. He presided over the corrupt system that the protesters wanted gone, with good reason.

But a new beginning is needed.

And now nobody really wants the job of Premier. Indeed with oil at $25 a barrel because of the ongoing oil price race to the bottom between Russia and Saudi Arabia, the job of premier of Iraq has become a true poisoned chalice. Iraq needs $70 a barrel to balance the budget.

However the real conundrum is that the corruption will not end with a simple change of government.

What the protesters have been calling for, with widespread support among virtually all ethnic and religious communities, is the transformation of governance, not a mere change in government.

Life goes on and as long as national revenue is shared with the governorates and KRG, life will be managed to some extent at the provincial and regional levels.

Iraq has become the 4th highest of 96 oil-producing countries. After 17 years, the national government can very well deliver oil but it hasn’t even delivered clean water to the people of Basra.


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