-That brings me to my next concern, the future of Iraq as an independent entity. At this time Iraq has a government that is still seen by the populace to be more sympathetic to the interests of the Shi'a segment of the population than the other two major groups and a host of smaller groups and populations. Hand in hand with this concern, is also the feeling about possible Iranian influence in both civil unrest and elements of the government? This only increases the unease the non-Shi’a groups and promotes a host of concerns about how that Iranian influence is aimed against them. As long as this concern remains it will affect internal relations between the Shi'a led government and the rest of the population which will make any institution building effort on the part of the current government suspicious to the rest. In addition, the majority Shi'a population will most likely continue to lead governments for the foreseeable future, which seems to mean that this simmering tension will be the norm between these groups.
-As part of the internal issues in Iraq there are two other concerns:
1) The Sunni. As long as they still feel disadvantaged in comparison to the majority there is always the risk of a return to the civil war of the mid 2000's, especially if enough time elapses. This tension may also be aggravated by the change in status of this group from being relied upon by US Forces to being ignored by the Iraqi Government. Conversely, this tension could be reduced by a general desire for these two groups to work together in the government and overcome the horrors of the civil war. Though the Sunni will have to resign their leadership and themselves to minority status with no chance of changing that in the foreseeable future.
2) The Kurds. While they maintain an autonomous region they also participate in the central government so their fate is linked to that of Iraq, unless they break away and become independent. The Kurdish region faces three concerns: internally there is the issues surrounding Kirkut and the ethnic status of the city and where does it exist in Iraq, inside or outside the autonomous territory. Also, the question of whether Kurdish forces pushed out other Iraqi's to lay claim to the city or not is still ongoing and any resolution to that will leave internal scars for some time to come. The central Iraqi government will have to decide how to handle both this claim and how to coordinate with the autonomous region and make that the new normal. At this point in time the internal situation in Iraq is still being created and has yet to find its level.
Externally, the Kurds have to start making decisions about what they plan to do with the PKK and other resistance fighters in surrounding countries. With the US gone the Kurds do not have them to restrain neighboring countries from restarting the reprisal system that existed in the 90's and early 2000's when we saw Turkey send forces into Northern Iraq to punish Kurdish communities for the actions of Kurdish rebels. While actions by the PKK and other groups are at low ebb right now that does not mean they may not restart sometime. If that happens this will pull the Iraqi central government into the conflict even if they don't want to become involved out of the sheer necessity to protect their borders.
-External concerns for Iraq.
1) Though there is concern of Iranian influence in Iraq there is little public evidence to suggest such a connection exists but it would not be surprising if one did considering how Iran feels surrounded by American client states and forces. Their concerns that Iraq would become the staging area of a US invasion of Iran should be reduced now considering the forces have left the country and are leaving the region. However, as long as Iraq is perceived as a US client state there is always the risk of Iran attempting to take action and exert control in Iraq out of self-interest and the feeling of threat. Since the Iraqi military is still very small and configured for the counterinsurgency role and the government is weak, the possibility of effective outside action disrupting Iraq is high at this moment and will remain so until the government becomes stronger. Only then will it be able to resist these threats.
2) There is also the concern that the US may now feel proprietary towards Iraq and attempt to meddle in the day-to-day affairs of the country and will keep a close eye on such events as elections and policy creation. This has the risk of stifling the development of the Iraqi government and the democratic process in general by forcing it to continue to rely on outside influence for help. While there is the feeling in the US that we will never let go of Iraq completely, one hopes that this is not the case for the sake of the Iraqi people.
-All these factors taken together show that although the US has withdrawn from Iraq, there is a great deal of internal construction to be undertaken in the country. Only once Iraq has developed a system of governance that is seen as fair by the majority of the population across the spectrum and is also considered effective in delivering services to all segments of the population will it be considered strong. Until that point in time it can still be regarded as a fragile construction that could collapse under a hard enough shock, but may also be strong enough to withstand it as well. In this regard, there is still a long road ahead of the country.
-Finally at the end of this event we can look back on the Bush Doctrine in this case and evaluate in the context of Iraq. In this context the Bush Doctrine can be seen as a complete failure to successfully exercise its policies in the international stage in that the executive presidency and administration led the US into a situation that was greater than any of them imagined, with no post-war reconstruction plan. This resulted in a series of bad decisions that affected Iraq and helped create the civil war in the middle of last decade, destroy Iraq's cultural history, and rendered the current government weak. Only when General Petraeus was given the lead to run operations without the micro managing that was the norm until that point was stability achieved though it should have never been lost in the first place. For the last three years the current President did not modify the overall policy in Iraq other than upping the timetable of a necessary withdrawal, to have done otherwise would have been to invite further disruption in the country. At this point in time, we should look at the second Iraq war as a mistake that should never be repeated due to the risk to all involved. Further, the reasoning for the invasion in the first place was specious and grandstanding with no basis in fact and not supported by any evidence that has come to light post-invasion. As a result, we can say that this war resulted in the unnecessary deaths of tens if not hundreds of thousands of people for effectively no reason and this is possibly the saddest outcome of the conflict overall.
Thank you for reading,