Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Latest Iraq Stability Trends

The success of the al-Sharistani plan obviously depends critically on the stability of Iraq.  If the country were to descend into a war-zone again, there would be little prospect of large increases in oil supply.  In particular, the inability of Iraq to form a new government almost five months after the elections raises the question as to whether stability is worsening. The latest on the government front:
Still, the way the stalemate over a new government has played out certainly raises questions over the extent of commitment among Iraq's political leaders to peace and democracy. The two biggest vote-winning coalitions — former Prime Minster Ayad Allawi's Iraqyya list, which won 91 seats in the 325-seat Council of Representatives, and incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law coalition, which won 89 — have almost identical platforms calling for a strong central state. Though each has a different sectarian hue — Iraqya's support base is more strongly Sunni, while State of Law is more strongly Shi'ite — both are moderate enough and sufficiently non-sectarian that they could join forces tomorrow to create a governing majority that ought to please most of their supporters. Allawi and Maliki, in fact, met on Tuesday to discuss such a prospect. But once again, the discussion remained deadlocked, because both men want to be prime minister, and neither is ready to compromise for the good of the country.

Instead, Maliki and Allawi are playing factional politics, negotiating with avowedly sectarian or ethnically oriented groups in search of a majority coalition. Maliki has united with the conservative Islamist Shi'ite parties that favor more autonomy for Shi'ite majority southern Iraq, though he still doesn't have enough votes to form a government because radical cleric Muqtada al Sadr, who controls the largest faction within the Shi'ite coalition, refuses to accept Maliki staying on as prime minister. For his part, Allawi is flirting not only with Sadr (on Monday, the two men met in Damascus and called for Maliki to step aside) but also the Kurds. This is surprising because Allawi and the Kurds were major rivals during the election and remain ideological opposites. (Allawi favors centralization in Baghdad, while the Kurds want more autonomy for Kurdish northern Iraq.)

Nevertheless, earlier this month, Allawi met with Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani and announced the need for a sort of national unity government that would include a broad array of parties, no doubt including the Kurds.
I can't help contrast the situation in Iraq with the situation in the UK, where, following a hung election, it took less than a week for political elites to agree on a coalition government.  I guess that's the difference between a country having long-experience with norms of democratic culture, and not having that experience.

To update myself on the security impacts of the situation in Iraq, I turned again to the Brookings Iraq Index, which has data for many indices through the end of June.  Probably the most significant graph is for Iraqi civilian fatalities:

I added the May and June numbers to Brooking's graph by hand. There seems to have been a very slight uptick in the spring, but not enough to be of major concern. A similar picture appears for attacks on the US coalition troops:

Similarly, multiple fatality bombings have had a mini-surge in the spring, but nowhere near the levels of 2006, or even last summer:

So, the overall picture is that stability is more-or-less holding, despite the uncertainty over the government.  However, it certainly isn't improving any more, so there is room for doubt about the future.


Alexander Ac said...

So Iraq might not save us 10 years so the climate destruction could go on?

Maybe people in Moscow would be happy as they are approaching its own peak oil and fighting with smog from nearby forest fires and several days of baking weather is ahead. Last time, this was in 2002; seems like frequency of forest fires in Russia is on the rise, but I have not seen good statistics. See:

"Scientist says 100s may die as smog blankets Moscow"

Alexander Ac said...

Sorry for OT, but NYT has depressing editorial with respect to Pines, Beetles and Bears:

"Great swaths of trees are dead or dying after being attacked by the mountain pine beetle and a disease called white pine blister rust. The forests used to be protected by harsh winters and cool summers. But warmer winters and summers have allowed the beetle to breed more quickly and to move to the higher elevations favored by white bark pines."

"The worst damage will be done to grizzly bears, which feed heavily on pine nuts before hibernation."]

somtimes I do not now - what is worse - Climate change or Peak Oil?

Stephen O'Brien said...

Fatalities and attacks may be down, but that doesn't mean the government is any less dysfunctional. The future is anyone's guess, but I doubt we will see more than 4mbd out of Iraq, ever.