The report reviewed how the country sank into [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] and [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] , and went through bloody crises that left hundreds of thousands of victims, all the way to [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] and the recent clashes between [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] and [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] before the formation of the government of Muhammad Shia al-Sudani.The country has witnessed 7 bloody transformations since the US invasion in 2003, which left hundreds of thousands of victims and ended with the control of Tehran's allies.
The country in which Washington promised "democracy", is suffering today in the shadow of [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] represented by [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] accused of a long series of massacres and liquidations, after 7 bloody stations, and is facing a not easy task to balance its position between Washington and Tehran, as the report concludes.
Twenty years after the US-led [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] , the oil-rich country remains deeply scarred by conflict and, although closer to the United States, is a far cry from the liberal democracy Washington envisioned.
US President [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] war , launched in the aftermath of [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] , is etched in memory for the "shock and awe" blows, the toppling of Saddam's colossal statue, and the years of bloody sectarian unrest that followed.
The decision taken after the ground invasion of 20 March 2003 to dismantle the state, party and military apparatus in Iraq deepened the chaos that fueled years of bloodshed from which the jihadist Islamic State later emerged.
American forces, backed mainly by British forces, never found [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] that were the justification for war, and eventually left Iraq, liberated from a dictator but unstable and also under the control of Washington's archenemy, Iran.
"The United States simply did not understand the nature of Iraqi society, and the nature of the regime that it overthrew," said Samuel Helfont, assistant professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in California.
Helfont said Bush, whose father fought a war with Iraq in 1990-91 after [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] , declared he wanted to impose "liberal democracy" but that campaign fizzled out, even if Saddam was quickly removed.
“Building democracy takes time and building democracy does not create a utopia overnight,” said Hamza Haddad, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Instead of discovering nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, the attack by the US-led international coalition opened a [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] , traumatizing Iraqis and alienating some traditional US allies.
Major violence erupted again in Iraq after [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] of a Shiite shrine in Samarra, north of Baghdad (the shrine of Imams Ali al-Hadi and al-Hasan al-Askari), which sparked a two-year civil war.
By the time the United States withdrew under Barack Obama in 2011, more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed, according to the Iraq Body Count. The United States has claimed approximately 4,500 deaths among its troops.
Chaos and corruption
More atrocities came to Iraq when the Islamic State (ISIS) declared its "caliphate" and in 2014 swept through nearly a third of the country - a brutal rule that ended in Iraq only in 2017 after an exhausting military campaign.
Today, about 2,500 American soldiers are stationed in Iraq, not as occupiers, but in a "non-combat advisory role" in the international coalition against the Islamic State, whose remaining cells continue to launch sporadic bombings and other attacks.
Years of violence have profoundly changed society in Iraq, which has long been home to a diverse mix of ethnic and religious groups. The Yazidi minority has been targeted in what the United Nations has called a campaign of genocide, and much of the once vibrant Christian community has been expelled.
Tensions also escalated between the federal government in Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish authority in northern Iraq, particularly over oil exports.
In October 2019, Iraqi youth led a nationwide protest movement venting frustration with incompetent governance, rampant corruption, and meddling by Iran, sparking a bloody crackdown that left hundreds dead.
Despite Iraq's vast [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] reserves , about a third of the 42 million people live in poverty, while about 35 percent of young people are unemployed, according to the United Nations.
Politics remains chaotic, as it took Parliament a year, marred by post-election infighting, to be sworn in to form a new government last October.
Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani pledged to fight graft in Iraq, which ranks near the bottom of Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, at 157 out of 180 countries.
"Every Iraqi can tell you that corruption began to flourish...in 1990," when Iraq was under international sanctions, Haddad said, adding that graft is more so now "because Iraq is open to the world."
Iraq suffers from other challenges, from its damaged infrastructure and daily power outages to water scarcity and the ravages of climate change.
However, Haddad said that Iraq today is a "democratic country" that needs time to mature because "democracy is messy."
Iran is gaining influence
One major unintended consequence of the US invasion was the massive rise in influence now exercised in Iraq by arch-rival Iran.
Iran and Iraq fought a protracted war in the 1980s, but the neighbors also have close cultural and religious ties as majority Shiite states.
Iraq has become a major economic lifeline for the Islamic Republic as it faces sanctions over its disputed nuclear programme, while Iran supplies Iraq with gas and electricity as well as consumer goods.
Politically, the Shiite parties in Iraq, freed from the yoke of the Sunni dictator Saddam, have become "the most powerful players," says Hamdi Malik, an associate fellow at The Washington Institute.
He noted that Iranian-backed groups managed to maintain a certain "cohesion" despite the infighting after the recent elections, adding that "Iran plays a crucial role" in ensuring continued cohesion.
By contrast, the Iraqi minority "the Kurds and Sunnis are not strong players, mainly because they suffer from serious internal divisions," Malik said.
Iraq's parliament is dominated by pro-Iranian parties, and more than 150,000 fighters from the former Iran-backed paramilitary Popular Mobilization Forces have been integrated into state forces.
Baghdad must now manage relations with both Washington and Tehran, says a Western diplomat in Iraq who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"It is trying to balance its relations with Iran and its Sunni and Western neighbors," the diplomat said. It's a "very precise exercise".
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