Monday, July 7, 2008

Iraq Ranked No. 5 on Failed States List – Troubled Country or Flawed Analysis?

Foreign Policy magazine, run by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Peace Fund released their yearly list of failed states. Out of 177 countries, Iraq ranked number 5, only behind Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Chad. This was a slight improvement over 2007 when Iraq was ranked number 2 on the list. Each country was given a score of 1 to 10, with 1 being the best and 10 being the worst, on eleven indicators. Iraq’s total score was 110.6. It scored 9.0 on Demographic Pressures (From 2006-2007 Baghdad and central Iraq went through ethnic cleansing resulting in a wave of squatters and property disputes that have yet to be resolved), 9.0 on Refugees and Displaced Persons (Iraq has one of the greatest refugee crises in the world right now, with half of them internally displaced), 9.8 on Group Grievances (Sectarian and ethnic divisions continue in Iraq between Sunnis and Shiites, and also with Kurds and smaller groups like the Turkoman. These disputes are not being resolved through violence as much anymore however, so the score of 9.8 seems too high), 9.3 on Human Flight (there are around 2.5 million Iraqis that have fled to foreign countries), 8.5 on Uneven Development (Shiites and Kurds run the government and are the main beneficiaries of its largesse, while the Sunnis are left out many times), 7.8 on the Economy (Oil prices are skyrocketing so Iraq is bringing in millions in extra cash. The rest of the economy has failed to develop however. That’s not much different from other oil producing countries), 9.4 on Delegitimization of the State (Many Sunnis do not feel like they have a say in the government, while the Sons of Iraq/Awakening movement that has improved security have made peace with the U.S., not the Iraqi government. The major problem is that four political parties, the two Kurdish ones, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, and the Dawa Party, run Iraq and only the Kurds have any public support. The Kurds also control several provinces where Arabs are a majority. That being said, the fighting for control of the state has been drastically reduced, so 9.4 seems inflated), 8.5 on Public Services (Despite all the extra oil revenue, Baghdad is still unable to provide basic services to much of its public. Electricity, fuel and clean water are all in short supply), 9.6 on Human Rights (The majority of prisoners in Iraqi and U.S. jails are Sunnis, many of which have never been charged with a crime and have been imprisoned for months. There are also reports of torture and abuse in Iraqi jails and by security forces. On the flipside, extra judicial killings by death squads and the like are hardly seen in the country anymore. Iraq has also passed an Amnesty Law that has released tens of thousands of prisoners. Again, a 9.6 seems excessive), 9.9 on Security Apparatus (Shiite militias, Sunni insurgents, and Sunni Awakening/Sons of Iraq groups all operate in Iraq, mostly independent of the government. The report however, was probably completed before the wave of security crackdowns in Basra, Sadr City, Mosul and Maysan that has started to impose government control over parts of the country.), and a 9.8 on Factionalized Elite (Sunnis are still boycotting Maliki’s cabinet and the Kurds, and Shiite Dawa Party and Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) dominate the government. The opposition is weak and disorganized.)

Overall, the report is useful in pointing out some of the institutional problems that Iraq faces after starting from scratch in the wake of the U.S. invasion. At the same time, it seems too pessimistic. The overall assumption seems to be that Iraq is only one step away from returning to the 2006-2007 sectarian war period. That seems hard to believe as many groups now have a vested interest in keeping the violence down to achieve other goals such as gaining entry into the political process, or simply surviving. Even the recent fighting between the government and the Mahdi Army shows the new status quo as it was between two Shiite groups fighting for political, rather than sectarian control. In its wake, security has improved and order has been imposed on more areas of the country. There are deep and lasting problems in Iraq such as refugees, corruption, and the lack of basic services, but at the same time, Iraq has changed, specifically on the security front. The next big dispute, control of the provinces, and deciding the leaders of the Sunni and Shiite communities, will mostly be resolved through political maneuverings, rather than just force, and that’s something the Failed States List seems to overlook.

SOURCES

Foreign Policy/Fund for Peace, “The Failed States Index 2008,” Foreign Policy, July/August 2008

Fund for Peace/Foreign Policy, “Failed States Index 2007,” Fund for Peace, June 2007

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