Foreign Policy Magazine run by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Fund for Peace released their latest Failed States Index for 2009. Iraq was ranked number 6 out of 177 countries. That was a very minor improvement from 2008 when Iraq was number 5. In 2007 it got its lowest mark as the second worst country in the index. Each nation was ranked from 1.0 to 10.0 with one being the best and ten the worst in twelve different social, economic, and political categories. In 2009 Iraq received a total score of 108.6. Only the Congo, Chad, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Somalia got lower marks. In 2008 Iraq was only behind Chad, Zimbabwe, Sudan and Somalia. While missing some of the major changes in Iraq since the end of the sectarian war, the report does highlight the instability and challenges that remain in the country.
Four social indicators were covered first. Iraq received an 8.7 on demographic pressures, down 0.3 from 2008. Much of Iraq is urbanized, but that is also where most of the violence takes place. Travel within many cities is limited due to checkpoints. The report believes that as security improves, Iraq will improve in this category. On refugees and displaced it got an 8.9, down 0.1 from 2008. Due to the violence 4-5 million Iraqis were forced from their homes, one of the largest refugees crises in the world. The process of return has begun, which accounts for the minor improvement in the score, but it is still happening at very low levels. Iraq received a 9.7 in group grievances, again a 0.1 improvement from 2008. The report sees the country still largely divided between Sunni and Shiites and between Arabs and Kurds. All of their examples however were from 2005 to 2008. While there are still plenty of differences between Sunnis and Shiites, much of this is now being played out in the political rather than military world as most of their events show. The dispute between Arabs and Kurds on the other hand has increased. This could be one area where Iraq could earn a better mark since there is not even half as much violence as there was before resulting from these differences. On human flight Iraq went from a 9.3 in 2008 to a 9.1 in 2009. The report cited the continued absence of much of Iraq’s professional class, and oddly attacks on journalists as a reason why the nation continues to score poorly in this category. Very few Iraqis have been displaced since 2007, which is what the category seems to be about. The latest report by the International Organization for Migration for example, found that only 2.0% of Iraq’s displaced lost their homes in 2008. The fact that Iraq’s middle class has left and not returned yet would seem to go under the refugees’ category, so the country should’ve scored better here. Overall, the study could’ve done better in ranking Iraq in group grievances and human flight.
Economic concerns were next. In uneven development Iraq did worse going from 8.5 to 8.6. The report found that Shiites areas still did better than Sunni ones. This could be partly due to the fact that Sunni areas have little to no oil, but the study also believes this has been done on purpose because of sectarian biases. United Nations reports on Iraq however, would partly dispute this finding. The Shiite south for example, has the highest rates of poverty. Since violence has been concentrated in Sunni areas, that could also be a reason why there has been less development there. In terms of the economy overall, Iraq improved 0.1 with 7.6 in 2009. The improved security meant there was more opportunity for Iraqis to return to their normal lives and conduct business. Iraq is also on the verge of its first round of bidding for long-term oil and natural gas contracts with foreign oil companies. While the study notes that Iraq is largely dependent on oil, it seemed to have missed the fact that the world recession and subsequent drop in crude prices have imposed severe limits on revenues this year. The rest of the economy is still largely underdeveloped due to wars, sanctions, and neglect.
Last the Failed State Index went through six political and military categories. First was legitimacy of the state where Iraq moved from 9.4 in 2008 to 9.0 in 2009. Iraq’s government still suffers from massive corruption, but has been able to bring back different groups that were boycotting the cabinet in 2007. The report does not take into account the new found standing of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who has increasingly presented himself as an Iraqi nationalist that is intent upon rebuilding the Iraqi state and government authority. The strength of his argument was displayed in Maliki’s strong showing in the 2009 provincial elections. In public services Iraq received an 8.4. Baghdad is still not able to meet many of the public’s needs, but it is making small improvements. On human rights, Iraq moved up from 9.6 to 9.3 due to the weakening of the insurgency. Iraq’s security forces are still accused of human rights abuses. For security forces Iraq went from 9.9 to 9.7. In this category, the study seems stuck in the sectarian war mentioning the fighting between Sunnis and Shiites, which ended in 2007, and the role of militias. That is now largely over however. Iraq received a 9.6 for factionalized elite. Here the study was right on noting that Iraq’s Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish politicians are still deeply divided upon the direction of the country. Finally Iraq maintained a 10.0 score on external intervention since the United States is still occupying the country. On legitimacy and security apparatus Iraq should’ve done much better, but the Failed State Index seemed to do okay on the other marks.
The Index gets the general idea that Iraq is still a very troubled country. There are deep political divisions within the country, the economy is dependent upon oil, services are bad, and Iraq has one of the largest number of refugees and displaced in the world, very few of which have come home. At the same time there has been a huge improvement in the security situation, very few Iraqis are being forced from their homes anymore, and Maliki has begun the process of rebuilding the image of the state. On those issues, the Failed State report is stuck in the past. This was a more marked problem in the 2008 report. While the study had problems with some individual categories, it highlights the massive problems that are still ahead to make Iraq a stable and prosperous country. This raises the question of course, of who will be responsible for trying to improve Iraq, Baghdad or Washington.
Top 10 Failed States And Total Scores
1. Somalia 114.7
2. Zimbabwe 114.0
3. Sudan 112.4
4. Chad 112.2
5. Congo 108.7
6. Iraq 108.6
7. Afghanistan 108.2
8. Central African Republic 105.4
9. Guinea 104.6
10. Pakistan 104.1
2009/2008 Marks for Iraq on Failed State Index
Total Score: 108.6/110.6
Demographic Pressures: 8.7/9.0
Refugees & Displaced: 8.9/9.0
Group Grievances: 9.7/9.8
Human Flight: 9.1/9.3
Uneven Development: 8.6/8.5
Legitimacy of State: 9.0/9.4
Public Services: 8.4/8.5
Human Rights: 9.3/9.6
Security Apparatus: 9.7/9.9
Factionalized Elites 9.6/9.8
External Intervention 10.0/10.0
Foreign Policy and The Fund for Peace, “The Failed States Index 2009,” June 2009
The Fund for Peace, “Country Profiles – Iraq,” June 2009
World Food Programme, “Comprehensive Food Security And Vulnerability Analysis In Iraq,” November 2008
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