May 7, 2013 | Manal Omar & Sarhang Hamasaeed
With U.S. influence over Iraq’s divided political scene much reduced since American troops withdrew from the country, the best way left for the United States to promote stability in Iraq is to help bring an end to the increasingly sectarian civil war in neighboring Syria, according to some of the specialists on Iraq who spoke at a May 6 meeting at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP).
“You can’t solve Iraq until Syria calms down,” said Daniel Serwer, a senior research professor of conflict management at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a senior fellow at its Center for Transatlantic Relations. “What happens in Syria does not stay in Syria.”
Unlike any time in the past 16 months, the threat of all-out chaos and violence in Iraq’s most volatile provinces is high and has a potential to return the country to the upheaval of 2005-2007 or worse, given the regional dynamics and the complications stemming from the war in neighboring Syria.
While interest in developments inside Iraq has shifted away for many experts, the country’s future is pivotal to the region. What had been just potential for the conflicts in Iraq and Syria to influence each other has escalated to a combined threat in many ways. Groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and Jabhat al-Nusra have already merged leadership, and fighting forces on both sides of the border are actively pursuing their political aspirations of mutual support. This rapidly evolving scenario will require far more effort and resources to contain if action is delayed.
April 19, 2013 | Manal Omar and Sarhang Hamasaeed
Iraq first elections since the U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011—provincial contests to be held on April 20—are a historic step for the country’s young democracy. They will have significant implications for the future of democracy, stability and peace in Iraq.
The last round of provincial elections occurred in 2009. Iraqis who participate in the process will have an opportunity to vote for the provincial councils of their respective provinces. That the elections will proceed (with some limitations) despite terror attacks, violence and political polarization is itself a triumph of sorts; many had believed that the provincial elections would never happen.
April 17, 2013 | Manal Omar
The 10-year mark for the start of the war in Iraq is hardly something to commemorate, but it serves as a reminder to review the good, bad and the ugly.
The reality is that the situation in Iraq today cannot be reduced to one simple dichotomy. The situation remains complex. I often describe the progress of Iraq as an odd dance – two steps forward, one step back, and then three steps to the side. In order to understand the situation in Iraq accurately, it is important to avoid hindsight judgment or a classification in the extremes. Instead of noting a dour anniversary, now is the time to pause and take stock of where Iraq is today.
April 11, 2013 | Viola Gienger
Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction who has calculated that the U.S. “wasted” at least $8 billion of the $60 billion spent in the years after the invasion, recalls talking to American officials there in 2004. He asked what lessons were being applied from the reconstruction experience after the Balkan wars.
“The answer was, `This isn’t the Balkans,’ “ Bowen recalled this week during a panel discussion at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) in Washington, D.C. The response presaged the mistakes made in the aftermath of the fall of Saddam Hussein, in part because previous experiences that were relevant weren’t heeded, he said.
July 2, 2006 | Manal Omar for "Islamica Magazine"
Disbelief. It was the one word I heard over and over once I finally reached Beirut. Whether it was from individuals or non-governmental organizations, the description was of complete astonishment at the bombardment of a country that was finally transitioning out of war. It was not horror or fear, but an overwhelming sense of disbelief that within 34 days, Lebanon had faced so much death and destruction as the world stood by. The main victims were women and children as a political and psychological war was being waged at the expense of such a fragile country.
Summer 2005 | Manal Omar for "The Critical Half"