Political instability and terrorist attacks define the situation left by the U.S. in Iraq.
Tomorrow, the official presence of the United States in Iraq will end — seven years after American troops invaded the country in March of 2003 and after leaving an immense trail of dead bodies (almost 150,000 Iraqis and some 5,000 allied soldiers) and an explosive political situation. The biggest withdrawal of troops since President Barack Obama came to power has been carried out gradually, and a few days ago the remaining combat units exited through Kuwait. 5,000 U.S. troops will remain, but their assignments will not include combat missions; instead, they will involve instructing and assisting Iraqi forces. In doing so, Obama fulfills his campaign promise to end the war that Bush and his allies justified with the excuse of the threat of weapons of mass destruction that were never found.
A few days after the last U.S. military division left, a chain of terrorist attacks left 64 dead and 300 wounded. The message was clear: The insurgency continues in Iraq and has the necessary resources to continue striking with tremendous force. It does so every day, and the constant drizzle of victims (500 dead in July — traffic guards, judges, police officers…) confirms that peace in Iraq is no more than a pipe dream. The end of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, the arrival of democracy, and the successes that promoters of the war continue to tout remain shadowed when one remembers that almost six months after the last election, a government has not been elected. It seems unlikely that the two winning factions, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s moderate Shiites (89 seats) and the Sunnis that support Ayad Allawi (91 seats), will arrive at some agreement. A pact with the third party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, would represent a victory for Iran, which would further complicate the situation.
The political instability, sustained in an old sectarian rivalry — in the same way that tensions between Arabs and Kurds remain in the north — is the consequence of a country in ruins: widespread corruption, an alarming lack of services (electricity, in most cases, functions for only four hours a day), immense levels of unemployment (estimates indicate that half of the workforce is unemployed), and destroyed agriculture, health and education services. Not to mention the several Sunni, Shiite and Kurd militias that the war leaves armed and ready to take control of the state.