Uncertainty for Democracy in Iraq
Following a stroke last week, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s questionable health led to uncertainty about Iraq’s future. Peter Galbraith addressed these concerns in an opinion piece in Foreign Policy, noting that Iraq currently lacks a successor that could wield the same influence as Talabani in maintaining peace between Iraq’s sectarian factions. He adds that Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki is generally perceived by opponents to have “increasingly dictatorial tendencies” and as an impediment to the goals of non-Shia’s. This perception intensified on December 23 when thousands of Sunni protestors blocked a main highway between Baghdad, Jordan and Syria. The protests were a result of Iraq’s Shiite led government’s decision to arrest 10 bodyguards of Sunni Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi, on terrorism charges. The arrests were perceived as al-Maliki “removing political rivals…in the name of democracy and law.”
Officials from the U.S. Department of State addressed some of Iraq’s current issues on December 21, stating that they “urged Iraqi leaders to uphold their commitments to due process and the rule of law as enshrined in the constitution.” State officials also asserted that they support “a constitutional solution to disputes over the management of Iraq’s hydrocarbon resources.” The following day however, Kurdish authorities officially halted crude shipments of oil from the northern region to one of Turkey’s key terminals. According to the Kurds, the move was a result of disagreements over “disputed land, crude sale revenue and energy contracts terms” between the Kurdish Regional Government and Iraq’s central government.
On December 23 the New York Times published a piece by Albert Hunt, highlighting reasons why John Kerry is a smart choice for the next Secretary of State: namely his “intelligence and judgement…knowledge of foreign policy,” and service in Vietnam which is described as “firsthand experience of…’the brutality and stupidity’ of war.” Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy also wrote a piece, providing speculation on who Kerry might place on his staff, if his nomination is confirmed.