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Iraqi Association comments

March 2009

Iraq, Six Years Later

This month marks the sixth anniversary of the war in Iraq. It is an anniversary that's been
overshadowed by the ongoing global financial turmoil. Iraqis still struggle with daily hardship and
indiscriminate attacks as we enter its seventh year. Iraq is no longer a major headline and it
doesn’t seem to get much attention lately from politicians and the major media. While we enter its
seventh year thousands of civilian Iraqis have been killed and over two million people, mainly from
the middle class, fled Iraq, including 20,000 of its 34,000 doctors (2,000 of whom have been
murdered).

The infrastructure remains in shambles and religious and sectarian violence continues with the
country increasingly Balkanized between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. While lingering violence in
Mosul and Diyala province remains a challenge now, the real battle — the one that will define
what kind of Iraq emerges as the US withdraws its troops in the next two years — has barely
begun. The fundamental problem is the division and sectarian hate which dominates Iraqi politics.
Iraqis are the authors of their history, as the US withdraws, the course of "Iraqification" will depend
on how Iraqis reveal and resolve their own differences.

In pursuit of reconciliation
While violence decreases across Iraq, women in the war-ravaged country face worsening
hardships as the conflict has thrust them into the role of family breadwinners. Hundreds of
thousands of Iraqi women have been left widowed by the war and its aftermath. Many families do
not have daily access to basic services such as water and electricity or cannot afford to send their
children to school. Others, who lost their husbands to the conflict, get no government pension. The
Iraqi government must invest in social welfare to provide essential services.

Saddam is gone, but the Western-style democracy that the supporters of the invasion envisioned
is still a long way away. While there is relative calm in Iraq, competition for power and resources
among rival religious and ethnic groups is gearing up. The challenge is how to get all sides to
reconcile so a civil war won't break out as US forces leave.

Although the violence has plummeted, bombs still go off in Baghdad; Iraqi civilians still die and
suffer. The provincial elections of January showed that most voters freely expressed their
democratic desire and enjoy democracy in action. The progress is slow, but the mood of people
has shifted. In Baghdad's famous Mutanabi Street, which is lined with bookstores, the sales of
religious books have plummeted. Sales of such books initially exploded in the years after the
invasion.

Fragile situation
The Iraqi people seem to be thinking more about peace, harmony and a better future, but they are
also desperate for officials who are less corrupt and can deliver jobs and services. The frustration
is that the Iraqi authorities are unable to deliver what Iraqis seek and parliament hasn’t delivered
services or cleaned up corruption and nepotism.

Meanwhile, with oil prices low, Iraq lacks the income to create jobs and confront massive
unemployment. The fragile situation requires political maturity and less sectarian thinking.
Priorities must be set to tackle the needs of people – from refugees to the needs of vulnerable
women and children – and empower technocrats in the government.

Your comments are welcome info@iraqiassociaon.org
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