Iraq backsliding, U.S. scholar says

Jan. 11, 2013 at 12:32 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Despite economic and institutional gains in a post-war Iraq, the country's political climate is deteriorating, a U.S. scholar said.

Meghan O'Sullivan, a Harvard University professor and expert on Iraq, told the Council on Foreign Relations that Iraq descended into a political crisis almost as soon as U.S. forces left the country in late 2011.

"There has been little reconciliation between the country's groups and no development of a shared vision for the country and therefore only a tenuous basis on which to move forward," she said.

Influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr has thrown support behind a movement opposing the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Sunni leaders in western Iraq have called for Maliki, a Shiite, to be removed from power. Elections in the country are set for April in a fracturing internal political climate.

Maliki ordered the arrest of his vice president, now in Turkey, on charges of operating a death squad last year, stoking internal divisions. Tensions with the semiautonomous Kurdish government, meanwhile, have been a source of contention for several years.

O'Sullivan, however, said it's unlikely that Iraq will go the way of Tunisia, Egypt or Syria, some of the regimes caught up in the Arab Spring.

"Most Iraqis, after decades of trauma, are not disposed to take to the streets to change their government, when elections provide an option," she said.

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