Iraq Faces Disintegration According to British Think Tank

Iraq is beset by, not one, but numerous civil wars and insurgencies, society is breaking down increasingly along ethnic and sectarian lines, and the central government is largely powerless and ineffective. That is the assessment of a report issued by the prestigious Chatham House research center in London. VOA's Sonja Pace has details from the British capital.

The report is titled, Accepting Realities in Iraq, and it portrays an Iraq wracked by civil wars and violence and beset by a breakdown of the society's fabric and social cohesion.

The manager of the Middle East program at Chatham House, Michael Lowe, tells VOA the various strategies set out by both Britain and the United States have not worked, including the current U.S. military surge.

"This is partly because there is not a clear and honest acceptance and understanding of the very harsh realities, which are current in Iraq, chiefly of the level of breakdown of Iraqi society, the regionalization of the country and the sheer number of conflicts going," said Lowe. "There is not one civil war, there are at least seven, if not eight, wars taking place in Iraq today."

There are differing views on the situation in Iraq. Speaking in Baghdad, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said he is encouraged by political and security developments. He said there has been no reversion to widespread sectarian violence and political leaders are working hard to resolve contentious issues.

During a joint news conference with President Bush in Washington, British Prime Minister Tony Blair looked for the upbeat.

"There are the majority elements in each of the main communities, whether Sunni or Shia or Kurd, who actually want to live in peace with one another and want a future for that country that is not marred by terrorism and sectarianism, and we of course want to see that happen in the interest of that country and the interest of the stability of the wider region and the world," said Blair.

But, the Chatham House report leaves little room for optimism. It says that while the number of civilian deaths in Baghdad has dropped since the military surge, the activities of al Qaida and other groups have continued unabated and violence in other parts of Iraq has increased.

Another reality mentioned by Chatham House is the shift of power away from the central government to the regions and a society increasingly fragmented along ethnic and sectarian lines.

Robert Lowe says the argument can be made that Iraq has already broken up.

"The Iraqi government carries little authority outside the Green Zone in Baghdad, huge swathes of Iraqi territory are effectively run by local powers, whoever holds military and indeed economic power in specific localities, whether it be in Basra in the very south or in the Kurdistan region on the very north," he added. "Because of the breakdown of Iraqi society and the polarization of identities, whether they are sectarian or ethnic, power in Iraq is now devolved to the regions and this has left the country fragmented and perhaps even shattered."

Lowe says it is unclear whether that fragmentation can be turned around.

The Chatham House report, written by Middle East expert Gareth Stansfield, says these harsh realities must be accepted if efforts to avert the failure and collapse of Iraq are to have any chance of success.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanoni
John Owens
October 08, 2015 7:32 PM
Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs