BAGHDAD - The national unity government led by Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
has failed to deliver its promises to improve life for Iraqis. Five months after
the government took over, the country still faces a rising tide of sectarian
violence and inadequate public services.
There is little sign of government in Baghdad other than a heavy deployment
of security forces. And that deployment has not brought security.
Dilapidated and ruined buildings line the streets of the city. The streets
themselves are clogged with messy traffic. Checkpoints have been set up by private
bodyguards. The government is not in control even in the capital city.
Shia taxi drivers are afraid to enter Sunni neighborhoods for fear of Sunni
insurgents. Sunni drivers likewise do not drive to Shia areas, where they fear
that anyone whose identity papers suggest he is a Sunni may be killed at Shia
The government is now considering introducing a "militia disarmament bill"
in parliament next month.
"Militias are a big problem and a threat to the government and people
of Iraq," deputy prime minister Barham Salih said. "The political
forces must drop their arms and take part in the country's political process.
Otherwise, we will not accept this."
The government has set security and sectarian reconciliation as its priorities,
but little, if anything, has been achieved to those ends so far. The latest
figures suggest that the casualty toll in sectarian violence dropped to 1,485
in August from 1,859 in July. Despite this 14 percent decrease in killings,
fear is still widespread that the country is gradually sliding into civil war.
Iraqis say any plans for a better Iraq ought to address the key issues of security
and also the presence of foreign forces.
"As one of its major priorities, al-Maliki's government has to do its
best to control the security situation that has become very dangerous,"
Nabeel Mohammed Salim, senior lecturer in political science at Baghdad University,
told IPS. He said, however, that no other government can do better than al-Maliki's
under the current circumstances.
And a change in circumstances must mean a departure of foreign troops, he said.
"A timetable has to be set for ending occupation and the withdrawal of
The Iraqi government is at present too heavily reliant on foreign forces, Salim
said. "The government does not have the ability to run the government without
any interference of Americans."
If the situation continues as at present, the consequences of failure to curtail
violence can be severe, Salim said. There is now a "civil war only between
militias," but if it is not curbed, it can expand to include "civilians
and people from other groups and parties in the country as well."
As the Sunni-driven insurgency in Iraq's central and northwestern regions soars,
officials in Washington have admitted to miscalculations about the postwar situation
in the country.
"There is no question that we didn't expect the insurgency [in Iraq] to
last for all this long time," U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney told NBC
last week. He had said last year that the insurgency was in its "last throes."
Some believe that the very composition of the government in Baghdad has been
a hindrance to the government's success.
During Iraq's two previous elections, Shia Arabs, Sunni Arabs, and Kurds all
voted for the sectarian and ethnic agenda of the parties representing their
communities. That ultimately resulted in division of the government along sectarian
lines, leading some to call for the replacement of the current government by
"We have to form another government on a national basis," said Salim.
"It must be a government that works for the national interest of all Iraqis,
and not the interests of a particular sect or party."