Testimony

Where We Are: The Current Situation in Iraq

Michael E. O’Hanlon

The year 2006 was, tragically and inescapably, a bad one in Iraq. Our ongoing work at Brookings makes this conclusion abundantly clear in quantitative terms. Violence got worse for Iraqi civilians and barely declined at all for American and Iraqi troops. And the economy was fairly stagnant as well.

Despite the drama of Saddam’s execution in the year’s final days, 2006 will probably be remembered most for two developments inside Iraq. The first is the failure of the 2005 election process to produce any sense of progress. In fact, 2006 was the year that politicians in Iraq did much more to advance the interests of their own sects and religions than to build a new cohesive country. (In a September poll, Prime Minister al-Maliki was viewed unfavorably by 85 percent of all Sunni Arabs, for example.) The second is the related commencement of Iraq’s civil war dating back to the February 22 bombing of the hallowed Shia mosque in Samarra. While some still question whether Iraq is in civil war, there is no longer much serious debate about the situation. The sheer level of violence, and the increasing politicization of the violence to include many more Shia attacks on Sunnis as well as the reverse, qualify the mayhem in Iraq as civil war by most definitions of the term. And the country has become one of the 3 or 4 most violent places on Earth.

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