The U.S. strived to create a new Iraq, one that began with the ouster of Saddam Hussein, whose demise had already started approaching following his invasion of Kuwait. Washington began promoting an Iraqi pattern that would later formulate the new Middle East. The U.S. has indeed managed to oust Saddam Hussein, but it failed in everything else that followed.
Iraq as we know it now is a country in which corruption is so rampant that you can hear about it in statements made by officials and journalists and in incriminations involving billion of dollars. It is the kind of corruption any observer can detect everywhere in the country and to which the poor development and the deplorable infrastructure is attributed. The other face of this corruption is the powerful influence Iran exercises in the politics and security of Iraq.
But this is not everything. Nine years after the invasion that claimed the lives of 4,500 American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, U.S. troops are withdrawing and leaving behind a country facing real challenges that range from a fragile political scene, an economy dependent on oil wells scattered across different governorates to a huge gap in living standards, a shortage in utilities, especially electricity, a poor transportation system, and always corruption.
This is an alarming situation in a country that is open to Iranian influence on one hand and close to the Syrian crisis on its borders on the other hand. Add to this al-Qaeda’s mysterious presence in the country and speculations about the possibility of their return. Neither can we overlook the conflict between Kurdistan and the central government in Baghdad and the sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites.
We can confidently say that the U.S. is leaving Iraq in the worst condition ever suffered by any country that was colonized in the modern history of the Arab world. The much-desired American model has failed in Iraq and has not even succeeded in granting Iraqi citizens the least of their needs.
On the other side of the region, and starting from the Atlantic, there is the Arab Spring manifested in successful constitutional changes and elections in Morocco and peaceful transition of power in Tunisia. In the meantime, we follow Egyptian elections that have been going well so far and the progress of the new Libyan government.
The Tunisian scene in particular is very significant, as well as moving. Choosing Monsif Marzouki as president has given us hope in our Spring, but that hope was marred by the sounds of American tanks leaving Iraq after nine years of chaos and death and announcing the completion of an impossible mission.
But we have not yet understood what kind of mission it is and what this new Iraq will be like.
Nasser al-Sarami is Head of Media at Al Arabiya. This article was published in al-Jazirah on Dec. 18, 2011 and was translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid