Monday, July 19, 2010

America lowers the flag: Iraq's unquiet peace

At the end of next month, the United States is pulling its combat troops out of Iraq. But the country they are leaving behind is still a barely floating wreck

By Patrick Cockburn

"....At first sight, oil could be the solution to Iraq's innumerable problems; but in Iraq in the past, and in other oil states, it has proved a political curse as well as an economic blessing. Countries reliant on oil and gas exports are almost invariably dictatorships or monarchies. Control of oil revenues, not popular support, appears to rulers to be the source of their power. If there is opposition, then oil wealth enables leaders to build up and pay for security forces to crush it.

No country in the world needs carefully calculated compromise between communities and parties more than Iraq does, but oil may tempt the governments to rely on force. This is what happened to Saddam Hussein, who would never have had the strength to invade Iran or Kuwait without Iraq's oil wealth. The same thing may happen again: an over-mighty – if corrupt and incompetent– state may try to crush its opponents rather than conciliate them. Oil alone will not stabilise Iraq."

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