Iraq Today: “A Sort of Grisly Stability” – Part 1

By Jim Treadway

CBS News’ Elizabeth Palmer led an expert discussion at the Frontline Club on 11 September regarding the latest crush of violence in Iraq.

The panel painted a portrait of a country desperately in need of peace, independence, rule of law, reconciliation with its traumatic past, and unity amidst hardening divisions along ethnic, class, and religious lines.  Yet none of these needs are being met.

Professor Charles Tripp lamented Iraqis’ inability to trust their government, with a:

"Parliament that sat for 20 minutes in the whole of the year 2010 after being elected … a judiciary which seems to be completely in the pocket of the executive power, and of course a police that you have to be very wary of calling."

Tripp expressed sadness at a "hatred of the state" that he perceived fueling many Sunni and Shi’a attacks.

"The blowing up of people who are looking for employment … of a large number of people standing outside army recruiting or police recruiting. These are people who are just like [their killers] in some senses, these are, you know, sad people who are looking, desperate for employment."

Kamran Karadaghi, distinguished Kurdish Iraqi journalist, downplayed recent attacks as anything out of the ordinary.  

"This was something that was meant to happen," he said.  "There is always from time to time a wave of violence in Iraq …  Iraqi people are very violent.  Killing, getting rid of others, is something which sometimes is like a normal thing."

Different factions who make up the government, The IndependentsPatrick Cockburn added:

"Sunnis, Shi’a, Kurds … none of these people like each other … [but] they all have quite a lot to lose if the present system collapses.  So despite the very high levels of violence … in a way it has a sort of grisly stability." 

Karadaghi agreed.

"Being an oil economy … everybody in Iraq wants to be a part of it.  So this is why, despite … all the animosities … nobody actually left the government.  They are all still in the government. This kind of arrangement will continue."

On one topic, however, the panel found optimism, Kurdish independence.  

Karadaghi, as well as Tom Hardie-Forsyth, a senior adviser to the Prime Minister’s office, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Northern Iraq, both touted the transparency and success of recent Kurdish oil contracts, a more stable and prosperous way of life in the region, and a stronger sense of unity and purpose among Kurds.  

"They are the largest disenfranchised nation in the world.  They deserve [independence]," Hardie-Forsyth said.

But are they ready for it?  

Karadaghi smiled:  "Not yet, but like Andy Murray said, getting closer."