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Thursday 17 Aug 2017 | 07:33 | SYDNEY
Thursday 17 Aug 2017 | 07:33 | SYDNEY

Middle East in 2010 (part 3)

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1 February 2010 15:00

Part one here; part two here.

Iraq (remember that place? It used to be in the news quite a bit) is the one country in the Middle East which could see significant developments in 2010, but I'm not sure whether the net effect will be particularly good.

Politically, the good news is that the electoral law was passed last year, allowing elections to go ahead in March, and holding the promise of a more established Arab democracy emerging. Unfortunately, some of the characteristics of functioning democracies, such as the impartiality and independence of electoral bodies, are yet to develop, if the actions of the rather Orwellian Accountability and Justice Commission are anything to go by.   

The Accountability and Justice Law (very good and detailed analysis here) appears to have done little other than to stir up the sectarian hornet's nest that is post-Saddam Iraqi politics. General Petraeus, head of US Central Command, highlighted the damage this body could do to sectarian reconciliation in an interview with The Times last week.

Certainly the impact of the Commission's decisions, such as barring Salih al-Mutlaq, one of the leading Sunni politicians, and the links of the Commissioner Ali al-Lami with Ahmed Chalabi and Iran (not to mention the fact that al-Lami is himself a candidate for election), all show how easy it is for the Commission to be portrayed as a tool for vested political interests, and the Shi'a-majority Government as not truly interested in sectarian reconciliation.

While calls for an election boycott are likely posturing at this stage, such has been the furore over the continued de-Ba'thification program that this election is unlikely to add greatly to Iraqi political stability this year.

The security situation has largely slipped from the Western media radar, unless of course an attack causes sufficient casualties to warrant some column inches. I've written before about the numbers of Iraqi civilians being killed every month with little attention from the West, but if the political situation continues to split rather than reconcile competing factions, there is little likelihood that these attacks will cease, particularly as all sides know that US combat operations will stop by the end of August this year.

But if politics and security are not looking great for Iraq in 2010, there is at least some movement on the economy. Admittedly it will be coming off a low base and with enormous structural limitations, but the Central bank governor predicts economic growth of 7% in 2010. Foreign investment is growing, led by the UAE with South Korea next and the US third.

Still, with oil accounting for about 85% of the Iraqi GDP, what the real growth rate turns out to be may well be out of Iraqi's hands, regardless of the political and security situation.

Photo by Flickr user ChuckHolton, used under a Creative Commons license.

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