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United States Watches from Sidelines as Iraqi Leadership Unravels

Author: Mohamad Bazzi, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
August 1, 2010
The National

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In the middle of last month, US military officials handed Iraq's interior minister a large, gold-coloured key to mark the transfer of Camp Cropper, the last prison in Iraq under US control. “Now there is some rule of law,” one Iraqi official gushed at the ceremony.

But just five days later, four prisoners who were leaders of one of Iraq's most violent insurgent groups escaped. Iraqi officials believe that the detainees, members of an al Qa'eda offshoot called the Islamic State of Iraq, were driven out of the prison by the new warden, who has also disappeared.

Naturally, this brazen prison break has embarrassed American and Iraqi officials. It also illustrates why the political paralysis in Iraq is becoming more dangerous and unstable. Eager to meet a deadline to withdraw US combat troops by the end of August, American military officials are handing over institutions while the Iraqi political system is in a state of disarray.

Nearly five months after the March 7 parliamentary elections, Iraqi leaders still cannot agree on who should lead the country. Both the prime minister Nouri al Maliki and his main rival, Iyad Allawi, the former premier whose coalition won the elections by two seats, insist that they have the right to form the next government. There is little sign of a breakthrough as the two leaders try to form alliances with other factions.

Meanwhile, the list of problems facing the new government continues to grow. Iraqis are furious that seven years after the US invasion--and the investment of $5 billion (Dh18.4 billion) – the country still lacks adequate electricity. Many towns and cities in Iraq receive only four to six hours a day of electricity. As temperatures soared toward 50C in June, public anger boiled over at the lack of power and Iraqis smashed government offices in Basra and other southern cities.

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