Many of you already know that the US troop surge in 2007 helped quiet Iraq’s bloody civil war. But it failed to deliver on what US officials and officers said was crucial for Iraq’s future at the time: sectarian reconciliation. Rather than forging a new national identity out of the horrors of Iraq’s war, Iraq’s Shiite and Sunni Arabs and ethnic Kurds sullenly retreated to their own sectarian corners, and the country’s political parties remain vehicles for ethnic or sectarian interests.
The next year is probably going to be the most crucial for determining the future of Iraq since the US-led invasion of 2003, as Iraq’s various political factions compete for power and influence without foreign troops getting in the way. Here are a few of the major players. Almost Iraq is failed and many lifes lost including kids, families and many soldiers from all national lost life in Iraq.
1. Nouri al-Maliki and the Dawa Party
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a Shiite Arab and leader of the Dawa, or Islamic call, party. It was one of the two main Shiite Islamist groups opposed to Saddam Hussein during his reign, with much of its leadership living in exile until the 2003 invasion. Mr. Maliki, like many of Iraq’s Shiite Islamists, was supported by Iran during Mr. Hussein’s reign and maintains warm relations with Tehran.
He’s proven himself an adept politician, outmaneuvering fellow Shiite politicians and Sunni Arabs alike to retain the premiership after 2010′s parliamentary election, though that successful effort did come at the cost of not forming a government until nine months after the election. Even then, he managed to convince his rivals to allow the crucial question of who would run the interior and defense ministries to be set aside, which has made him the de facto boss of the country’s soldiers, police, and counterterrorism forces ever since.
The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (formerly the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq), another Shiite Islamist group whose leadership was exiled until 2003, is backing Maliki for the moment. Since the US departure, Maliki’s government has issued an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi and he’s called for Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Mutlaq, another leading Sunni politician, to be removed from his post. He appears to be pursuing a strategy of consolidation, but he won’t be unopposed.
2. Muqtada al-Sadr
Muqtada al-Sadr is the son and grandson of renowned Shiite clerics, and the family’s popularity was clear the moment Baghdad fell in 2003, with the teeming Baghdad Shiite slum of Thawra (Revolution) immediately renamed “Sadr City” by residents. His base is very much the urban Shiite poor, and in his rivalries with other Shiite politicians, he emphasizes his ties to the working class and the fact that he never fled the country for comfortable exile under Saddam.
Middle East historian Juan Cole once described the movement around him as a kind of “Shiite Maoism,” reflecting both his focus on the dispossessed and militancy. His Mahdi Army militia was ruthlessly efficient in cleansing parts of Baghdad and other cities of Sunni Arabs at the height of Iraq’s civil war. Though the Mahdi Army is now formally disbanded, there’s little doubt he can call on skilled gunmen if there’s need for it.
Mr. Sadr kicked his 40 seats in parliament to Maliki’s side in the battle to form the government in 2010, extracting eight cabinet seats in exchange that he’s since used to generate money and support for his cause (Iraq’s political parties use government ministries as fundraising and patronage vehicles). This week, a top aide to Sadr called for new elections, charging Maliki is mishandling the country. Whether that’s a serious demand, or a ploy to extract more cabinet seats from Maliki (who is mulling unilaterally dumping his Sunni ministers), remains to be seen. But Sadr’s ultimate ambitions remain undiminished, and any alliances he makes will be uneasy ones.
3. Iyad Allawi and the Iraqiyya bloc
The Iraqiyya electoral bloc, led by the former Baathist Iyad Allawi, was the great Sunni Arab hope in the last election and the group won a plurality of the vote as the Shiite vote split between three different lists. The bloc is very much a big tent, with Tariq al-Hashemi of the Iraqi Islamic Party (similar in outlook to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood) working with Mr. Allawi (a not particularly religious Shiite) and Saleh Mutlaq, a secular-leaning former Baathist who broke with the party 30 years ago over its discrimination against Shiites.
But the group was stymied in its effort to form a government, and is now under seige. Mr. Hashemi is in Kurdistan avoiding an arrest warrant on what he says are trumped up charges of running a death squad, Mr. Mutlaq is facing a no confidence vote from Maliki’s allies in parliament, and Allawi – one of the closest allies the US has left in Iraq – near the end of his rope. He told Al Arabiya satellite channel that he favors early elections now as a way out of Iraq’s growing political crisis. A reminder of the dangers of sectarian competition heating up again was multiple bombings in Baghdad in mid-December that killed 72 people, one of the two bloodiest days in the country of 2011. The attack was almost certainly carried out by Sunni Arabs, given the targets, and the Islamic State in Iraq, a group loosely affiliated with Al Qaeda, claimed it was responsible.
4. The Kurds
The two major powers in Kurdish politics are the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of Jalal Talabani and the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) of Massoud Barzani. Within Kurdistan they jockey for power (and fought a blood civil war in the 1990s) but on the national stage they present a relatively united front, focused largely on securing Kurdish autonomy, lobbying for an extension of their territory, and ensuring that a maximum amount of oil revenue stays at home.
In the battle for control of Baghdad, they’ll probably seek to play a balancing role, not interested in seeing a completely dominant sect emerge. In Kurdistan, they’ve been dealing with democracy challenges of their own, with a rise in the arrests of journalists and political activists by Kurdish security forces this year.