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Iraq - A Broken Political System

Decades of subordination to Sunni political, social, and economic domination have made the Shia deeply insecure about their hold on power. This insecurity led the Shia to mistrust US efforts to reconcile Iraqi sects and reinforces their unwillingness to engage with the Sunnis on a variety of issues, including adjusting the structure of Iraq's federal system, reining in Shia militias, and easing de-Bathification. Many Sunni Arabs remain unwilling to accept their minority status, believe the central government is illegitimate and incompetent, and are convinced that Shia dominance will increase Iranian influence over Iraq, in ways that erode the state's Arab character and increase Sunni repression.

Extremist violence, coupled with weak government performance in upholding the rule of law, resulted in widespread and severe human rights abuses. Terrorist groups, such as al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), and other extremist elements continue to launch highly destructive attacks, attempting to influence the elections and government formation process, fuel sectarian tensions, and undermine the government's ability to maintain law and order. AQI and other extremists also conducted high-profile bombings targeting urban areas, Shia markets, and mosques, and Shia religious pilgrims. Religious minorities, sometimes labeled "anti-Islamic," were often targeted in the violence.

The constitution expressly prohibits torture in all its forms under all circumstances, as well as cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Each year there are many hundred documented instances of torture and other abuses by government agents and similar abuses by illegal armed groups. The government's effectiveness in adhering to the rule of law in these circumstances faced obstacles from continuing large-scale violence, corruption, sectarian bias, and lack of civilian oversight and accountability, particularly in the security forces and detention facilities.

In 2009 there appeared to be an orchestrated political campaign against Sunni politicians from Diyala Province with arrest warrants issued for four members of the provincial council, the deputy governor, and a member of the parliament from Diyala. In May 2009 Iraqi special forces affiliated with the prime minister arrested Abdel Jabbar Ali Ibrahim on terrorism-related charges; he remained in custody at year's end. In November 2009 the deputy governor, Muhamad Hassayn Jasim, was arrested on charges related to terrorism financing. He was being held in a MOD detention facility the end of 2010. A former Sunni provincial council member, Hussayn al-Zubaydi, was convicted in October 2010 of terrorism-related charges and given a life sentence.

Political instability is the toughest challenge facing the new government. Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's secular, Sunni-dominated al-Iraqiya bloc won more seats in the March 2010 Council of Representatives elections than the Prime Minister Maliki’s Shia-Sunni State of Law Coalition (91 to 89 seats). But on October 1, 2010, Iraq set a record for the longest period a country has gone between holding parliamentary elections and forming a government (surpassing the previous mark of 207 days set by The Netherlands 33 years earlier). On 11 November 2010 Eyad Allawi finally backed down, accepting Nouri Al Maliki as the next Iraqi prime minister and settling for a new post created exclusively for him, head of the National Council for Strategic Policy. This put an end to the eight-month tug of war in Iraq between Allawi and Al Maliki.

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Page last modified: 20-01-2016 18:22:18 ZULU