The Current Situation
As 2010 drew to a close, Iraq formed its second democratically elected government since the adoption of the Constitution in 2005. It was a year of change and transition, with the March 2010 national elections resulting in heavy turnover in the Iraqi Parliament and the U.S. ending more than seven years of combat operations in Iraq in August. The nine month government formation process highlighted the increasing primacy of politics as the means for settling disputes in Iraq but also pointed towards the persistent divisions within Iraqi society. Key foci in the coming year are expected to be efforts to implement power sharing agreements that underpin the new government and to define the nature of the partnership between Iraq and the U.S. as the December 2011 deadline for the full withdrawal of U.S. troops approaches.
Despite hard won gains in stability, the conflict in Iraq is not over. The U.S. role is transitioning from military-led to civilian-led, which will require a rigorous re-prioritization of goals and objectives as resources attenuate. Meanwhile, the extended disputes over government formation illustrates the broader continuing need to help Iraqis develop the capacities and institutions to prevent, productively manage and resolve conflict without resort to violence. These efforts will need to encompass not just national and local government, but also civil society groups and the education of Iraq’s next generation to play roles as active citizens. A tremendous amount has already been invested in Iraq, but a withdrawal without proper support for Iraqi institutions could have even more costly consequences.