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Iraqi Hope Dies Last

BAGHDAD – Ten years have passed since Saddam Hussein was removed from power, following more than three decades of tyrannical rule. The dream of Iraqis after Saddam’s fall was to build a new, prosperous, and democratic Iraq. A country at peace with itself and its neighbors, with a constitution upholding basic human rights and the rule of law, was the desire of almost everyone.

But the United States and its allies, lacking a coherent vision of Iraq’s future, much less a sound policy for the post-Saddam era, declared Iraq an occupied country, with a US-appointed administrator to run the country, who soon decided to dismantle all existing security, military, and media institutions. He also introduced a de-Baathification law, which evicted members of the Baath Party from official positions without legal recourse, paving the way for sectarianism and, ultimately, communal violence and unrest.

These unfortunate – and ultimately disastrous – events established an unstable foundation in a strategic country at the core of a highly troubled yet vital region of the world. As Iraq moved through progressive phases of mismanagement over the subsequent ten agonizing years, the country fractured, shattering the dreams of Iraqis who saw their beloved homeland once again sliding toward authoritarianism, with almost daily violations of the constitution. The world watched, seemingly helpless to do anything.

Iraq’s last general election, in 2010, brought hope of recovery in the form of a power-sharing agreement among Sunni, Shia, and Kurds, which was supposed to ensure that the country did not revert to dictatorship. Iraqiya, which I lead, was the largest electoral bloc to emerge from that vote. But, despite our status, we agreed to give up the leadership position afforded by the Constitution in the belief that power-sharing and respect for the rights of all Iraqis is the only formula for governing the country democratically. These hopes, however, soon vanished, as Iraq’s two-term prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, subsequently reneged on the agreement.