Post-2003 Iraq and Prospects for National Unity, Friday, 28 October
Since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the toppling of Saddam Hussein, and de-Baathification policies, Iraq has struggled to re-establish national unity and effective governance over a fractious society. In the north, antipathy among Sunni tribes towards the Iraqi government under Nouri al-Maliki and rising sectarianism contributed to the breakdown of government-tribal relations and contributed to the spread of ISIS across northern and western Iraq. The replacement of Maliki with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in September 2014 has failed to produce national unity; lacking a broad constituency beyond his Shia base, Abadi has been limited in his capacity to implement basic reforms. Simultaneously, movements from Shia-dominated regions have emerged to challenge central authority. On 30 April and 20 May 2016, for example, Iraqi supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, breached the Green Zone in Baghdad, entering the Parliament building and demanding an end to corruption; only after violent confrontation with state security forces were these protesters ejected from the area. In the meantime, the oil price fall since 2014 has had devastating impact on the Iraqi economy, which depends almost entirely on oil revenues to finance state spending.
With the Iraqi Army, Shia pro-government militias, Kurdish forces, and an international coalition led by the US currently engaged in the large-scale effort to retake Mosul, Iraq’s largest Sunni-dominated city, from ISIS, this Majlis asks:
- What are the prospects for political stability in what may be a post-ISIS Iraq? Will we see a return to the guerrilla-style insurgency that typified the 2003-2014 period?
- How will the Iraqi state deal with the plethora of militias across the country? How will the militarization of religious and ethnic groups affect the future stability of Iraq?
- Have the conditions that gave rise to ISIS in the first place been alleviated by Al-Abadi’s government, or have they been exacerbated with rising militarization of religious and ethnic groups and rising state penetration by Iran? How could the current Iraqi government navigate ethnic and sectarian rivalries to build national unity?
In this session we are delighted to be joined by Robert J. Tyson. Mr Tyson is a former career officer in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Until 2015 he served as Ambassador to Kuwait, and prior to that as Ambassador to Iraq (2008-11), the Russian Federation (2005-08) and Saudi Arabia (2001-05). Other overseas assignments have been in the United States, the Soviet Union, Thailand and New Zealand. Mr Tyson has also held senior positions in Canberra with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet; and in Melbourne with the Department of the Premier and Cabinet.
Session will be held on Friday, 28 October in the Centre for Arab Islamic Studies Tutorial Room at 11am.