“The stabilisation is only an apparent one“


European deputy André Brie on the current situation in Iraq and on the policy of the West


A couple of days ago, European Parliament deputy, André Brie (THE LEFT), returned from a trip to Iraq. In conversations with the prime minister and his ministers, with members of parliament, representatives of non-governmental organisations and multinational armed forces as well as in meetings with the population, the deputy – together with other members of the European Parliament – informed himself on the political, economic and social situation in the country.  Uwe Sattler talked to him for ND.


ND: The Iraqi premier Nuri al-Maliki thinks the provincial elections testify to the new-found stability of the country. Were you able to experience it in Iraq first-hand?     

AB: I found that the number of attacks and casualties substantially decreased. However, I could not recognise any stability; in fact, I saw tanks and combat helicopters – and countless walls, not only around the “Green Zone“, but practically around every residential district in Baghdad. Moreover, the rather well prepared regional elections need not be equated with security. Three candidates have been murdered, around 80 people were injured during the electoral campaign . Moreover, there are, following the appreciation of the EU electoral mission in Iraq, hardly any free working conditions for journalists.


ND: In other words, practically no improvement of the security situation? 

AB: No, on the contrary, there has been, as I said, not only a reduced number of attacks and casualties, but also a larger freedom of movement for Iraqi men and women. Yet it is a stabiliy that rests, first of all, on a massive military presence, mainly by the US Americans, as well as by the army and the Iraqi police, and second on the results of the religious and ethnic “cleansing“ and separation. Thirdly – and this was stressed by all critical and independent conversation partners in Iraq as well as by the vice-commander of the multinational armed forces – all conflicts are unresolved, and violence may break out again at any moment.


ND: Key word: US military presence. Do you think that something will change to that under president Obama? 

AB: The policy up to now in Iraq is also considered as successful by Obama. That the US president should hold on to Pentagon chief Bill Gates points to the fact that he wants to employ this strategy also in Afghanistan. Therefore, I expect no changes in this question, and  I am convinced that the stabilisation is only apparent and does not constitute a success.


ND: You addressed the question of religious strife. How did the relationship between Sunnites and Shiites develop? 

AB: There is a certain relaxation in this relationship. Among the population, this conflict did not exist anyhow. It was carried into the country mainly by the US. However, it continues to smoulder massively at the political level. That shows itself at this point in the incapacity of the Iraqi parliament to elect a new president of the assembly – who is supposed to be a Sunnite. Another expression of this tension is that the province of Anwar, which was a stronghold of Sunnite uprisings, in the meantime collaborates with the USA, but not with the central government.


ND: The  Iraqi government points to successes in reconstruction. Were you able to see any of that? 

AB: I did not see any such successes and tend to believe that they don't exist. A very concrete and morbid example: In parallel to our visit in Baghdad, there raged the war in Gaza. On the streets, we repeatedly heard people say: In Gaza, they did not have  electricity for five hours, but we haven't had any for five years. Next to the practically  absent electricity supply, there are additional dramatic problems – unemployment is horrendous, the misery of large parts of the population is terrible; economic reconstruction is stagnating, investments take place only in very few sectors and territories. However, and this as well needs to be said, it looks different in the Kurdic North.


ND: That way, there develops new conflict potential... 

AB: I think so, and this is also seen that way by many experts in the region. Iraq will, due to the fallen oil price, very quickly use up its reserves from the previous years. Already this year, there exists the danger that wages will no longer be paid, and many infrastructural  measures will no longer be carried out. That in the light of the general situation and social misery will provoke additional and dangerous conflict potential.


ND: You hear hardly anything any longer of donour conferences or international negotiations on the future of Iraq. Did the West in particular reconcile itself with the situation in the country? 

AB: You  need not call any donour conferences. By virtue of its oil wealth, Iraq has its own possibilities. The problem lies in the political area. The USA tore apart Iraq by its invasion. And even Barack Obama did not yet part with the plan to factually divide the country up into three parts.


ND: How do you evaluate the commitment of the EU in this context? 

It's a tragedy. Only four to five EU officials sit in the “Green Zone“. Neither at the political, nor at the financial level will this enable the EU to conduct an effective, visible and autonomous policy.


Translated by Carla Krüger,  February 3, 2009 as part of the Campaign Newsletter '09              

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