A Responsible End? The United States and the Iraqi Transition, 2005–2010
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In 2005, under the auspices of the U.S. occupation, Iraq adopted a constitution that defined the first parliamentary cycle as a "transitional" period. Between 2005 and 2010 the political system would become transformed from one dominated by power-sharing among ethno-sectarian communities toward a more robustly national, issue-based form of democracy with a strong prime minister.
As the U.S. sharply reduced its troop presence in Iraq in 2010, it became clear that this democratic transition had not happened. The lengthy process of government formation after the March 2010 election remained influenced by the same ethno-sectarian bargaining that had characterized Iraqi politics five years earlier. The goal of having a strong prime minister with a national orientation was still distant. In fact, most Iraqi politicians seemed to cling to the instruments of ethno-sectarian quotas and regional patronage as a way of bolstering their own influence.
A brand new book, A Responsible End? The United States and the Iraqi Transition, 2005–2010, explains what went wrong at the level of Iraq’s parliamentary politics between 2005 and 2010 and identifies potential problems in the years that lie ahead. Updated all the way to the formal end of the transition on 11 November 2010, it argues that most players on the Iraqi scene never tried to move towards a more progressive form of politics. Only one leading Iraqi politician, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, even tried to pursue the constitutional vision of a majoritarian democracy—and he failed. But Iraq’s politicians are not the only ones at fault. Another key theme in A Responsible End? is the strong role played by the U.S. government and the United Nations in enshrining a retrograde, ethno-sectarian politics in Iraq during a period that was supposed to be about political progress.
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PRAISE FOR A RESPONSIBLE END?
Reidar Visser is the most careful observer of Iraqi politics writing in English today. He is also a one-man truth squad, skewering the conventional wisdom that has been so wrong about Iraq so many times and holding politicians and analysts to account for their errors and missteps. One could hardly find a better source for deciphering the complexities of Iraqi politics.
—F. GREGORY GAUSE, III
Since the invasion in 2003, Reidar Visser’s stature as one of the world’s leading experts on Iraq has continued to grow. Visser has shared his expertise through his copious writings and detailed blogs. These have now been gathered together for the first time in one book, A Responsible End? The United States and the Iraqi Transition, 2005-2010. This book provides an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to understand Iraqi politics from 2005 to the present… It should be required reading for anyone seeking to understand the terrible costs of regime change in Iraq and what the future holds for that country beyond occupation and civil war.
Visser offers a trenchant critique of US entanglement in Iraq and points to avenues of positive engagement on the part of the international community… His analysis of the promise and pitfalls of federalism is the best I have read.
—DINA RIZK KHOURY
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