In two short weeks there will be only 50,000 U.S. soldiers left stationed in Iraq. On Tuesday, the world got a snapshot of what the new reality will be once most of the foreign troops are gone.
A suicide bomber gave Iraq a taste of its immediate future when he ended his own life and that of 60 others at a military recruiting center in Baghdad. Another 125 people were injured in the attack. It was the deadliest such attack in months.
Major General Qassim al-Moussawi placed the blame on al Qaeda. Threats of suicide attacks and other insurgent strikes have been on the rise since the announcement of the U.S. withdrawal.
Even in a country as tormented as Iraq, this bombing is certainly nothing to take lightly. Instead, it is a clear indication of what lies in the future. Obviously, new security concerns are raised, but that is putting the situation very mildly, to say the least.
The attack, coming so shortly after the announced U.S. withdrawal, adds credence to the theory that insurgent and terrorist groups within Iraq are simply biding their time, awaiting the vacuum that the American absence will bring before unleashing their full potential. The surge worked through the addition of sheer numbers to Iraq’s security. It was pointless for insurgents to waste their energies during that time. But now, with security dramatically reduced, their strikes will carry with them a greater impact.
The attack also paints a picture of Iraq that many in the U.S. either refuse to acknowledge or flatly deny. Iraq is not a true nation. It is a country that exists as a result of a bad British colonial experiment. As they did in many areas of the globe, the British simply threw up convenient borders to better manage their empire. There is no historical precedence for an Iraqi nation.
Iraq is predominantly composed of three competing groups: Sunni and Shiite Arabs (who are also often hostile), Kurds, and Turkmens. During the modern era, these ethnicities were held together only due to the overwhelming power of the Ottoman Empire, followed by the British, Saddam Hussein, and the U.S. occupation. Without a strong power to control them, the ethnicities will fight amongst themselves in a bloody civil war. Outside powers, namely Iran and Turkey, are also likely to become involved due to issues of their own security.
This is the future of Iraq –a country that is not a nation. If the United States wishes to avoid bloodshed in the region it has essentially two choices. The first is to maintain a strong, perpetual military presence, similar to that of a colonial power. The second is to install an internationally friendly, yet domestically unscrupulous dictator. If both of these choices are too morally abhorrent to bear, than the last remaining option is to pray that some kind of unheard of Iraqi nationalism magically appears.
I wouldn’t bet on it.