Last week I participated in a luncheon discussion at the Nixon Center, a think tank in Washington, DC. The topic was the still ongoing March 2010 parliamentary elections in Iraq. Moderated by Geoffrey Kemp, Nixon Center Director of Regional Strategic Programs, we largely talked about the implications of the prolonged struggle to form a governing coalition and the prospects for enduring stability and prosperity in the country.
If I had a take-away message for the audience, it basically was that the U.S. needs to get more involved—as noted in a summary of the event:
“Mr. Talabani urged the Washington foreign policy community to stay engaged in Iraqi issues, despite the new focus on the Af-Pak region and the imminent U.S. troop drawdown. He called on the U.S. administration to exert pressure on Iraq to achieve formation of a new government. Any further delay could destabilize the region. There is a long process ahead, and it is unlikely that a perfect Iraq will emerge. But if Iraq can become a relatively democratic, relatively stable, relatively pro-Western country, it could both play a stabilizing role in the region and act as an important and reliable exporter of hydro-carbons.”
This understanding was reiterated in a LA Times article written on the discussion:
“It would be a shame to see an undemocratic government, after all the sacrifices,” Talabani said in an interview after an appearance at the Nixon Center think tank in Washington…. “There has got be serious thought given to how the United States applies its leverage,” he said. “They’ve got to help us get our act together.”
This is something I firmly believe in. In fairness to the U.S., they are trying to avoid looking like they’re meddling in Iraq’s affairs or trying to concoct democracy in the country. But at the same time, the U.S. did not sacrifice thousands of lives and trillions of dollars for an un-democratic Iraq.