Dr Mohammad Akef Jamal

There are many issues that cannot be overlooked in Iraq today, as they are key to the future vision of the country. These issues are also important when assessing development opportunities for Iraq after decades of wars, economic embargoes, and occupation. It may also be appropriate, in this context, to ask a few fundamental questions that will lay the ground towards approaching these issues, which have become a source of anxiety for Iraqis.

Does the US army withdrawal mean that Washington has given up the gains it achieved by occupying Iraq? Has Iraq gained complete sovereignty? Is Iraq on the road to recovery given the problems it inherited from the former regime, and the additional problems brought about by the occupation? And does Iraq stand a real chance of rising once again domestically and regionally?

The US military pull-out from Iraq in December placed the country's political blocs in a new era of local and regional challenges.

Internally, Iraqi political blocs have to prove their capacity to make sovereign decisions; moreover, they have to develop the country's institutions and place them in responsible and capable hands. They also have to erase the negative legacy of the fallen, totalitarian Baath regime and a decade of occupation that distorted many aspects of public life in Iraq.

On the regional front, Iraq's leaders have to rebuild the country and restore it to its deserved position in the Middle East political balance, as a result of its important geographic location, its population density, its history and economy. This mission will be achieved only after the success of the first mission.

The ability of Iraqi political blocs to approach these two challenges depends, to a large extent, on how they tackle the US-Iraqi relations; regional relations; and the political balance in Iraq.

It is the duty of all blocs to work with dedication. These blocs have to forget the past and overcome all the pain that was endured, to rebuild the country, despite all the serious handicaps that make the mission almost impossible.

Provided there is stability, Iraq's huge oil wealth and the country's human resources are guarantors of success, while the continuation of instability and corruption will lead to failure.

Once US forces withdrew from Iraq in December, a number of negative issues surfaced, such as the huge deterioration in the country's security, and the escalation of internal conflict leading to the accusation that Iraq's Vice-President Tarek Al-Hashemi was a terrorist. There is still no agreement between them to attend a national conference, which was called by President Jalal Talabani four months ago to clear the air.

Iraq is passing through one of the most dangerous phases in its history. Politically demonising the other has become a regular feature. Everyone is cautious, as demonisation of political foes prevails throughout the Iraqi political spectrum. The absurdity of the whole issue is that these methods are not only used between members of clashing political blocs, but also by competing members of the same coalition.

The general features of the Iraqi political map have not changed since the transitional government of former Prime Minister Ebrahim Al-Ja'afari in 2005; the same situation recurred during the first, second, and third elections conducted in Iraq after the fall of the Baath regime. A number of these blocs also succeeded in leading ethnic and sectarian groups because of the absence of a national programme.

It is not far-fetched to assume that the Arab Spring's first building block was laid in Iraq. America's invasion of Iraq was the first marketing of its freedom, democracy and human rights slogans, intended to rebuild the Middle East on new foundations, in line with US policy. The US has paid a high price for this. Hence, it is unlikely to give up its pre-eminent status in Iraq. The US-Iraqi relations will not be an obstacle in the path of Iraq's development.

Leaders of most of Iraq's political blocs have strong ties with governments of neighbouring countries. And it is in these countries that Iraqi leaders find financial or political backing. And when necessary, these countries also provide shelter for these politicians. This gives these countries an opportunity to interfere in Iraq's internal affairs. Their role is not a positive one!

It is sad to see these setbacks limiting Iraq's ability to develop. And it is even sadder to see that Iraqis are unable to produce a new leader, who can rise up to the expectations of the country, despite the total failure of the present leaders of the political blocs.

n    The writer is an Iraqi based in Dubai. The article has been reproduced

    from the Gulf News.