OpenDemocracy presents the views of Iraqis on the third anniversary of the United States-led invasion of Iraq.
Dlawer Ala'Aldeen, academic
Life has gone either much worse or much better than before the war, depending on which part of Iraq one looks at. Baghdad is in a complete mess. Terror, violence, corruption, chaos and political stalemate have brought the capital to its knees. People in Baghdad feel insecure, pessimistic, helpless and live in constant fear and depression. Many Baghdadis will tell you that life under Saddam was much better in many ways.
The war lords of Iraq's Sunni- or Shi'a-populated Arab domains have made their respective areas ungovernable. Life in the Sunni controlled areas has become unbearable in the presence of terror, violence, neglect and lack of business opportunities. Of course, for people in this part of Iraq, life was much better under Saddam, hence their sentiments, inability to reconcile with the new reality and their support (or complacency) of terrorism.
Life in the Shi'a south is of course better than before the war. The people are free to exercise their religious rituals and ceremonies and their economy is improving. However, corruption, power struggle, cleric's dominance, Iranian interference and lack of freedom of expression are making daily life miserable for most. For the enlightened secular intellectuals, life has gone back to middle ages.
In contrast, life in Kurdistan has improved immensely since the war. The economy is booming, unemployment is down to minimum and the standard of living has risen. The people have experienced greater freedom of expression and human rights. However, major obstacles for progress include corruption, KDP-PUK's monopoly of power and lack of tangible progress in unifying the two administrations. The Regional Parliament is devoid of power with no constitution adopted so far and little progress achieved in establishing democratic institutions. The people of Kurdistan expected more but are getting less from their political leaders, hence the volatility of the situation. Reasons for concern (potentially explosive issue) is the lack of progress in "normalization" in Kirkuk, Khanaqin and other Kurdistan areas which remain outside the region's administration.
Iraq is a political and military theatre where the regional powers are settling scores with the superpower. Iran and Syria have succeeded in complicating life for the US. The Iraqi Shi'a politicians (hostages of Iran's strategic interests) must be freed from their sponsors before progress can be made. America's policies (if they existed) have so far failed, and her actions show evidence of hopelessness and offer no reason for optimism.
My only hope is for the international community to increase the pressure on Iran (using the nuclear issue) to persuade or force it to keep hands off Iraq. By stopping Iran, Syria and Turkey from interfering in Iraq, I have every reason to become optimistic. After all, the Iraqis have now accepted democracy and adopted a democratic constitution. I was pro-war in 2002/3 and I have not yet regretted it or changed my mind. On the whole, I still think life is better than before the war.