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Key leading to the marginalization of Sunni leaders.

Key Underlying Tensions <= 2 pages Sectarian Frustrations Inter-communal violence between Iraqi Sunni and Shi'a factions began to prevail after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and gradually escalated to comprising elements of a civil war, as evaluated by the National Intelligence Estimate. Numerous attacks and counterattacks caused bloodshed, dramatically brought up the refugee count to more than 4 million by 2008 UNHCR - Iraq: Latest return survey shows few intending to go home soon. Published 29 April 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2008., and deepened the sectarian divide. As Sunni political representation increased during 2009 and 2010, Sunni groups active during the Insurgency declined in activity, leading sectarian relationship to a period of relative calm. However, after the withdrawal of US forces in 2011, then Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki abandoned the non-sectarian nationalist platform that allowed for increased Sunni political participation adopted in 2009, and began to take on aggressive policies to eliminate political opponents, thus leading to the marginalization of Sunni leaders. This sparked anti-government protests in majority-Sunni Arab areas, which demanded, inter alia, de-Baathification reforms and a repeal of Article 4 anti-terrorism laws which they believe were in place to target Sunnis. The key problem is that without effective political representation, the Sunni population are left with few options to address their grievances. http://www.understandingwar.org/report/iraqs-sunnis-crisis Sectarian frustrations may fuel terrorism. A 2013 anti-government protest, which turned violent, was hijacked by terrorist groups to advocate for violent uprising. Although the majority of Sunni Arabs reject terrorism, it still possesses the potential to feed upon Sunni frustrations, while some of the Sunni population may see it as a tool to settle historical and political grievances. The threat of another Sunni insurgency is also on the horizon. Sectarian attacks have elevated to a level not seen since 2007, and those who favor an armed uprising by Sunnis may be further emboldened by the Syrian Civil War. Strained Relations with the Government As was affirmed by the National Intelligence Estimate in 2007, Iraqi political leaders "remain unable to govern effectively", and the Iraqi Government "will become more precarious over the next 12 months." To this day, many are still dissatisfied with the governance by the Iraqi government, which is another key destabilizing factor. To begin with, there is a lack of services and infrastructure. According to the World Bank, Iraq's human development indicators are among the lowest in the Middle East due to successive wars and sanctions. Many Iraqis are unable to access basic staples, such as potable water and electricity. Access to health care is also limited, given the shortage of hospitals and other health-care facilities. The education system, having suffered from under-funding by the Hussein regime, continue to struggle in its reform because of poor security conditions and a lack of regulatory guarantee for the accountability for teachers and administrators. Corruption prevails at all levels of the Iraqi government. Government officials, including some of the senior names in the country, are reported to receive briberies openly, and may even be "seen as weak if youthey don't steal." https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/19/post-war-iraq-corruption-oil-prices-revenues The problem is even more severe with militias. Huge sums in salaries are paid to nonexistent "ghost soldiers" every year, which are eventually collected by officers. In other cases, soldiers bribe officers with part of their salaries to be exempt from duty. Several anti-corruption drives have been launched, but little progress has been made. With global oil prices remaining at historic lows, corruption continues to severely jeopardize the country's economy and governance. Discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, such as the Yazidis, Christians and Turkmen, exists in the government. Minorities are frequently targeted by ISIL and its allies, and virtually defenseless without their own militias or tribal protection structures. However, the government has been lacking in response to attacks upon them. Displaced minorities may also face unjust treatment in areas they are displaced to, from being sent to holding sites to being barred from entrance. Puttick, M. (2014). From Crisis to Catastrophe: the situation of minorities in Iraq. Minority Rights Group International. Retrieved from: http://www.minorityrights.org/[email protected]=1468 Interconnectedness with the Conflict in Syria <= 1.5 pages The conflict in Iraq is closely interconnected with that in Syria. The most significant unifying factor between the two conflicts is ISIL, which espouses a transnational jihadist agenda, aiming to unite the two countries under an Islamic caliphate. Its growth in operation in Syria has strengthened its capabilities to gain and mobilize critical resources in Iraq. So long as the conflict in Syria continues, there will be breeding grounds and safe havens for radical armed groups such as ISIL. The members of ISIL in Iraq and Syria are reported to have directly assisted one another across the border as well. The threat of ISIL is also, to a large extent, the lens through which external actors view the conflicts, and the point where regional and international actors are most likely to unite. http://www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_syria_and_iraq_one_conflict_or_two280 Iraqi factions have been involved in the Syrian conflict; similarly for Syrian factions, who have involvements in the Iraqi conflict. A number of Iraqi Shiite militias have crossed the border to Syria to fight on behalf of the Assad regime. Iraqi and Syrian Kurds are known to have assisted one another multiple times. For example, the KRG has helped train Syrian Kurdish militias in order to secure an autonomous Kurdish area in case Assad loses control, and Syrian Kurds have taken part in tackling ISIL offensives against Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Iraq. Regional actors, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, tend to see both conflicts against the background of a broader struggle for regional hegemony. Seeking to gain the dominant role in the region, they exert influence within Iraqi and Syrian borders through sectarian mobilization, with Saudi Arabia backing Sunni militias and Iran mobilizing Shiite fighters. Despite the underlying motivation being power politics, the thus intensified theological clash between Sunnis and Shiites has the dangerous potential to merge and escalate the two conflicts into a full-fledged sectarian war that engulfs both Iraq and Syria. Human Rights Situation <= 2 pages The human rights situation in Iraq, according to the Human Rights Watch, is deplorable. All conflicting parties have been reported of questionable, if not incriminating, conduct involving possible human rights violations. The US-led coalition forces are alleged to have violated international and internal standards of conduct in numerous isolated incidents, the Iraq prison abuse scandal one of the most notable among them. It is noteworthy that although compensations are in most cases provided to victims, there is an apparent lack of prosecution of coalition soldiers and officers involved in these incidents. Sectarian-conflict-wise, both Sunnis and Shiites have engaged in actions such as bombings in civilian areas and assassination of officials. Sunnis have been accused by a number of human rights organizations to have systematically kidnapped, tortured and killed Shiites. Terrorist groups have organized numerous bombings of civilian areas that caused heavy casualties, including the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad that killed the then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights among 22 UN staff members. They also have captured diplomats, intelligence officers and ordinary civilians, and broadcast audio and video recordings of their killing—in most cases, beheading. In an attempt to uproot Arab communities, peshmerga forces from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), as well as Kurdish militias, have demolished thousands of Arabian homes in the semi-autonomous region. Tens of thousands of Arab civilians have been forcefully displaced and forbidden from returning to their homes. Human rights of ethnic and religious minorities are also constantly threatened, especially in northern Iraq. As was reported by Human Rights Watch, Kurdish leaders consider minorities as Kurds and attempt to impose on them a Kurdish identity. Civilians rejecting such an identity would be treated harshly, while politicians who have openly opposed Kurdish rule over minority communities are threatened with assassination attempts. "On Vulnerable Ground". 10 November 2009. The Iraqi refugee count has been steadily on the rise since the 2003 invasion, and is currently the largest in the Middle East. Fagan, P.W (2009). "Iraqi Refugees: Seeking Stability in Syria and Jordan". Institute for the Study of International Migration. The number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Iraq is especially significant. As of April 2017, the number of IDPs in Iraq was estimated to be around 3 million. These persons struggle in accessing basic staples, proper sanitation, education, and health care. Case Studies <= 4 pages Peacebuilding in Sierra Leone The Sierra Leone Civil War broke out in 1991, bearing similarity to the situation in Iraq in that it was closely interconnected with the civil war then ongoing in the neighboring Liberia. The civil war devastated the country, leaving more than 50,000 dead and over 2 million displaced as refugees. In 1996, the then military leader, Brigadier Bio, stated that he was committed to ending the civil war and restoring the country to being governed by a democratically elected civilian government. Months later, he fulfilled his promise, handing power over to the democratically elected Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. In 1999, the United Nations agreed to send peacekeepers to Sierra Leone. Two years later, UN forces began to move into rebel-held areas and disarm rebel soldiers. By January 2002, the war was finally declared over. The Peacebuilding Commission, established in 2005 by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council during the reform process initiated during the 60th session of the General Assembly. During its first year of operation, the Commission focused its efforts on Burundi and Sierra Leone. In 2007, the Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone and encouraged the government of Sierra Leone to continue to closely engage with the Peacebuilding Commission. In the same year, the Sierra Leone Peacebuilding Cooperation Framework was issued, which laid down the principles for cooperation and analyzed the priorities, challenges and risks for peacebuilding in the specific context of Sierra Leone. It identified the Peacebuilding Commission's role as "to bring together all relevant actors to marshal resources and advice on and propose integrated strategies for post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery"; that is, compared with direct involvement in the reconstruction of post-war Sierra Leone, the Commission acts more as an intermediate that investigates local needs, comes up with effective peacebuilding strategies, and channels resources offered by the international community.From then on, the Peacebuilding Commission has held biannual reviews of the implementation of the Framework. The peacebuilding process in Sierra Leone has been steadily advancing over the years. A major milestone was the 2012 elections, which are widely seen as a core benchmark for peace consolidation. In order to ensure the elections were peaceful, free, and credible, the Commission has led joint efforts with the government of Sierra Leone as well as other major stakeholders to prepare for them, tackling both technical and political challenges. The elections also marked a new phase of the peacebuilding process in Sierra Leone. In the briefing by the Chair of the Sierra Leone Configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission to the Security Council, several points are emphasized for the post-election period: that some significant peacebuilding challenges, including youth unemployment and combating corruption, are long-term in nature and take sustained effort in spite of past peacebuilding successes; that the United Nations should continue to play a crucial role in coordinating international actors under the framework of a well-developed, nationally owned peacebuilding approach; and that post-election transitions may create strategic and funding gaps, which calls for intensive and sustained multilateral and bilateral assistance. Peacebuilding in Burundi

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