A new government has been formed and higher oil prices (the recent decline notwithstanding) have given Iraq a stake of cash with which to address its problems.
Despite continuing insecurity in the mixed areas between Baghdad and Mosul, levels of violence remain low.
While most Westerners — constrained by the terms of their insurance policies or governments — retreat to convoys of SUVs, those unburdened by such restraints walk freely, are driven by friends, and take cabs or use “Uber-like” services.
Nightlife continues to flourish in Baghdad as its youthful population brings a new mood to the city.
And while the “opening” of the so-called “Green Zone” was a bit overhyped (it’s only open at night), it nonetheless shows the confidence of the Iraqi government to allow access to its own government center (after clearing numerous checkpoints).
By any objective standard, things in Iraq are as good as they have ever been.
True, the rest of the country lags behind the relative functionality of Baghdad, but the example set by the capital is important.
The shadow of the Basra protests of July and August still looms over the polity.
The protests in Basra shook the state to the core, for several reasons.
First, they occurred in the heart of the power base of most of the major parties.
Major Shi’a parties such as Dawa, Fadhila, Hikma, Asa’ib al Haq (AAH) and Badr were all caught up in the conflagration, their offices burned by the protestors, making clear the lack of satisfaction with politics as usual.
Second, Basra province is a critical, even existential, interest of the Iraqi state.
As the last few years have demonstrated, Sunni-majority cities like Fallujah, Ramadi, and even Mosul can be lost, and Iraq can win them back, albeit at too high a cost.
The fate of these regions does not threaten the (Shi’a-majority) state itself, at least not in the short term.
But Basra is the heart, and — for now — virtually the sum total, of the Iraqi economy.
Absent Basra’s oil revenues, activity in Baghdad — and the other provinces — grinds to a halt.
Finally, these protests involved an important, if controversial, sector of Iraqi society — those who fought against ISIL, as well as the families of those who died or were heavily wounded during the fight.
The failure of the state to provide essential services for the demobilized Hashd fighters and their families is of deep embarrassment.
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