Until recently Western assistance programs aimed at strengthening political parties were less present in the Arab world than in almost all other areas of the developing world. As part of the heightened U.S. and European interest in promoting Arab political reform, however, such programs are multiplying in the region.
The next few weeks promise to be monumental ones in Iraq's modern history. With the December election successfully completed, Iraqi leaders must now focus on making decisions that will determine not just how the country is run over the next four years, but what Iraq will look like in the longer term and whether it can avoid disintegrating into a bloody civil war.
Virtually autonomous since 1992, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq has followed an uneven path on the road to good governance. Six months have passed since the formation of the current united Kurdish cabinet. While Kurdistan has been increasingly stable and secure, its potential for accountability and clean government has yet to be fulfilled.
The situation in Iraq is bleak and policy is adrift. Constant changes in the nature of the conflict have undermined all measures put in place by the Bush administration. While showing great determination to stay in Iraq until the country is stable, President Bush does not have a policy to address the country's multiple conflicts.
Although there have been ideological and political struggles among armed Sunni factions in Iraq since the beginning of the occupation, they were kept quiet until recently.
After months of negotiations, Nechirvan Barzani announced the formation of a unified Kurdistan Regional Government in Irbil on May 7, two weeks ahead of the announcement by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki that a government for Iraq had been formed. While the world's media remained focused on Baghdad, it largely overlooked the significance of the events in the capital of the Kurdistan region.
Foreign democracy assistance organizations working directly with political parties have come into the line of fire as some Arab governments have pushed back against democratization initiatives over the past two years. In Algeria, Bahrain, and Egypt in particular, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) have been among the first to feel pressure.
National reconciliation has been a top priority for all concerned with aiding Iraq’s path toward economic and political stability. But what exactly does it mean in the Iraqi context? Since the end of the war, several distinct and sometimes competing issues have developed, requiring meaningful dialogue among all sections of Iraq’s population.
Although the recently-released Iraq Study Group report avoids passing judgment on the imperative of democracy promotion, the question remains: did the U.S. decision to foster a democratic style of government in Iraq help to bring about the current tragedy?
The Shi’i political scene is getting nowhere with proposals for the post-occupation phase. The Shi’a jumped enthusiastically into the political process after they received confirmation that they would have a prominent role in the Iraqi Governing Council.
In Iraq, the parliament approved a new investment law in October 2006, which was published in the Official Gazette of Iraq in January 2007. The law aims to facilitate investment by Iraqi and foreign private investors, for example by protecting their rights and property.