Iraq in 2011: Protests, Political Problems and Farewell to the US

In October, the possibility that the Badr Organization - once the armed military wing of the most important Shiite Muslim political party, the Supreme Islamic Council, - might split from its leadership was announced; however the decision to split was postponed.

The other major news in Iraq in 2011 was the end-of-the-year decision to withdraw US troops from the country after almost nine years. In 2003, the US had led the invasion of Iraq that toppled the regime of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and US forces had been in the country, and heavily involved in the country’s reconstruction and management, ever since.

But on Dec. 15 the flag of US troops in Iraq was finally lowered in a special ceremony.

Unfortunately only a few days later Iraq’s politicians were immediately embroiled in another serious crisis that remains, as yet, unresolved. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was behind an arrest warrant for Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi on charges of terrorism. Al-Hashimi is a leading member of the Iraqiya bloc, the main opposition to al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition and he denied the charges, saying they were politically motivated.

Many commentators saw the charges, which left al-Hashimi sheltering in the semi-autonomous state of Iraqi Kurdistan and his party boycotting Baghdad’s parliament, as the possible beginning of a new round of sectarian conflict. Al-Hashimi is a Sunni Muslim and the Iraqiya bloc is considered mainly Sunni-supported while the State of Law bloc is mainly Shiite Muslim supported.

The analysts’ predictions were supported by the fact that, shortly after the political crisis erupted, there were a number of co-ordinated terrorist attacks in Baghdad that left over 70 dead and hundreds injured. An extremist Sunni Muslim group, part of the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella organization that includes al-Qaeda and other militant groups, then apparently claimed they were responsible for the attacks which they called the “Thursday Raid”.

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