Is an era of nationalism beginning in Iraq?

Is an era of nationalism beginning in Iraq?


>>Sreenivasan: IRAQ HELD A NATIONAL ELECTION TODAY, THE FIRST SINCE PRIME MINISTER HAIDER AL-ABADI DECLARED VICTORY OVER THE ISLAMIC STATE IN DECEMBER. RESULTS ARE EXPECTED WITHIN THE NEXT TWO DAYS, BUT IT WILL LIKELY BE MONTHS BEFORE A PRIME MINISTER IS CHOSEN AND A NEW GOVERNMENT IS FORMED. FOR SOME ANALYSIS OF WHAT’S AT STAKE, I’M JOINED VIA SKYPE FROM BAGHDAD BY “NEW YORK TIMES” BUREAU CHIEF MARGARET COKER. THANKS FOR JOINING US. SO, THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT WE HAVEN’T SEEN ANY WIDESPREAD VIOLENCE OR ATTACKS, SOMETHING THE COUNTRY WAS CONCERNED ABOUT FOR TODAY.>>RIGHT. IT’S REALLY AMAZING, ACTUALLY. IN 2014, A THIRD OF THE NATION HAD BEEN OVERRUN BY ISLAMIC STATE. PEOPLE WERE TALKING ABOUT THE END OF IRAQ. AND NOW, WE’VE HAD A NATIONAL ELECTION, ALMOST NO VIOLENCE, A FEW IRREGULARITIES, BUT PEOPLE WERE PRETTY FREE TO COME AND… AND VOTE AS THEY CHOSE.>>Sreenivasan: WHAT DID YOU OR YOUR REPORTERS SEE AT THE POLLING STATIONS TODAY?>>WELL, I WAS IN BAGHDAD. I WENT AROUND THE BIG CAPITAL CITY TO FIVE OR SIX DIFFERENT POLLING STATIONS IN DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE CITY, AND TURNOUT WAS VERY LOW. YOU KNOW, THERE’S A GENERAL MOOD HERE OF JUST UTTER EXHAUSTION. THERE WAS ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF BATTLE, A LOT OF SACRIFICE, A LOT OF LIVES LOST OVER THE LAST THREE AND A HALF YEARS. PEOPLE ARE EXHAUSTED. AND SECURITY IS SO GOOD NOW THAT EVERYONE IS CONCERNED AGAIN WITH QUALITY-OF-LIFE ISSUES– A LACK OF INFRASTRUCTURE, A LACK OF SCHOOLS, A LACK OF JOBS. AND SO, YOU HAVE ALL OF THESE ROUTINE PROBLEMS THAT APPEAR OVERWHELMING, BUT, ALSO, THERE’S A LACK OF TRUST IN THE POLITICAL LEADERSHIP ABOUT HOW THESE THINGS CAN GET SOLVED. SO, THE MOOD ON THE STREET IS… IS PRETTY SUBDUED.>>Sreenivasan: LET’S TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT KIND OF THE… THE BIGGER PICTURE, THINGS THAT ARE HAPPENING IN THE BACKGROUND HERE. WHAT IS THE ROLE OF PERHAPS IRAN IN… IN THE INFLUENCE THAT IRAN WIELDS IN IRAQ RIGHT NOW, OR HOW LONG THE UNITED STATES WILL STAY IN IRAQ AND IN KIND OF WHAT CAPACITY?>>YEAH, SO, ONE OF THE AMAZING THINGS ABOUT LAST FALL AND INTO THE WINTER WHEN IRAQ DECLARED VICTORY OVER ISLAMIC STATE, THERE’S THIS TREMENDOUS SURGE OF PATRIOTISM AND NATIONALISM. PEOPLE ARE PROUD AGAIN TO BE IRAQIS, AND THERE’S QUITE A LOT OF BREATHING SPACE RIGHT NOW FOR IRAQI NATIONALISTS TO COME TO THE FORE. I MEAN, PEOPLE WHO EITHER PULLED ONE WAY TOWARDS IRAN OR PULLED ONE WAY TOWARDS AMERICA TEN YEARS AGO ARE NOW TRYING TO REPOSITION THEMSELVES POLITICALLY AS BEING NATIONALISTS FIRST AND IN THE MIDDLE OF THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM. AND THERE’S A VERY, VERY STRONG SENSE AMONG THE IRAQI POPULATION THAT SECTARIANISM– WHICH THEY BLAME A LOT FOR ALL OF THE BLOODSHED THAT HAS BEFALLEN IRAQ OVER THE LAST DECADE– THEY SAY THAT THE ERA OF SECTARIANISM IS OVER. AND SO, WHAT THAT MEANS IN A CODED FASHION IS THAT POLITICAL PARTIES THAT LOOK TOO CLOSE TO IRAN OR TOO CLOSE TO ANY OTHER OF THE REGIONAL POWERS, THEY’RE NOT GOING TO DO WELL IN THESE POLLS.>>Sreenivasan: ALL RIGHT, MARGARET COKER, “NEW YORK TIMES” BUREAU CHIEF, JOINING US VIA SKYPE FROM BAGHDAD TONIGHT. THANKS SO MUCH.>>YOU’RE WELCOME.

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