March 3, 2006

Brahimi Talks On Iraq Issues

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The United Nations’ former under-secretary-general painted a grim picture of the situation in Iraq last night, saying that the country is riddled with chaos that may escalate even to civil war.

Lakhdar Brahimi, who has also served as the special advisor to the UN’s secretary general, delivered the talk as this year’s Henry E. and Nancy Horton Bartels World Affairs fellow.

A lifelong diplomat and ambassador since 1956, Brahimi discussed the nature of the insurgency currently raging in Iraq and the potential for achieving stability within the state to a packed audience in Kennedy Hall’s Call Auditorium.

“Tonight I will address four issues,” he said. “One, the nature of the conflict in Iraq. Two, the effectiveness of the political process currently being implemented in Iraq. Three, the role and actions of the conflict’s external players. And finally, can we get out?”

Brahimi pinpointed a number of multifaceted internal conflicts in Iraq that often escape accurate media portrayal in the West. He said that there cannot be a true summary of Iraqis’ feelings regarding the invasion because there are too many conflicting issues to create a single consensus.

“Almost every single Iraqi would state unequivocally that they are very happy to see Saddam [Hussein] go,” he said. “But only a minority would be pleased to see Iraq as a state and an international entity weakened as much as it has been.”

Discussing the effects of external players on the situation on Iraq, Brahimi invoked anecdotes from the war to point to incidents that potentially impede the advance of progress in the nation.

“When Baghdad was invaded the city went into chaos: stores were looted by the hundreds, and lawlessness became the norm,” he said. “As part of this chaos, former government buildings were attacked by rioting citizenry, without protection from the U.S. government. In fact, only one ministry received ample protection: the Ministry of Oil, which was heavily guarded.”

Brahimi ended his lecture on a decisively subdued note, pointing to the predominance of new conflicts which are at times invisible to the Western world and which only compound the problems in the region.

“The increased sectarian tension between the Sunnis and the Shi’a is not a recent occurrence,” he commented. “While the events in the past week have put them more on the map, in truth the matter has been extremely serious for a long period of time. It saddens me to say this, but I sincerely worry that these conflicts may escalate into a civil war.”

These premonitions came as a surprise to many members of the audience, who were not previously aware of the scale of this internal struggle.

“Overall, his talk was not as positive as I expected it to be,” said Mark Sandeen ’06. “Watching the news, one gets the impression that this aspect of the insurgency is not as dangerous as it really is. Brahimi made it clear that, from a diplomatic perspective, the situation in Iraq is even more dire than it appears on TV.”

Michaela Schickel, another audience member, agreed with Sandeen that Brahimi presented the situation admirably.

“He did an excellent job explaining Iraq’s struggle, and the real matters at hand in the crisis,” she said.

Archived article by Thomas Beckwith
Sun Staff Writer