The political quagmire West Asia has become today is such that the more things looks better the more it gets worse — the case here being Iraq.
The United States and other western nations emphasise that the situation in Iraq is improving and the Islamic State (IS) is on the backfoot after losing close to 45% of the territory it held two years back. But the enthusiasm depends on whether one sees a glass as half full or half empty.
The series of bombings in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and its suburbs last week where more than 100 people were killed, for which the IS has claimed responsibility, is a reminder that not even the capital is safe from terror attacks.
While some experts view the bombings as a sign of the IS’ nervousness, others say that the Sunni terror group is exploiting the tension between the government and protesters. It should not be forgotten that political uncertainty leads to a decline in security.
The showdown at the Baghdad Green Zone housing the parliament, last month, when followers of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stormed the complex and was ‘inches away’ from attacking rival militiamen, points to the deep rifts within the Shia community in Iraq. This is also the biggest challenge for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi—who has shown greater promise than his predecessor Nouri al-Maliki. Mr Abadi appears to be earnest in his attempt to rid Iraq of the IS, win the trust of the minorities and root out widespread corruption in the government.
Developments in Baghdad largely depend on the political winds blowing in neighbouring Iran, and while all seems calm for now, events could soon turn for the worse. An all-out confrontation between the moderates and hardliners is expected to unfold closer to June 2017 when presidential elections will be held; and, the rivalry between Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Ayatollah Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, if it sharpens, will have its effect across the Shia world. The unrest in Syria, the Kurdish resurgence in the north, rebuilding national services and the falling prices of crude oil will also be of concern to Mr Abadi.
The recent events are also a reminder to Western forces that before it shifts focus to Libya or other territories, it needs to stabilise the situation in Iraq — where many argue it all began when the US invaded it in 2003.