Iraq has had a turbulent 2020. The 12 months started with the U.S. killing of Qassem Soleimani and a high Shia militia chief on Iraqi soil. Iraq’s Parliament responded with a nonbinding demand that 5,000 American navy personnel exit the nation promptly, which Washington rightly ignored. Iran additionally retaliated, with a missile barrage in opposition to U.S. bases in Iraq.
After months of limbo, Iraqis lastly settled on a brand new prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi. He faces the daunting challenges of lowering corruption and bettering employment prospects in a rustic rocked by demonstrations in opposition to the earlier authorities, and now additionally by Covid-19. All through all of it, Iraq stays within the unenviable place of being squeezed between the rock of proximity to Iran and the laborious place of an unsettled but vital relationship with the U.S.
But one thing else of notice is occurring. For the reason that 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein, there have been big ups and downs. Just lately, nonetheless, there have been modest indicators of progress within the land of the 2 rivers. We’ve not too long ago rebuilt the Brookings Iraq Index, after a hiatus of a number of years, and seen some tendencies:
• The nation’s inhabitants has grown from about 25 million within the final years of Saddam’s rule to 40 million right this moment. That in itself is neither good nor dangerous, but it surely does imply that Iraq is large enough to be a big participant in Mideast politics.