A little over a month ago I blogged the pre-election post “May the Lesser Evil Win” and the lesser evil did win, considerably well too. It’s a first in the part of my since I have actually understood the significance of a new government.
Mr Howard had been leader of this country since I was less a 10 year old with little understanding of the role of politics and politicians.
Thus far there are indications of major shifts in policy between the current government and those of the Howard government (and may I emphasize the “thus far” part). Kevin Rudd’s Labor government has ratified the Kyoto protocol and brought Australia into the global climate change debate which the Howard Government had repeatedly refused to do. They have also begun the process of moving towards a “Carbon Exchange” system, which the Howard Government had repeatedly delayed.
The Rudd Government also moved on reconciliation, with a formal apology on behalf of the Australian Governments past and present for the mistreatment and abduction of Aboriginal men, women and children during the “White Australia” policy and the “Stolen Generation” debacle.
Rudd also appears to be taking careful steps towards shifting Australian foreign affairs policy with the announcement of a withdrawal of Australian troops from Iraq; though not without increasing the deployment in Afghanistan to keep up impressions about Australia’s role in the United States’ so-called “war on terror”.
Then there’s the Japanese whaling issue which the Howard Government had done little to resist over the past decade; whereas the Rudd Government has announced the use of Australian military equipment for the monitoring and surveillance of Japanese whaling vessels this whaling season, with the aim of capturing footage for use in an international legal challenge against the so called “scientific” whaling carried out annually by Japan.
But Kevin is no the only thing to happen in ’07. Few can deny the changes taking place in Baghdad and surrounding provinces in Iraq’s centre. The year began with a questionable “troop surge” plan for the stabilization of Baghdad which at first seemed destined to succumb to unpopularity and questionable leadership; but the plan prevailed and it’s successes can not be discounted lightly.
Much of Baghdad is now safer than it has been any time since the invasion in 2003, and though this is not saying it is up to the pre-invasion standards it is certainly an improvement on the all-out sectarian massacres occurring for the most of 2006 and parts of early 2007.
Do not however assume this to be the success of an increase in US troops alone; nor as a sign that the Iraqi government is improving in it’s ability to stabilize the country; though some credit must be given respectively to the US & and Iraqi military forces, the large majority of improvement has come at the hands of local Iraqi militias known as the “concerned local citizen”, or the “Awakening” (though my understanding is that the “Awakening” refers to a Sunni movement born in Anbar province; while the “Concerned Local Citizen” groups exist across the board on a theoretically non-sectarian basis).
Some of my regular readers and friends will criticize me here for “falling for the propaganda” etc, but it’s not true; I am not claiming a victory for Iraq nor a heroic turn in US regional policy in the Middle East; I am merely claiming a lull in violence with an inarguable link to changes in US, Iraqi strategies for combating terrorism and extremism in Baghdad. However much Baghdad has improved throughout 2007 it has not been so across the whole of Iraq.
Iraqi Kurdistan has come under fire with the heightening of conflict between members of the PKK and Turkish military culminating in the bombing and invasion of many villages along the Northern borders of Iraqi Kurdistan. Ninevah province has suffered badly in 2007, perhaps more so than any other province in Northern Iraq.
2007 witnessed a major attack against the secluded Yazidi sect in which four bus-bombs targeted the quiet Yazidi town of Qahatinya killing over 200 people and injuring many more. Through out 2007 there has been an increasing level of abductions, assasinations and public humilation targetted those of the Yazidi sect in the areas surrounding Mosul in Ninevah province, it is believed to be the work of Salafi extremists who mistakenly view the sect as “devil worshippers” for their worship of a fallen angel mistakenly believed to be Satan.
However it is not just the Yazidi who have suffered at the hands of extremists retreating north from Baghdad and it’s surrounds; many local Moslawi citizens have fallen victim to seemingly random assasinations and car bombings. Many of the Iraqi bloggers including my friends Sunshine, Najma,Hnk and other members of their family report the sharp decline in security around Mosul through out 2007. Reading the news would tell you the same; though perhaps with a little more spin and an attempt to show this as a sign the “terrorists” are making a last-ditch effort to cause destruction in Iraq.
The reality is that the surge has achieved its goal of creating “a window of opportunity” for Iraqi’s to step up and crush the extremist elements hiding amongst them; to step forward and produce a new, stable economy through which they can gain the freedom and modernization they desire and feel rightly entitled to. The Iraqi government however can not achieve these goals; they are tied up in their own issues and must be sidestepped.
Foreign investment in localized projects including the rebuilding of infrastructure and municipality services such as waste management, electricity production and agriculture; is essential and should come no-strings attached.
Failing this the Iraqi government and supporting aid groups must step up to provide localized jobs for those Iraqis willing and able to rebuild the infrastructure in their areas; without such micro-economic stimulation Iraq can not recover. The Iraqi population really do need to be shown once again that “peace pays” better than war.