News from Iraq

Svensk ambassad i Irak invigd - DN.se: "Utrikesminister Carl Bildt invigde på onsdagen Sveriges nybyggda ambassad i Irak. Den förra har stått utan fast bemanning sedan kriget 2003.
-Vi gör en betydande satsning på vår närvaro i Irak, och det tror jag är helt rätt, säger Bildt på telefon från Bagdad efter ceremonin"

The same day as Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister, is opening the new Swedish embassy in Baghdad Thomas L. Friedman writes a somewhat philosophical piece on the future of Iraq in The New York Times. The new embassy is situated outside the Green Zone, ie, the specially protected area for government buildings. This ought to be good news since the security must have improved in the city. Despite recent bombings that are believed to be due to the near election on March 7.

Friedman's conclusion is that we really don't know what is going to happen when the Americans have left the area and the Iraqis are taking over. Half of the 100,000 soldiers now present will leave by September this year and the rest by the end of 2011. Will their old tribal culture rule or will new politics be able to change the society away from their dictatorial past. What happens in Iraq, a more developed society than that of Afghanistan, will give clues as to what can be expected in the latter country. However, the Swedes were in Baghdad before 2003, so the investment ought to be safe.

It remains an extraordinary chance for the Iraqis to start anew. They got a ticket into the world community that was costly but they can still make it worth while. What makes me most curious about their situation is how they are going to relate to their immediate environment. Unfortunately they don't seem to be too friendly with Israel, a US ally, but rather import a lot from Syria and Turkey. This would raise fears that their shiite religion would make them gravitate towards Iran. After all it was the sunni Saddam Hussein that fought Iran. Hopefully their rather unique recent development will make them connect rather with more distant partners like Sweden. They are importing things from China as well, just for the balance.

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