In a few hours mass murderer and brutal dictator Saddam Hussein will be dead. Will this big event be a turning point for Iraq, and if so, will it be for better or worse?
A difficult question to answer, of course, but ultimately I think the impact will not be huge in itself, although it does present opportunities for all sides involved.
It’s all about psychology, and the execution of Saddam will erase the fear/hope of him returning to power. This may well be helpful in combating the insurgents, but while it may temporarily demoralise the Baathists there are many others that contribute to the chaos. Terrorists acting on Iranian orders, and other groups who for various reasons would not like to see a functioning Iraqi democracy, will hardly be affected. No one will be surprised to see a surge in terrorist activities over the next few days either, I’m sure.
For the Iraqi government it will be important to take this key event and use it to offer reconcilliation. They need to show that they want a united Iraq. What the chances are that they will take this chance, it’s hard to say, but I think one shouldn’t hope for too much.
There is also the psychological effect on America. As Charles Krauthammer just pointed out in a panel debate on Fox News, this execution might make many feel that they have achieved the more important of their targets (permanently removing Hussein from power), and that democratising Iraq isn’t worth the additional cost. This would not be good for the future of Iraq. If it is to have any chance of developing in a good way American participation will continue to be necessary.
2006 was not a good year in Iraq. Hopefully 2007 will be better.