Iraq in 2012: four scenarios

12 09 2007

What will Iraq’s future resemble – and under which United States president? Volker Perthes outlines four possible, contrasting outcomes by 2012, and invites response as to the most likely. – in Open Democracy

The United States is in the middle of an intense series of discussions, hearings and reports about the future of its military forces in Iraq. Each assessment of the current predicament carries some implication for possible ways forward. But the unfolding pattern of events in Iraq is not a matter for the US alone: whatever happens in that country will profoundly affect the lives of Iraqis themselves and people and states in the neighbouring region.

What then will happen in Iraq over the next five years? This article presents and outlines four scenarios.

Scenarios are thought-experiments of possible, contrasting futures. They are not about probabilities. Different scenarios may be more or less likely, but in principle each presents policy-makers with the same degree of challenge: thinking about how to prepare for them or how to prevent what would be regarded as the less favoured ones.

A simple scenario exercise identifies two main drivers of future development in a specific setting. In the case of Iraq, we can consider one external factor (the presence of United States troops) and an internal one (the ability of Iraqi political actors to achieve consensus on the most important constitutional distributional questions) as the most relevant drivers. Together they form a matrix with a horizontal axis that reaches from a total withdrawal of US forces to their remaining in place; and a vertical axis for the range of possibilities between no consensus among Iraqi actors at the bottom to consensus about the most important questions at the top.

Scenarios here.

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