Iraq is finally forming a new government after its elections in May, and faces a daunting crisis of governance and corruption. A frustrated electorate has high, perhaps unrealistic, expectations that the new government will transition from a system of redistribution based on sectarian identity to one rooted in accountability, institutions of oversight, and cross-ethnic and cross-sectarian alliances. 

Maria Fantappie, a senior advisor for the International Crisis Group, discusses the long-standing stalemate within the Iraqi parliament and the deleterious impact of competition between the United States and Iran. She argues that the next four years are likely to bring a hybrid system of governance, including both pre-existing, sectarian alliances, and new, cross-sectarian coalitions over certain issues.

Meanwhile, next-door Syria is also entering a new political phase. President Bashar Al Assad is attempting to rebuild parts of the country, even as the war continues into what appears to be its final phase. The government’s enactment of the Urban Renewal Law and Decree 66 has made it possible to undertake urban development projects such as Marota City and Basilia City in the outskirts of Damascus.

Joseph Daher, a Swiss–Syrian activist and researcher at University of Lausanne in Switzerland, has tracked the dynamics of the first reconstruction efforts. Neighborhoods that were formerly home to lower-middle class citizens are being developed for wealthy Syrians, while areas that opposed the regime have yet to witness any reconstruction efforts. According to initial research, it appears that reconstruction is being used to reconstitute the Assad regime and reconfigure society in ways that might prevent future uprisings.

Participants include:

  • Maria Fantappie, International Crisis Group
  • Joseph Daher, University of Lausanne
  • Thanassis Cambanis, The Century Foundation