Farnaz Fassihi is the deputy bureau chief of Middle East and Africa for The Wall Street Journal and the author of Waiting for An Ordinary Day, a memoir of her four years covering the Iraq war and witnessing the unraveling of life for Iraqi citizens. In May 2006, Fassihi was awarded the prestigious Henry Pringle Lecture Award for her Iraq coverage by Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Her coverage of the EgyptAir flight 990 crash won the New England News Executive Award as well as a finalist nomination for the Livingston Award.
Question: Are you optimistic that Iraq will be a democracy in 10 years?
Fassihi: Not really. No. I’m not very optimistic. I think that it’s going to be really hard to, you know, figure out long term political and military solutions for Iraq. I think that, you know, the stability we’ve seen… Well, security is improved in the past year, but based on very fragile… Security has gotten much better in the past year, but it really depends on 3 elements. One of them is the surge in the American troops, you know. The American’s rule has evolved from the beginning of the invasion, from nation building and bringing democracy to now acting as a buffer zone between the Shias and Sunnis and really preventing Iraq from falling apart. So, I think the question of what happens if the troops withdraw or what will happen if the roles on the ground change will really answer the question of whether Iraq can stand on its own feet. I think also that, you know, we’ve put Sunni insurgents on American payroll. They’re paid about $300 a month, and they’ve asked to be incorporated into the Shia security forces and the Shias have so far resisted. So, you know, the Sunnis have made it clear that if they don’t get what they want, they’re going to start fighting again. And, there’s really no telling how long the ceasefire with Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia is going to last. If the Sunni start fighting, is he going to fight back? So, I think, you know, it’s very fragile and I think unless there’s some political solutions that can really make people put back… set the loyalties of people and their, you know, different political parties to their country rather than to their sects and ethnicities, I think that, you know, things could unravel again.