Is Iraq’s Middle Class Giving Up?

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In the LA Times today, Borzou Daragahi provides one of the most pessimistic assessments I’ve seen yet of Iraq’s future. The continuing stalemate over the election, he says, along with the violence it’s provoked, is causing the Iraqi middle class to give up once and for all:

Over the last 30 months of relative security and economic progress, Iraq’s middle class and intelligentsia had emerged from the shadows of war and exile, strutting around town without head scarves or cruising through gleaming new shopping districts.

But now, as they watch the camp of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, whose allies control the nation’s security apparatus, jostle with that of Iyad Allawi, backed by some of the same Sunni Arabs who support the insurgency, they are preparing to dash back into hiding.

….Whether Iraq slides back into the despair or manages to limp forward, the gloom threatens to undermine what little faith Iraqis had in the country’s future, say dozens of Iraqis across the country. “We made sacrifices,” said Hassan Raheem Rahoun, 40, a hairstylist who moved back to Iraq from Libya two years ago and is considering leaving again. “We put our lives on the line when we went to the polls and voted for the most appropriate person. It didn’t work.

….”Now the street is afraid of the return of sectarianism,” said Ahmad Mohammad, 36, a computer and telecommunications specialist who works at a vendor of Canon photocopy machines, where sales have dropped by two-thirds since a few days before the election. “I can describe the situation as a time bomb. You don’t know when it’s going to explode.”

This is just one data point, and like any “trend” story in any country that’s based primarily on anecdotes it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. But the picture it paints is a bleak one.

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