Iraq's political future over the next decade is uncertain. As a result of war and sanctions, Iraq's society, economy, and military posture are all in a state of decline, although not at a point of collapse. Hussein remains in control of the country except for the Kurdish exclusionary zone in the north, but his political base is narrowing due to splits in the family, increased reliance on tribalism for governance, and a weakening of bureaucratic infrastructures. Imple-mentation of UNSC Resolution 986 (oil-for-food) improves Hussein's chances of political survival, although it does not guarantee it. Sanctions have taken a greater toll on the population than on the regime, particularly among Kurds, Shi`ah, and the educated middle class, which have migrated in significant numbers. Assessments of the impact of war and sanctions on Iraq's future vary. According to some experts, the population is becoming impoverished, with per capita income less than half of what it was in 1960. Estimates of the cost of reconstruction run between $100 to 200 billion. Other analysts see Iraq as more resilient than expected. Much of the infrastructure damaged in the war has been rebuilt, especially in Baghdad. Sanitation is poor but roads and transportation networks are in good order. Iraq could probably recover fairly rapidly (within 5-7 years) if it received ample oil revenues and had a favorable investment climate, including debt relief. However, if Hussein remains in power, Iraq's recuperation is likely to be constrained by a continuation of some international restrictions and a poor investment climate.
Strategic Forum no.123 (July 1997)