WASHINGTON &

Iraq now ranks as the second-most unstable country in the world, ahead of war-ravaged or poverty-stricken countries such as Somalia, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Congo, Afghanistan, Haiti and North Korea, according to the 2007 Failed State index issued Monday by Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace.




Despite billions of dollars in foreign aid, and the presence of more than 150,000 American troops, Iraq has been on a steady decline over the past three years, according to the index. It ranked fourth last year, but its score dropped in almost all of the 12 political, economic, security and social indicators on which the index is based.




"The report tells us that Iraq is sinking fast," said Fund for Peace President Pauline Baker. "We believe it's reached the point of no return. We have recommended &

based on studies done every six months since the U.S. invasion &

that the administration face up to the reality that the only choices for Iraq are how and how violently it will break up."




In a parallel series of reports, the Fund for Peace, a research and advocacy group, suggests a policy of managed partition for Iraq.




Sudan, largely because of the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur, is the world's most unstable country, the group concluded. More than 200,000 Sudanese have died, and another 2 million to — million have been displaced.




"There were only marginal differences between Iraq and Sudan, and Iraq is worse then Somalia, which is already a failed state," Baker said.




There are two basic driving forces behind Iraq's escalating problems, Baker said. The first is fragmentation internally, marked by the proliferation of militias and other groups that the United States and Iraqis have been unable to control. The second is interference of external forces in the country.




"Both are filling the vacuum at the center created by a weak government and a failing state," Baker said.




The organization reported that Africa is the continent with the most significant downward slide. Eight of the 10 most unstable countries are now in Africa, the report concludes.




In addition to Iraq, the other is Afghanistan. The two are countries where the Bush administration has made enormous military and financial commitments since 2001. Their experiences show that billions of dollars in development and security aid may be futile unless accompanied by a functioning government and plans for peace-keeping and economic development, Foreign Policy reports in its July/August issue, which includes the index.




Afghanistan ranked eighth, Haiti 11th, North Korea 13th and Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is in 14th. Pakistan and North Korea, which have nuclear weapons, are in world's top 15 most unstable countries, according to the report.